Well the "free ride" is just about over...or at least the free upgrade ride. In a warm and fuzzy email earlier this week - Air Canada announced that starting on March 1, 2014, it will charge "e-upgrade add-ons" for passengers looking to upgrade into the executive cabin from economy class on all flights other than those within North America. For this year, at least, Super Elite members (now called "Altitude 100k") will be exempt from these charges. But for all other travellers, it will cost $500 plus a pile of e-upgrade points to move up into the executive cabin.
The deterioration of benefits for non-super elite passengers over the past couple of years has been significant. Last year, Air Canada introduced its "Altitude" program and effectively reduced the status of benefits for most Aeroplan members, other than previously named "Super Elite." These changes made it much more difficult, if not impossible, for non-super elite passengers to be upgraded into executive first.
Now with the latest change, passengers hoping to upgrade from a cheap fare into executive first will have to pay $500 unless they are Superelite 100K. That's $500 in addition to the exorbitant number of e-upgrade points that they will need- which have become harder and harder to collect.
There is now a greater and greater discrepancy between the value of Air Canada's highest level status, Altitude 100K and all other levels.
For those travelling back and forth between Israel and Canada, this will reduce the benefit of flying Air Canada for anyone travelling less than 8 1/2 times a year. Air Canada still offers a direct flight, with AC power outlets, personal entertainment screens and complementary alcohol (to name a few of the benefits). But the loss of the ability to get a free upgrade, even once in a while, is a major change and it is certainly not a positive one.
The flip side is that anyone who is close to Altitude 100K status by the end of December will need to consider the value of taking an extra flight just to meet the required threshold. The value of having 100K status will now include free upgrades (with e-upgrade points), double Aeroplan miles on Air Canada and United flights, and the ability to use Aeroplan points for priority bookings, even when most reward seats are no longer available.
For passengers on the Tel-Aviv-Toronto route, this will affect, most significantly, those passengers who might be flying 4 to 7 times a year. Only two or three years ago, passengers in that category would have enjoyed regular upgrades to executive first at no additional charge. Now they will be lucky to be eligible and when they are, it may cost more than half of the price of the ticket (during low season).
So if you are an Altitude member, but not 100K, the time to enjoy the free upgrades is now - or between now and March 1, 2014. After that, well, luxury will have its price...
Here is the link to the Air Canada announcement: Air Canada Add Ons
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
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.