I love Aeroplan, which is Air Canada’s spun-off frequent flyer program. For the past several years I’ve woken up every morning asking myself when the Aeroplan honeymoon would be over. It’s thanks to Aeroplan that I’ve been able to take trips like this one (from Tampa to Chicago to Zurich to London to Istanbul to Hong Kong to Bangkok to Munich to Zurich to New York) and this one (from Tampa to Washington to Tokyo to Singapore to Bangkok to Tokyo to Seoul to Frankfurt to Seattle), each for only 120,000 miles in first class. Best of all, since Aeroplan is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, it wasn’t all that tough to come by Aeroplan miles.
Obviously in the long run those kinds of award costs were unsustainable. While I don’t have the slightest clue how much American Express pays Aeroplan for miles transferred to their program, I can’t imagine that amount covered the cost that Aeroplan had to pay their partner airlines for awards like the ones above.
So as of July 15, 2011, Aeroplan will be adjusting their award charts a bit.
Aeroplan has two award charts — one for travel on Air Canada, and one for travel on their Star Alliance partners. I couldn’t care less about the Air Canada reward chart, because Aeroplan imposes fuel surcharges for awards tickets on Air Canada, while they don’t for award tickets on their Star Alliance partners.
For the most part the changes are reasonable, I suppose fair mileage “inflation” over the years, given that they haven’t made any changes in a long time. For example, business class from the US to most of Europe goes from 80,000 miles to 90,000 miles, which is still a bargain. Some award prices are even going down. For whatever reason Aeroplan was always incredibly overpriced for travel to the Middle East, Africa, and India, charging about 50% more than the likes of Continental, United, etc. So those award prices are going down, though they’re still overpriced compared to the competition.
But then there are a few awards changes that sting. US to Europe first class awards are going from 100,000 miles per person to 125,000 miles per person. They’re still priced below most of the competition, though it is a 25% increase. I can totally understand that. The same goes for Australia, where business class goes from 100,000 miles to 135,000 miles for business class (a 35% increase) and 140,000 to 185,000 for first class (over a 30% increase… ouch!).
What really, really, really bites, though, is that my favorite award, between the US and Asia, goes from 120,000 miles to 175,000 miles. That’s over a 45% increase!
Look, I wish I could be mad at them, but I really can’t. I’m betting that 45% increase mostly reflects how much those kinds of awards cost them, given how many of us booking first class awards travel via Europe to get to Asia.
More than anything else, this massively decreases the value of American Express Membership Rewards points. In the past I would say that 80% of awards I’ve booked for people through Membership Rewards have been either through Continental or Aeroplan — I would book awards through Aeroplan for travel to Europe, South America, Australia, and most of Asia, while I would book awards through Continental for travel to Africa, the Middle East, India, and Asia “region 2” (places like Indonsia, Malaysia, etc.).
Well, as of September 30, Continental’s partnership with Membership Rewards ends, which is a huge loss for the program. At least there was still Aeroplan, though now they’re not looking like quite as good of a deal anymore. There’s always All Nippon Airways, which is also in the Star Alliance, though the issue is that points don’t transfer to them instantly and they don’t allow holds in the meantime, so by the time you transfer points the award space will likely be gone. They also impose fuel surcharges on awards, which makes them less attractive.
If anything, this change increases the value of Starwood points (as they have more partners) and decreases the value of Membership Rewards points.
Anyway, to my friends at Aeroplan, I don’t blame y’all. Sucks for me, but you guys have always been very reasonable and while these are huge increases for certain regions, there haven’t been any other increases in a long time, so…