To clarify, the Altitude program is separate from the Aeroplan program, which is Aeroplan’s spun off frequent flyer program.
While there are some good and bad elements to the changes, overall they’re brutal. You know it’s bad news when they introduce the changes as follows:
Several changes have been made to Air Canada Altitude™ for 2015. These changes are being introduced following a thorough benchmarking exercise in order to competitively position Air Canada alongside the world’s leading carriers. Air Canada remains committed to offering one of the world’s best frequent flyer programs.
I don’t feel all that passionately about Air Canada’s Altitude program and there are lots of changes, so I’ll only recap them briefly:
Minimum Air Canada Flight Requirement Increasing
The Minimum Air Canada Flight Requirement needed to reach Altitude status for 2016 is increasing. The Minimum Air Canada Flight Requirement refers to the minimum number of Altitude Qualifying Miles and Altitude Qualifying Segments that must be flown on flights operated by Air Canada, Air Canada Express and Air Canada rouge in order to reach any Altitude status level.
How bad is it? As you can see below, now roughly half of the elite qualifying miles you earn towards status will have to be on Air Canada metal:
This is a trend we’re seeing with airlines, whereby they’re starting to just not give a crap about alliances anymore. Airlines have worked so hard to build up alliances over the past two decades, though we’re slowly seeing a reversal with that trend, whereby the major alliances are becoming less important. Airlines care how much business you give them directly, and not their partners (with the exception of joint ventures).
500 Mile Minimum Eliminated
The 500 Mile Minimum privilege will no longer be in effect. For travel from March 1, 2015 onwards, miles earned will be based on the distance flown and the fare option purchased for flights operated by Air Canada, Air Canada Express, Air Canada rouge and Star Alliance™ member airlines.
On a per mile basis, short flights are almost always the most expensive. This isn’t a huge point, but it certainly hurts.
eUpgrades Requirements Increasing
eUpgrades to Business Class
For eUpgrade requests made on or after March 1, 2015, the number of eUpgrade Credits required to upgrade will be increasing. Furthermore, the number of eUpgrade Credits Altitude members can earn through Threshold eUpgrades is changing.
Introducing eUpgrades to Premium Economy
In early 2015, Altitude members will be able to access the comfort of Premium Economy using eUpgrade Credits when travelling on an eligible fare. eUpgrade Add-ons will not apply for these upgrades. Stay tuned for more information regarding eUpgrades to Premium Economy later this year.
Effective March 1, 2015, Altitude Super Elite™ 100K members will be entitled to share their eUpgrade privilege with one eUpgrade Nominee, while maintaining their ability to share their privileges with Travel Companions. The eUpgrade Travel Companion privilege allows members to upgrade one companion who is traveling on the same reservation. Plus, members can also upgrade one additional companion not travelling on the same reservation, but on the same flight, at the airport on the day of departure.
How big are the increases in eUpgrades required? While the chart varies by region, let’s take a look at the charts for travel between Canada and Asia/Australia.
Here’s the current chart:
And here’s the new chart, which kicks in next year:
As you can see, we’re looking at an average increase of over 50% in the number of upgrade certificates required. That’s rough!
Lounge Access Being Cut For Altitude Elite 35Ks
Altitude Elite™ 35K members will no longer have the option to choose complimentary access to International Maple Leaf™ Lounges and Star Alliance Business Lounges as part of their Select Privileges. Instead, members will be able to select a 50% discount on any Maple Leaf Club membership. As part of their Core Privileges, they will continue to enjoy the comfort and amenities of select Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounges located in the domestic and trans-border departures zones of Canadian airports, along with those in Los Angeles and New York (LaGuardia).
Well, I guess that’s one way to solve lounge overcrowding…
Redeem Miles For Premium Economy
In early 2015, Aeroplan® and Altitude members will be able to redeem their Aeroplan Miles for seats in the Premium Economy cabin on Air Canada. Details will be coming soon.
Here’s some good news! Air Canada is somewhat late to the game when it comes to premium economy, though they’re finally adding it to many of their planes. Soon you’ll also be able to redeem miles for it. Oddly it doesn’t seem like you’ll be able to redeem miles for premium economy on partner airlines.
I’m also hoping this isn’t part of a lager Aeroplan devaluation.
Fuel Surcharge On Flight Rewards
For ClassicFlight Rewards made as of March 1, 2015, the flight reward fuel surcharges for travel within Canada and between Canada and the U.S. will be waived for Altitude members. This is applicable on flights operated by Air Canada, Air Canada Express and Air Canada rouge.
Furthermore, at the same time, the ClassicFlight Rewards fuel surcharges for travel between Canada and other international destinations will be waived for Super Elite 100K members on flights operated by Air Canada, Air Canada Express and Air Canada rouge.
This is pretty cool. Aeroplan has notoriously high fuel surcharges, so as of next March Elite members won’t have to pay fuel surcharges for domestic and transborder award flights, which saves ~$30.
Meanwhile Super Elite 100K members won’t even have to pay fuel surcharges for longhaul award travel on Air Canada. That’s awesome.
Aeroplan has always had award fuel surcharges a bit backwards. Back in the day they used to impose fuel surcharges exclusively for travel on Air Canada, while they didn’t impose fuel surcharges on any of their partners. That seemed a bit odd, and eventually I guess you could say they “corrected” that by adding fuel surcharges on most of their partners.
I think this is a nice perk for Super Elite 100K members.
Flight Reward Change Fee Waivers Cut For Super Elites
Aeroplan® Flight Reward change fee waivers for Super Elite 100K members will be no longer be available for changes made on or after March 1, 2015.
Well that sucks!
There are a few other (minor) changes, so check out the full announcement for all the details.
On the whole these changes are horrible, in my opinion.
Air Canada flyers — how do you feel about these changes? And which one stings the most?