Aeroplan, the frequent flyer program associated with Air Canada announced a change today for their 2012 program and qualifying for status in the loyalty scheme. Most notable is that customers will actually have to fly on Air Canada in 2011 to qualify for status in 2012. A minimum of 10,000 elite qualifying miles (EQMs) or 5 segments on Air Canada metal will be required to receive any status. This requirement is in addition to the regular tier qualification levels.
Aeroplan has generally been an attractive program to park Star Alliance points in for many passengers, even if they never fly on the carrier. The primary reasons are twofold:
- First, the program is pretty useful for redemptions, particularly if you are not flying on Air Canada as part of the redemption. Their fees are generally low and the routing rules generally quite generous. With rates for premium redemption often better than the other North American Star Alliance programs it is easy to see why Aeroplan is attractive.
- Second, reaching status to permit lounge access is relatively easy. Middle-tier is reached at either 35K EQMs or 50 segments. This is the lowest requirement of any North American-based Star Alliance program and it comes with the full complement of Star Alliance Gold benefits, including lounge access on all itineraries. Unlike Star Gold on Continental, US Airways or United Airlines where lounge access to their own lounges is only permitted on international itineraries, a Star Gold from Air Canada gets access to all Star Gold lounges on any itinerary.
So number two is pretty much going away unless customers actually fly on Air Canada. While it is unfortunate to see yet another program limiting the value of its program it is also somewhat understandable. If the airline is generally receiving minimal revenue from a customer and paying out great benefits there isn’t much motivation to keep the status quo. Losing money on every customer but making it up in volume is not a recipe for long-term success in any industry.
That said, customers who are almost never flying on Air Canada and who are parking the points in the program just for the lounge access benefit might be wasting money with that approach. Lounge access can be had for a few hundred dollars annually. Parking 35,000 EQMs – likely the equivalent of 70,000 award miles – into an account where they’re orphaned is throwing away more money in point value than is being saved in lounge access costs. Then again, the quality of Aeroplan’s redemption scheme means that the points aren’t really being completely orphaned.
It is worth noting that other carriers, including American Airlines and British Airways have a similar policy of requiring some flights on their own metal for status. So Air Canada is not alone in this policy but it is still very much in the minority.
More discussion of the announcement can be found here.
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