By now I’m sure you have heard the surprising news that Air Canada is pulling out of Aeroplan, the very reward program it founded 33 years ago. This move will undoubtedly change the rewards landscape in Canada forever, but in what way is yet to be seen. It is really is too early to tell, but Air Canada leaving Aeroplan may not be a bad thing. So before you start cashing in those points for a toaster you just don’t need, consider the following:
How is Star Alliance Involved?
When I first heard Air Canada was leaving Aeroplan I was shocked but also a little relieved. Whenever I book a reward flight on Aeroplan I work incredibly hard to avoid flying Air Canada. Why? Because Air Canada charges some of the highest taxes and fees on reward tickets. Any Canadian who has redeemed a reward ticket online knows this. $700 in taxes and fees for something that is supposed to be free is anything but rewarding.
So the thought of Air Canada leaving Aeroplan brought a sense of relief. No more having to work around the system to avoid Air Canada when booking Aeroplan tickets. It will now be easier to book flights on Swiss, Turkish, Singapore or any of the other Star Alliances members that charge little to no fees.
As the news broke and AIMIA’s, Aeroplan’s parent company, stocks plunged, I kept reading the same disturbing fact. After 2020 you will no longer be able to redeem Aeroplan points for flight rewards on Air Canada or any of its Star Alliance partners.
To me, the real headline here is Star alliance is leaving Aeroplan but in every article, this is only mentioned as a side note. Confused, I went straight to the sources. What I found is not encouraging:
Who Will Aeroplan Partner With?
Aeroplan without the “Aero” is hardly a plan. Most Canadians would agree. AIMIA executives are aware of this and means they have some serious work to do. Unfortunately, the Star Alliance is by far the biggest airline alliance out there and the one that covers Canada best. It’s possible Aeroplan will strike a deal with One World or Sky Team however it is unlikely given that the airlines do little to help the local Canadian market. Taking a look at this chart from PointsHogger and you can see what I mean:
|Air Berlin||Aeroflot||Adria Airways|
|• Niki||Aerolíneas Argentinas||Aegean Airlines|
|American Airlines||• Austral Líneas Aéreas||• Olympic Air|
|• American Eagle||Aeromexico||Air Canada|
|• Aeroméxico Connect||• Air Canada Express|
|British Airways||Air Europa||• Air Canada Rouge|
|• BA CityFlyer||Air France||Air China|
|• Comair||Alitalia||• Dalian Airlines|
|• OpenSkies||• Alitalia CityLiner||Air India|
|• Sun-Air||China Airlines||• Air India Regional|
|Cathay Pacific||• Mandarin Airlines||Air New Zealand|
|• Cathay Dragon (converted from Dragonair)||China Eastern Airlines||• Air New Zealand Link|
|• Shanghai Airlines||All Nippon Airways|
|Finnair||China Southern Airlines||• Air Japan|
|• Nordic Regional Airlines||Czech Airlines||• ANA Wings|
|Iberia||Delta Air Lines||• Vanilla Air|
|• Iberia Express||• Delta Connection||Asiana Airlines|
|• Iberia Regional||• Delta Shuttle||• Air Busan|
|Japan Airlines||Garuda Indonesia||• Air Seoul (added)|
|• J-Air||Kenya Airways||Austrian Airlines|
|• Japan Transocean Air||KLM||Avianca|
|LATAM Airlines||• KLM Cityhopper||• Avianca Brazil|
|• LATAM Argentina||Korean Air||• Avianca Costa Rica|
|• LATAM Brasil||Middle East Airlines||• Avianca Ecuador|
|• LATAM Chile||Saudia||• Avianca El Salvador|
|• LATAM Colombia||TAROM||• Avianca Guatemala|
|• LATAM Ecuador||Vietnam Airlines||• Avianca Honduras|
|• LATAM Express||Xiamen Airlines||• Avianca Nicaragua|
|• LATAM Peru||• Avianca Peru|
|Malaysia Airlines||Possible future members to SkyTeam||Brussels Airlines|
|• Jetconnect||Hunnu Air||• Copa Airlines Colombia|
|• QantasLink||Jet Airways (added)||Croatia Airlines|
|Qatar Airways||Uzbekistan Airways||EgyptAir|
|Royal Jordanian||Virgin Atlantic||• EgyptAir Express|
|S7 Airlines||Ethiopian Airlines|
|• Globus Airlines||EVA Air|
|SriLankan Airlines||• Uni Air|
|• Mihin Lanka||LOT Polish Airlines|
|• LOT Charters|
|• Nordica Airlines (added)|
|• Air Dolomiti|
Possible future members to Oneworld
|• Lufthansa CityLine|
|• Lufthansa Regional|
|Aer Lingus (joining in 2017)||• SunExpress Deutschland|
|• Aer Lingus Regional (joining in 2017)||Scandinavian Airlines|
|• Cimber A/S|
|LATAM Paraguay||• Kunming Airlines|
|South African Airways|
|• South African Express|
|Swiss International Air Lines|
|• Edelweiss Air|
|• Swiss Global Air Lines|
|• TAP Express|
|• Thai Smile|
|• Anadolu Jet|
|• United Express|
Possible future members to Star Alliance
What is more likely is that Aeroplan will partner with a handful of airlines to offer flight rewards. Their online FAQ does a little bit to back confidence in this:
See how they mentioned “you also have access to over 1,000 exciting merchandise, hotel, car rental and experiential rewards” multiple times? Eeep. Canadians do not want another useless flight reward program. You have to click pretty deep to find the flight options on Air Miles web site, and given the backlash they recently received for their policy changes, I would think Aeroplan will be doing all they can to keep flights in the foreground.
What Will Air Canada and Aeroplan do to Sway Customers?
One thing is certain with Air Canada leaving Aeroplan, both sides will fight over you like a child actor in a messy custody battle. As we get closer To 2020, the drop-dead date Air Canada has given Aeroplan, you will see incentives from Air Canada enticing people to come to their new program as well as incentives from Aeroplan to stay loyal. This will come in forms of big bonus sign-ups, similar to what we saw when CIBC split their Aeroplan contract with TD. That custody battle meant a trip to New Zealand for this guy so I am eager to see how this plays out.Again, Air Canada leaving Aeroplan may not be a bad thing.
Please, don’t panic. The last thing anyone wants is another Air Miles fiasco where everyone rushes to redeem, crashing the Aeroplan website and leaving little inventory in the wake. Until it is clear who Aeroplan partners with on the flight side, it will be tough to choose sides. Till then I say sit back and enjoy two Christmases!
That said, if you are lucky enough to be carrying a huge balance of points (like 300K+) it would be a good idea to start planning that amazing trip regardless of Air Canada leaving Aeroplan. As always, don’t rush in. You will end up paying hefty fees just to burn those points. Be sure to book on airlines that avoid high taxes and fees and consider building routes that maximize the value of those hard earned points.
If you need a hand sorting through the confusion, I am here to help for a small fee! Give me a shout!
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– cover image via Flickr CC @Traveloscopy