In a world where there’s little good news in the travel industry, Air Canada and Aeroplan continue to make things better for their members.
If you recall, Air Canada/Aeroplan have made some significant strides to engage their membership. I haven’t covered them all due to my work schedule but here are some of the ones that I did cover:
- 50% off Aeroplan Redemption Event
- Introducing Etihad as an Aeroplan Redemption Partner
- Air Canada Altitude Status Granted
- AC’s Travel at Home Program – Earn Even Higher Status
- AC’s Travel at Home Program – Earn Status from Home
Great News on Aeroplan Miles Expiry Policy
Just announced today, Aeroplan miles now have an 18-month expiry policy rather than the previous 12-month expiry policy. The expiry works in the same way as it did previously in that if you have ANY activity in your Aeroplan account, your expiry will extend a further 18-months from that activity.
This includes if you earn a single Aeroplan mile in your account, if you redeem for a flight, if you donate to charity, or even if you buy miles.
As was previously the case, if you hold an Aeroplan co-brand card through CIBC or TD, your miles will never expire so long as you keep your credit card active.
Win-Win on Reinstating Expired Miles
Previously if let your miles lapse, you only had one choice to get those miles reinstated – pay for it at a cost of 1¢ /mile + a $30 administration fee. If you faced this situation, it was a very expensive and anger envoking option to reinstate your miles but many people did it because there was no other recourse.
Now, Air Canada/Aeroplan are introducing a new method of reinstating your Aeroplan miles if you happen to let them lapse.
From the date of your miles lapsing, you now have 6 months to either take an Air Canada flight (and credit the Aeroplan Miles to your account) or get a Aeroplan co-brand card (with CIBC or TD). If you do either of those things, your miles will be automatically reinstated FOR FREE!!!
In addition, Air Canada understands that there are a select group of people that had their miles expire but also had travel plans that were affected by COVID. If you have had your miles expire since January 2020 AND you had travel plans with Air Canada that you had to cancel due to COVID or COVID-related issues, Air Canada/Aeroplan will reinstate your miles for free. If you fall within this select group of people, simply call the Aeroplan Call Centre (1-800-361-5373) to have your miles reinstated.
Why Is Aeroplan Doing This?
As someone that has worked in the Loyalty space in both a hobbyist and professional capacity, I see these moves as pure genius.
Everything that Air Canada/Aeroplan has been doing is setting up the launch of the new Aeroplan program. I picture in my head a chess grandmaster thinking 5-6 steps ahead for his checkmate while the competition are wondering why their checkers look like little people.
Each move here is a very well-orchestrated symphony that cements Aeroplan as a program that will be very difficult to compete against.
Let’s take this new offer as an example. With a new 18-month expiry, Canadians will now have even more faith with the Aeroplan program. I’ve always felt that Aeroplan struck a nice balance between miles never expiring (like WestJet) and miles expiring within a set period of time regardless of account activity (like Asia Miles until recently). Now, with an 18-month expiry, and two very viable ways of reinstating your miles if they expires, Aeroplan has all but eliminates any “Aeroplan stole all my miles” discussions. The onus now rest even more squarly on the consumer to make sure their miles don’t expire.
I believe most Canadians will look at this new polity and think “I’ll definitely have some sort of activity with Aeroplan within a year and a half … and even if I forget to participate, I can take a flight or get a credit card to reinstate my miles … I might as well join the program.”
For Air Canada/Aeroplan, there are two main goals with their loyalty program. The first foundational piece is to have their members fly on Air Canada flights. This is a balancing act that needs to be coordinated between both the airline and the loyalty program.
The airline’s job is to make it attractive enough for flyers to want to fly Air Canada. This is acheived through things like a good network of destinations, strong hard and soft products aboard the aircraft, an excellent safety record, and aspirational aspects of the program such as exclusive lounge acess or car service from plane to plane on connecting flights. I would argue that Air Canada (the airline) has done a very good job at keep up their end of the bargain as evidenced by their award of the Best Airline in North America by SkyTrax.
The loyalty program’s (Aeroplan) job is to make it rewarding for their members to fly on Air Canada and its Star Alliance partners. This is accomplished through access to good award inventory and a strong alliance/partnership with airlines that your members want to fly as part of their standard and aspirational redemptions. Again, I would argue that Aeroplan checks all these boxes with access to 26 airlines through the Star Alliance and even more non-allianced airlines like Etihad and Azul.
The second goal of a loyalty program is to earn money for the airline. This is done through a combination of selling miles to retailers, selling miles to individuals, and selling miles to financial partners. Loyalty programs make a LOT of money for airlines with some programs easily outpacing the airline in terms of both revenue and profits. By highlighting the fact that those that hold a co-branded credit card with CIBC or TD will never have their miles expire, Aeroplan has added yet another reason for Aeroplan members to become credit card holders. This ultimately puts money into the pockets of Aeroplan and in turn, Air Canada.
With this new annoucement, Aeroplan singlehandedly acheived the two main goals of a loyalty program – to get people to fly the airline and to earn money for the airline. Aeroplan has given its members ways to keep their miles from expiring that help the airline’s core business (fly within 6 months of expiry to reinstate your miles) or it’s bottom line (get an Aeroplan co-branded credit card within 6 months of expiry to reinstate your miles).
In either situation, the consumer feels like the program they know and love is “giving back” and Air Canada/Aeroplan are happy to do so because it ultimately keeps their members from defecting to the competition.
Aeroplan has been absolutely dominating loyalty since COVID and no other program is even close. By updating their expiry policy to a friendlier 18-month expiry and giving their members two new ways of reinstating their miles, they have reiterated why Canadians should commit to the Aeroplan program over other loyalty programs.
As WestJet quietly removes one of the only good things about it’s program (Member Excluisve Fares), Aeroplan is coming up with multiple reasons why you should become a member and participate soley in their program.
Hang on … I need to end this post. I have to call a doctor. I think WestJet just tried to swallow a rook.
I hate to be a downer, but sooner or later, everything evens out. With all the recent positives there has to be, eventually, an offsetting negative(s). Lets see…a new program introduced…new award mileage requirements ?…new fees ? I hope not, but how can you have so many recent great things happen ? Something has to give. I’m worried.
I believe there is a strong indication that domestic and possibly all AC metal flights will attract dynamic pricing which will be based on the cash fair of the flight. Some may see that as a negative but it could attract some positives on distressed flight inventory (ie more seats, lower than expected miles pricing, etc). Lots to be seen but I remain hopeful.
Air Canada has some great destinations and routes that allow reasonable travel. But the YQ surcharges are outrageous so I only use Aeroplan for partner airlines with zero (Swiss, Etihad, Turkish,SAA (sob), EVA etc) YQ and leave the AC flights alone.
If they want my miles and my loyalty they have to remove YQ. I flew too many times in J to South Africa or Europe on AC metal until I finally realized that those outrageous YQ surcharges did not exist if I flew United/Swiss/EVA/SAA/Etihad. I wasted THOUSANDS of dollars on AC flights! NEVER AGAIN.