Air Canada’s move to spin off its Aeroplan loyalty program was hailed as a massive win for everyone when the transaction went through. Passengers would get a dedicated group running the points scheme, more flexible and able to add more partners while the airline got a truck load of cash as a lump sum, plus ongoing payments for flight redemptions. Through the years since the spin-off the relationship has been held up as an example of how an airline could realize the true value of its loyalty program rather than keeping the operation in house.
As of 30 June 2020 that experiment will come to an end. Air Canada’s contract with Aimia, the company running Aeroplan, expires on the 29th and the airline is set to relaunch loyalty internally rather than renew the contract.
By operating its own loyalty program, Air Canada will be better able to strengthen its customer relationships and deliver a more consistent end-to-end customer experience.
“Our relationship with our more than 45 million customers sits at the core of Air Canada’s ongoing transformation as we continue to grow our business beyond the 200 destinations that we already serve, and work to become a global champion,” said Calin Rovinescu, President and Chief Executive Officer. “This decision is the right one for our customers, our employees and our shareholders.”
While it is good to have the details three years in advance, it also presents many challenges for customers and the two companies. We know today, for instance, that points earned in Aeroplan will be locked there when the transition occurs. There will be no migration of Aeroplan points into whatever the new Air Canada loyalty scheme is named. And while Aeroplan will continue to be able to redeem for travel, it is likely the rates will shift from the current numbers. Redemption on Star Alliance partners will disappear from Aeroplan as part of the transition.
- Aeroplan miles earned up to June 2020 will stay in Aeroplan members’ accounts, and will continue to be subject to the conditions of their program.
- Air Canada intends to continue to offer Aimia redemption seats for Aeroplan members after June 2020, with pricing competitive with other third-party rewards programs.
Put another way, while earning in Aeroplan today likely still makes some sense, passengers should be considering a change towards the 2019-2020 timeframe so they don’t end up with points orphaned in a program that no longer has access to the desired award seats.
Further details are expected from the company in an Investor Day briefing on 19 September 2017.
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Not a negotiating ploy?
Anything is possible. But at this point I’ll go ahead and believe that the company wants to pursue this route.
That’s genius. Spin-off an asset for a lump sum. Making it irrelevant. And build new internal money making asset. Rinse and repeat.
Cindy Fan Nick Wynja
Makes total sense—the two companies have always had different priorities. Will be interesting to see what Aimia’s stock price is when the markets open in (checks watch) 33 minutes.
Personally, I am rather tied to Aeroplan points through my work credit card, but am glad I have followed the principle of earn and burn.
Interesting timing considering the annual shareholder meeting for Aeroplan’s parent company AIMIA takes place here in Toronto at 10:30a today! As a shareholder (got my shares when ACE, the AC-holding company, spun AE off years ago…we also got shares in Jazz/Chorus when it was similarly spun off) I planned to attend.
Won’t be a fun meeting with stock down the way it is!
Aimia (Aeroplan) stock down nearly 60% this morning https://www.bloomberg.com/quote/AIM:CN
Air Canada stock up 6% https://www.bloomberg.com/quote/AC:CN
Nice work as always, Seth. Generally speaking, successful airlines don’t spin off their loyalty plans. It’s almost always done out of desperation — basically, a high-interest loan. So this completes the cycle: Now that Air Canada is again successful, it is bringing the program back in house. (By the way, think of the bullet Qantas dodged. It was close to selling Frequent Flyer but instead managed to turn the airline around just in time.)
False. It was a very smart financial transaction. GOL is another example
Agree that it always comes off as a desperate financing move. I’m less convinced it is a high interest loan, though, as Air Canada is proving it can just trash the deal at the end and be super happy as a result. And during the interim period I’m not so sure AC really suffered financially for it.
You can sell the same cow twice apparently
No seriously, it was purely financial engineering move.
It is a great one-time transaction, Maxim. Longer term, however, it is hard to demonstrate that the total lifetime value of the customers can be properly managed and realized. Loyalty programs should be about far more than just selling boat loads of points via 3rd party partners.
Maxim, Gol? They are a perfect example of my point. They had an awful balance sheet and were trying to stay out of bankruptcy.
It’s just a DCF model.
You can make a point that every single airline is trying to stay out of bankruptcy.
Sure. But those actually closer to it are the ones that divest their loyalty plans. United was thinking of selling MileagePlus too before its fortunes turned around. Selling a loyalty plan is just one option, on a hierarchy of undesirable options, for airlines in trouble. Lightly leveraged airlines never do it.
What do their credit card partners think?
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