Recently, I was planning out a trip to South America for later this year. As I was searching for flights from Vancouver to Buenos Aires, I encountered a pleasant surprise when I was able to confirm some eUpgrades when I didn’t think it was possible.
As it turns out, I wasn’t being thorough with my approach to finding eUpgrade availability, and it was a good reminder to not cut any corners when planning out a trip.
“Hidden” eUpgrade Availability
As I was planning out a trip to South America, I had the feeling that my best option would be to book Air Canada business class from Vancouver to Buenos Aires via Toronto or Montreal.
When it comes to business class flights to South America using points, there aren’t too many good options out there for travel in lie-flat seats.
During some Points Consulting calls over the past few years, I’ve often suggested looking at Air Canada’s routes to South America and using eUpgrades, since it’s one of the better ways to fly in comfort using points.
When I began planning my trip, I had a sneaking suspicion that booking directly into Air Canada business class would result in dynamic prices above and beyond what I’d be willing to pay.
Sure enough, this turned out to be the case, and I then thought that this might be a great opportunity to use some of my eUpgrades that will expire in January.
I was initially disheartened when I looked at eUpgrade availability on ExpertFlyer, since pretty much every flight between Toronto or Montreal and South America didn’t have any “R” space available.
In the below screenshot, flight AC118 between Vancouver and Toronto shows “R” space, which would indicate eUpgrade availability. However, on flight AC90 from Toronto to Buenos Aires via São Paulo, there isn’t any available “R” space, which led me to believe I wouldn’t be able to instantly confirm an upgrade to business class on that flight.
Before I switched gears to looking for flights with partner airlines or through other loyalty programs, I decided to give the eUpgrade filters on the Air Canada website a quick check.
Much to my surprise, when I applied the eUpgrade filter, Air Canada’s website clearly indicated that there’s eUpgrade availability on the long-haul flights between Toronto and Buenos Aires, and not just on the domestic flight as I was expecting.
Keeping in mind that I could cancel for free within 24 hours of booking if it didn’t work out (and that I was booking a refundable fare), I decided to make a test booking with an Economy (Latitude) fare to see if my eUpgrade would clear instantly.
When I went to make the request, it showed that I’d be waitlisted instead of confirmed. However, I decided to persist, since I’d seen that before, even when I was 100% sure that eUpgrade space was available.
Sure enough, as soon as I clicked “Confirm”, my phone started beeping as I received text messages confirming that my eUpgrades had all cleared.
After selecting my seats in the business class cabin and double-checking that everything looked good, I scratched my head and started wondering if I’d been missing out on something all along here.
Don’t Rely on “R” Space Alone for eUpgrades
When I’m planning out a trip with Aeroplan points, I typically head to the Aeroplan website only once I’m ready to book.
If I think that I’ll try to use eUpgrades to take advantage of more direct or convenient flights with Air Canada, I’ll typically look for “R” space on ExpertFlyer. If I find some, then I look at Economy (Latitude) and Premium Economy (Flexible) pricing on the Air Canada website, to see which fare offers the better deal.
However, if I don’t see any “R” space on ExpertFlyer, my usual reaction is to typically switch to other loyalty programs, such as British Airways Executive Club for flights with Oneworld airlines, or Air France KLM Flying Blue for flights with SkyTeam airlines.
After this experience of “surprise and delight” eUpgrade availability, my workflow will now always include checking for eUpgrade availability on the Air Canada website, even if all other indications point to there being none.
And since I can always cancel for free within 24 hours for a revenue or Aeroplan booking, there’s really no risk in making a booking and submitting an eUpgrade request to see if there’s a pleasant outcome.
I’m not really sure what to make of this “hidden” eUpgrade availability. Air Canada controls eUpgrade inventory, and it’s entirely within their purview to add or remove eUpgrade inventory on any particular route at any given time.
I think the biggest takeaway I had from booking this trip was that while “R” space is indicative of eUpgrade availability, there are certainly situations in which there’s eUpgrade availability in the absence of “R” space.
Therefore, if you’re looking at revenue or Aeroplan flights with eUpgrades in mind, be sure to check for availability across a variety of channels, since you may wind up with a pleasant surprise.
When planning out a trip to South America, I was surprised to be able to confirm an eUpgrade on an Air Canada flight when I wasn’t expecting to. Whereas ExpertFlyer didn’t show any “R” space, the Air Canada website showed eUpgrade availability, and it wound up working out well in my favour.
If you’re looking at applying your eUpgrades to an Air Canada flight, there’s no harm in making a booking, requesting an eUpgrade, and seeing what happens, since you can cancel for free within 24 hours if it doesn’t work out in your favour.
For me, this was a great example of being more thorough in my searches, since if I’d given up on using eUpgrades after looking at ExpertFlyer, I wouldn’t have wound up with my preferred routing and itinerary.