Like many of you, I woke up this morning to an email from Air Canada, announcing that the "new" Aeroplan was launching. Like me, you've probably only vaguely followed the odd trials and tribulations of AC trying to bring its own mileage program in-house, but one thing has always been pretty clear with Aeroplan...it sorta sucks.
I have almost 400,000 Aeroplan miles. Wow, you must fly a lot you think. Not really and when I do it's frequently not on Star Alliance. I have that many point because I've been collecting them since 1996 and for the most part, they're impossible to use. Every time I try to plan a trip—be it to Europe or Hawaii—when I finally do find availability that works, when I go to the next step it always turns out that the fees are 80% of what it would cost to just pay for the flight, which is what I end up doing. And then I get more miles I can't use.
But evidently Air Canada has heard us, because they've just announced a whole raft of changes to make the program better. Here are 5 key takeaways:
1. Date Blackouts are over. I have a friend who wanted to book two Business Class tickets from Montreal to Melbourne a few years back. With some sleuthing, she uncovered that only two seats seats are ever available for Aeroplan on that route, and so she woke up at midnight, a calendar year before she wanted to travel to book them (it worked, btw). Now, every seat on the plane that can be booked on aircanda.com, can be booked with Aeroplan points.
2. Everything is on one site. Related to the above is the doing away with the old Aeroplan site, which was brutal. Now everything will be integrated on aircanada.com, which will make booking seats and deciding whether to pay or use points much easier. Most airlines have this function already, so good on AC for catching up.
3. Family Sharing. Before it used to be near impossible to use 21,000 point from your account and 4,000 from your spouse's to book one 25,000 point ticket. AC now has Aeroplan Family Sharing, which means everyone in the family can pool points for reward redemption. And related to that, you can also buy a tickets with part points and part cash—you could do that before by buying extra points on the Aeroplan site, but now it should be much more streamlined.
4. A new Flight Rewards chart. Remember that old Aeroplan chart? It's toast. It's been replaced by a new one that is broken down into four zones and factors in things like carrier, distance, etc. It remains to be seen if this will be a negative of a positive—some legs will be better, some worse. I fear my fave redemption flight—Vancouver-Savannah for 25,000 points— will be significantly more expensive.
5. Rewards will fluctuate with demand. You want four tickets, Edmonton-Maui during Spring Break—it'll cost you fella. But willing to do the same route in late September? Well then you'll save. This is a logical change for Air Canada but for families like me, always booking around school holidays, things will definitely be more expensive.
It all looks good. Maybe too good, frankly. For the most part, this rejig has to be a zero-sum game with any new benefit, being offset by a negative (I think those Christmas/Spring Break bumps will be #1 here). But it's important to note that WestJet barely has a points program at all (and don't talk to me about "WestJet dollars"), so for the time being this is all we have.
Full details on all the changes can be found here.