Aeroplan announced the next generation of its program this morning, with a reimagined approach to earning and redemptions. In this post, I’ll offer a breakdown of the news on the redemption side of the program. Then I will offer my thoughts on the winners and losers of the 2020 Aeroplan program. I will say this to start: the changes are a net negative for me, but were directly in-line with my expectations and the changes could have been much worse. Many will benefit from the new program and there is much to like.
New Aeroplan Program Launches November 8, 2020
Aeroplan will launch its new loyalty program this autumn. On the redemption side, we will see a number of changes including:
- The elimination of fuel surcharges on Air Canada and partner awards
- Stopovers on one-way awards at a cost of 5,000 miles
- Pricing that factors in both distance and zone
- Published award chart
- 39CAD booking fee on all partner awards
- Higher cancellation fees
- Family sharing
- Cash + Points option
- A comprehensive online award search engine that can build and book complex routings
Aeroplan says the average cost of an award will increase 12.7%, but current sweetspots will rise by more than 50% in some cases, as I’ll note in one poignant example below.
First, let’s look a the new award chart.
Aeroplan Publishes Innovative Award Chart Combining Zones + Distance
Aeroplan will divide the world into four regions in terms of award pricing:
- North America
- South America
A published award chart notes pricing within each zone and between zones. Not only does zone/region factor into pricing, but so does overall distance traveled. Segments are priced cumulatively rather than from origin to destination. For example, ORD-FRA-LHR would be calculated at 4,752 miles even though the direct distance between ORD-LHR is 3,953 miles.
Within North America
North America includes Central America, the Caribbean, and the Hawaiian islands.
Between North America and Atlantic zones
The “Atlantic” zone include Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.
Between North America and Pacific zones
The Pacific zone includes East Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and the oceania area.
Between North America and South America
Within Atlantic zone
Within Pacific zone
Between Atlantic and Pacific zones
Within South America
Between Atlantic and South America zones
Between Pacific and South America zones
Air Canada Awards Will Be Variably Priced
You’ll note above there are separate prices for awards which include Air Canada segments. Currently Aeroplan offer “fixed price” and “market price” awards on Air Canada. The new program will combine the two and offer a single variable pricing levels on Air Canada segments. That means if you are combining partners with even a short segment on Air Canada, you may end up paying significantly more than just having the partner segment.
Fuel Surcharges Are Eliminated!
The new program will eliminate fuel surcharges on all flights. One-way Lufthansa first class redemption to Europe routinely run over $800. That will now be zeroed out…almost. Aeroplan collected notoriously high fuel surcharges on Austrian and Lufthansa flights, which will not longer apply.
New 39CAD Partner Booking Fee
While fuel surcharges will be eliminated, Aeroplan will tack on a 39CAD partner booking fee to each booking. This will apply per booking, whether you book a one-way or round-trip award. As most partners do not have fuel surcharges, this move is a net negative, particularly for domestic redemptions on United Airlines, which currently only carry taxes of $5.60 per one-way ticket.
Stopovers Will Cost 5,000 Miles And Be Available On A One-Way Basis
Currently, Aeroplan allows two stopovers on a round-trip journey (if booked over the phone, one if booked online) but none on one-way tickets. Free stopovers on round-trip tickets will no longer be available, but Aeroplan will allow for stopovers on a one-way basis (one only) at a cost of 5,000 miles plus any additional taxes the stopover incurs.
Flexible Routing Rules
With the regions more loosely defined, there is no maximum permitted mileage and up to six segments permitted per one-way ticket. But Aeroplan has said that no backtracking will be permitted. We’ll still need to determine how strictly that “no backtracking” rule can be enforced. Hopefully connections in Istanbul for western Europe will still be permitted. I was told by an Aeroplan spokesperson, for example, that something like Chicago – Frankfurt – London would still be permitted. Perhaps connections within a continent will permitted, even if there is backtracking?
Higher Cancellation Fees
Change and cancellation fees will go up by as much as 33%.
More info here.
Points + Cash
Redemptions will also be offered on cash + points basis. We can only speculate at this point at what value Aeroplan will assign the points, but this could be a lucrative option if Aeroplan adopts a sliding scale system similar to what Avianca LifeMiles currently offers.
Pool Family Points
Aeroplan will allow the pooling of points among family members at no cost. This is potentially a huge benefit, especially considering Aeroplan will take a progressive approach to defining a family (i.e., you can define it the way you want). In essence, you can add anyone to your family you choose.
Winners And Losers In Aeroplan 2020 Award Chart
I see some nice sweet spots in the new chart, particularly in intra-region travel. You’ll be able to fly from Newark to Honolulu in business class for 35K miles, Frankfurt to Delhi for 45K miles in business class, or Sydney to Bangkok in first class for 60K miles. More generally, the lack of fuel surcharge will make eastbound Lufthansa First Class awards a much greater value, especially when departing from the East Coast.
Those who like redeeming Aeroplan miles for last-minute domestic tickets on United Airlines will generally not pay more points, but will incur a 39CAD booking fee, which certainly lessens the value of those redemptions.
My most common Aeroplan redemption was Los Angeles to Frankfurt in Lufthansa First Class. Currently, the award costs 70K one-way. The LAX-FRA fuel surcharge is about $800 while the FRA-LAX surcharge was closer to $300. Under the new program, the price rises to 100K each way. I value Aeroplan points at two cents each, so that extra 30K miles is the equivalent of a $600 surcharge in each direction. In that sense, I gain nothing and if I add connections, such as Frankfurt to Rome, the prices goes up to 120,000 one-way, since the cumulative mileage rises above 6,000 miles. Paying an extra 50K miles in each direction is a huge devaluation, for me personally, especially on flights back to the USA where fuel surcharges are much lower.
It’s not just premium awards. We have used 30K Aeroplan miles to travel from Los Angeles to Zurich on SWISS many times over the years. That award will now cost 40K miles, an increase of 33%.
I’m still processing all the details of this new program, but thus far it looks like a net loss for me, but only because of my residence on the West Coast and frequent trips to Europe. For many people, the new program will represent a substantial move in the positive direction. As more details unfold, I’ll be writing much more about the new Aeroplan program.
Matthew, under “Fuel Charges Are Eliminated!”, what do you mean by “That will not be zeroed out”?
Sorry, should have been a “w” instead of an “n”. What a difference a letter makes!
As someone who habitually avoids fuel surcharges and flies mostly long haul international to/from the US, these changes pretty much suck. Flying Miami to Bali via Houston and Taipei is now 70k in economy rather than 77.5 in business. Fights to Europe have also also gone up substantially. I think that just calling this out as a devaluation is the way to go. The rest is just interesting window dressing.
Ouch. That is a horrible devaluation indeed.
thank god for lifemiles
I appreciate the creativity Aeroplan came out with and I’ll have to play around with routings, but it’s also generally a net loss for me out of SFO as someone who regularly flies to IST, ALA, FRU, TAS with Turkish. On the surface, it looks like the west coast folks headed east loses out.
East headed out west loses, but at least there are other programs and you have a sweet spot one one coast. Those in the midwest have zero sweet spots and higher redemptions.
Bingo – you nailed it.
West coast residents are losers in this. East coast folks going to Europe may realize some benefits. For me, as a west coast resident, it’s a clear devaluation.
The bigger unanswered question is partner availability. If the new Aeroplan has good partner availability, then this may be OK overall. If partner availability sucks, then none of the positive tweaks matter at all. We won’t know about that until things return to something akin to normal (currently, award availability is wildly skewed).
I’ll also note that Aeroplan is promising a brain-dead-simple experience when looking for and booking award trips. That is not good news. The simpler they make things, the faster that limited award seats will disappear. The fact that booking award trips is complicated and requires both knowledge and effort is what makes all of this work for us. Making it so simple that any idiot can do it is the end of value.
Lots of blogs are gushing over this. Those blogs are dishonest.
West coast flyers have an advantage in distance price to Asia and a disadvantage to Europe. The prices out of the US are pretty much all worse to vastly worse anyway but there are some areas that are less bad from either coast.
Our family is not happy with this change. The distance based chart was predictable and we could long term save for the whole family to travel to Asian1 at any time of the year. Now there are going to be peak seasons just like what I hated about Air Miles.
The one thing that you need to clarify on your post is that the old chart is for RETURN flights. The new chart is only ONE WAY!
Asian1 from North America under the old plan was 75,000 miles all year round. Now under the new plan the same flight is going to cost from 80,000 – 160,000 points for a return flight to our destination.
Yes, no flight surcharges, but that would never make up for the double that we’ll most likely end up paying in points because we would often long term plan for 4 flights during peak seasons.
So no this is not a better plan and if it wasn’t for this stupid pandemic we’d be sure to blow our points before this change over happened.
The key thing that you need to update in your post @Ben is that the old chart is showing return flights and the new chart is not. Even under a partner airline, our flights will cost us ⅓ more per flight in points.
I knew this was going to happen. They always tooted that your points were going to be 1:1 miles:points in the new system, but they never addressed the question everyone was really asking. Whether or not it was going to be 1:1 in value. We now have our answer. It is not.
The reality for my family is that it is not 1:1.
1:¾ (low demand) to
1:½ (peak demand)
If I’m calculating wrong then please tell me but it’s that variable range on Aeroplan that concerns me and none of the others are pointing this out.
Also, what about baggage allowances and meals? Do we still get a free bag and meal or are we going to have to pay for those too?
It still remains as my favorite program. Being in the east and primarily using it for flights to Europe and South America I am fine with the changes. Even pleased. I hated the fuel surcharges.
Net loss for me too. North America to Pacific-Asia is absurd considering other options. KrisFlyer to me has gained a lot more value by default. Intra-Asia with KrisFlyer is a much better option too at 47k for example Narita to Singapore.
@Matthew – How sure are you that fuel surcharges are eliminated for all carriers? Loyalty Lobby reads the YQ as only going away on AC metal, and the terms could easily support their view. The terms could be construed to mean that you pay fuel surcharges PLUS $39, which would make a bad devaluation much worse.
“On any Air Canada flight you purchase with points, we have eliminated additional airline surcharges. That could save you hundreds of dollars in cash at checkout. In fact, only taxes and third-party fees (such as airport fees) are listed in cash, and you can use your points to cover those, too.
If you’re booking a flight reward on another airline, there is a flat Partner Booking Fee of just $39 (per ticket) – which you can also cover with points.”
Do you have anything from Aeroplan itself that specifies this ambiguity?
I do. I specifically addressed that with two people in the program. All YQs are going away. The official wording is vague, but the only surcharge will be 39CAD plus government taxes on partner awards.