Air Canada 2015 Elite Program Changes

Air Canada has announced some major changes to their 2015 elite program, Altitude.

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:

Air-Canada-777

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:

Altitude-Flight-Requirement

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.

eUpgrade Nominees

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.

Air-Canada-Upgrades

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:

Air-Canada-EUpgrades-1

And here’s the new chart, which kicks in next year:

Air-Canada-EUpgrades-2

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…

Air-Canada-Lounge-Toronto-14

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-Fuel-Surcharges

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!

Bottom line

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?

Comments

  1. This SUCKS! I have been 35K the past 2 years. One of the main reasons I go for the 35K on AC is for the lounge access. Also, was using AC for frequent YVR-LAX rts. Now that ROUGE operates those flights, I only take AS (nice to upgrade as soon as I book!). I have 2 RTs to SFO this week – blah. I will be accruing my Star Alliance on UA next year I guess 🙁

  2. As an SE, I’m split on the change.

    The upgrade changes will definitely see me sitting in Y more often than I’d prefer. The recent addition of E+ (free for SE) and Premium Y will blunt that somewhat, but it still sucks.

    The removal of YQ is a huge benefit as it also applies to flights booked using the SE extending availability buckets. So the J trip to SYD I’m planning for my family next year just got $3,000 cheaper. That’s one heck of a benefit addition and gives me more budget to buy up to J, PE or Y/B-fares on my other travels.

  3. Another year, another set of ‘enhancements’. If you thought this was going to end well, then you haven’t being paying attention.

  4. Living in Victoria, with hardly anything but painful connections through Vancouver makes me mad about changing from 500 miles to 30 miles for the Victoria – Vancouver connection. Westjet has many direct flights to Alberta, Toronto and even Las Vegas, so maybe its time to abandon my Air Canada monopoly. The only reason I have an Elite status is because I chose the longer, Air Canada way to get places. This year.

  5. I am NOT happy about the changes with the Altitude program. It makes me not want to fly Air Canada, as it gives me less incentive to fly their carrier. This is the wrong move for the airline carrier. I think if we all complain to Air Canada customer service, I believe they may rethink about implementing their new program.

  6. No loyalty left at all to Air Canada. This combined with the Rouging of so many flights. They don’t seem to like their customers.

  7. no surprise, I am happy only because this provides for one year to build points on United and get away from this group – wow. 1st to last in 3 years. bye bye aeroplan and that’s after 28 years! I hare doing this but they brought this one.

    Yes we do have a choice Air Canada

  8. For sure AC is going to lose a lot of their most frequent flyers. The program is now at the bottom of the barrel. Gosh, are they are any signs that AC took control of the program from Aeroplan?

  9. Well I have been a 85-95,000 mile member 4 years in a row. My Status will expire end of February as with last set of changes i gave up on AC program. Can’t believe I missed Super Elite status each year. No matter I likely won’t even make 35K status as I fly any carrier but AC now. Ac has ignored my many emails complaints about the degradation of their Reward program. Changes come but I am upset about the fact that i earned majority of my points each year in order to have the benefits the next, just to have those benefits changed/reduced/cost more before i could use them. With AC changes my fare cost went up 35% the first year of the program changed (ie had to buy more expensive ticket to have a “chance” of upgrading, pay close to $600 more for a round trip fare and it is a role of the dice to actual use your eupgrade). I probably wouldn’t have been so upset if I had the year to use up my previously earned rewards and AC just continues to erode the value of already earned eupgrades. Good thing I stopped flying so much with AC I should have reduced my flying with them sooner, but I guess I had hope that the plan would somehow stabilize.

    So upshot is i will only fly AC when no choice or fares are actually are less cost (not too often for that).

    Might have not been this upset if AC would have responded to my numerous emails, other than saying they would contact me but never did.

    Can’t actually believe i am still this upset.

  10. Seems that the no one is happy about these changes. If any of the AC shareholders are happy it won’t last….just wait till next year’s financial results. Customers at all levels are angry and going away. Not looking good for this stock.

  11. I have super elite status and laugh at the services that claim to be offered – I have yet to realize one of these supposed benefits despite repeated request. For example the concierage phone line for super elite – you have a voice machine answer and a series of language options and flight options – that will put you on hold for longer than the website phone line. Concierage meeting you at the gate – lol – I’ve never met one despite repeated requests in advance. It is the worst elite customer loyalty program I’ve ever seen. The service actually goes down at AC the more you fly. In my past experience prior to super elite people would try to help – now they just say – call your concierage that’s what they are there for – and no one else will help anymore. I went from everyone helping to no one helping at all. Someone at AC pat attention I’m not alone here

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