Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Aeroplan Changes for 2012-13: Elite Status is being Downgraded

Air Canada’s Aeroplan has announced significant changes to its frequent flyer program for the 2012-13 year. The gist of the changes is that benefits are being scaled back significantly for “Elite” Aeroplan travellers.

One of the great things about flying Air Canada between Tel-Aviv and Toronto was the fact that you could gain “Elite” Air Canada status with just about 3 round-trip flights. Up until now (and until February 28, 2013), this has meant a number of great benefits – including being able to check 3 bags, access to lounges around the world, and, most importantly, being able to upgrade to business class, subject to availability, from any fare.

These “Elite” benefits meant that Air Canada flyers that flew 35,000 miles in a year would be treated as “Gold” card holders across the Star Alliance system, which includes Lufthansa, Austrian, Continental, United, US Air and many other airlines.

Apparently, some of the other airlines were not too happy with this since it meant that it was easier to qualify for this Gold status on Air Canada than on other Star Alliance members. So, Aeroplan has now released information about a range of changes. For the 2012-13 year, the “Elite” flyers with 35,000 miles will be downgraded to “Silver” status. They will lose automatic international lounge access and will no longer be able to upgrade on international travel to business class from low cost fares. Lounge access will still be available as an option at the expense of other benefits.

Aeroplan has added in two new classifications to replace the 35,000 category. Members accumulating 50,000 miles (4.5 round trip flights between Toronto and Tel-Aviv) will be treated as “Gold” and will get lounge access and the ability to upgrade, even on international flights. The main benefit they will lose, which the “Elite” members previously had, is getting a bonus of 1.5 Aeroplan miles for each mile flown. Members earning 75,000 miles (a bit less than 7 trips) will more or less be treated the same way as Elite members are being treated until February 28, 2012.

Overall, it appears that people with 35,000 miles a year will now need to travel about 75,000 miles a year to get all the same benefits. The 100,000 mile travellers (“Super Elite”) will still be treated the same as will the 25,000 mile travellers. For anyone travelling back and forth to Israel less than 5 times in a year, this will make Air Canada somewhat less attractive than it is currently. When combined with the fact that all of Air Canada’s 12 hour return trips to Toronto from Tel-Aviv leave at 12:30 p.m. (rather than in the evening), it may be worthwhile to reconsider El Al or some other options with a stopover such as Continental or US Air. For now, Air Canada and El Al still provide free headphones and free wine (Kosher and non-Kosher on Air Canada), which is something the U.S. airlines no longer include but this will probably be changing shortly as well.

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