Airline reviews Air Canada Frequent Flyer

Air Canada's Frequent Flyer Scheme - Aeroplan

Star Alliance Aeroplan is Air Canada's frequent flier programme, and is part of the Star Alliance.

Joining is easy; it's possible to do it online, however the benefits are horrendously complicated, with a very poor website explaining the tier level perks, which you can add to or customise to your flying patterns.

AeroPlan operates a fairly normal miles and tier points system. Miles are the currency of the AeroPlan Programme and they can be earned whenever you fly with Air Canada or another airline in the Star Alliance. You earn one Aeroplan Mile for every $1-3 spent on your flights within Canada or between Canada and the U.S. Tier Miles determine membership status each year and through them you can progress to Silver, Gold, Platinum and Lifetime Platinum Status. Their Tier levels give you perks are access to the lounges, extra luggage, and upgrades. You also get the normal miles, which go towards free flights.

Over 5 million people are members, which includes over a third of Canadian Households. As a result, it's not very elite or special at all, and if you still try to get some of the benefits, you may find yourself being shouldered out of the way by thousands of other elite fliers. Upgrades or business class seats trans-atlantic are notoriously hard to get hold off, mainly because Aeroplan hands out upgrade certificates like sweets. Few people ever buy a real business class ticket on Air Canada, which may explain some of the airlines financial problems.

Air Canada is also pretty generous with handing out its Gold (Elite) level cards - you can get one flying just a laughable 35,000 miles in one year. Comparing how easy it is to get to Gold level, United or Singapore Gold needs 50,000, bmi 57,000, and Lufthansa senator needs 100,000. This in part explains the "SuperElite" tier above this, which is much more of a struggle, at 100,000 miles.

Ottawa Dash8-300 June 2007
Ottawa Air Canada Dash8-300

Earning Miles

There are three different earning tables, for how many Aeroplan miles you can earn.

Flights within Canada and between Canada and the Continental U.S.A. (including Hawaii). You earn 150% of the miles flown in Executive Class (business, J, C, Z), 100% of miles flown (minimum 500 miles) in Latitude (Y, M, U plus I), and Tango Plus (B, H, V, Q, L, A). In Tango (R, G, P, E, N, T, K, X) you earn 25% of the miles flown (minimum 125).

Flights between Canada and the U.K. You earn 150% of miles flown in Executive First (J, C, Z*), 100% of miles flown in Latitude Plus: (Y, M, U, I), and Leisure (B, H, V, Q, L, A). In Tourist (R, G, N, P, K) you do not earn any miles. There are exactly the same earnings to Mainland Europe & Israel, except Executive First earns just 125%.

Can also earn on miles on all Star Alliance airlines.

Air Canada 767 at Toronto June 2007
Air Canada 767 at Toronto

Spending Miles

Domestic flights generally need 15000 for economy or 25,000 for business for short hops, or 25,000 / 40000 for longer flights.

To the UK or the rest of Europe you'll need 60,000 for economy or 85,000 for business (If using a Star Alliance airline only 80,000, or 100,000 in First), however the Baltic states, Finland, Greece and some Eastern European states need 75,000 (or 100,000 in Business).

Australia needs 75,000 for economy or 115,000 for business. If using a Star Alliance airline to Australia, New Zealand or Fiji, 75,000 for economy, 100,000 in Business, or 140,000 in Frist)

Air Canada 767 at Toronto June 2007
Air Canada 767 at Toronto

Aeroplan Air Canada Upgrades

There are also a confusing array of upgrade certificates, for use just on Air Canada:
North America Upgrade Certificates. You need only one North America Upgrade Certificate per flight sector to get a leg up to Executive Class (domestic business) across Canada and the Continental USA.
System-Wide Upgrade Certificates. You can confirm an upgrade from economy to business class at anytime after booking with an expensive (Y, M & U) ticket, or on some cheap tickets within 7 days of departure (B&H only), with some exceptions such as to the Caribbean where only expensive Y tickets count.
Special System-Wide Upgrade Certificates. You can confirm an upgrade from economy to business class from within seven days of departure with almost all cheap tickets, or from the time of booking with a more expensive ticket (generally Y, M, or U, however just Y to Caribbean holiday destinations).

Upgrade certificates are alas now personalised and non-transferable, so the old days of selling them on Ebay are long gone.

Air Canada 767 at Toronto, bound for London LHR June 2007
Air Canada 767 at Toronto

Aeroplan Prestige (Silver)

Prestige is equivalent to Star Alliance Silver Level. It can be achieved at 25,000 paid miles or 25 paid segments on Air Canada or Star Alliance in a calendar year.

The main while-flying perk of this level is that you get Priority Airport Check-In at the Air Canada Executive Class/Executive First counters and spend a bit less time queuing.

You get a 1,500 status mileage bonus on getting to this level. You can request your preferred seat in Economy Class at the time of reservation, and that's about it. You don't get into the lounge - but you do get 3 Maple Leaf lounge guest passes, if you buy Maple Leaf lounge access for CA$400.

Despite this being a low-level tier, you get 2 system wide upgrade certificates, and 4 improved North American upgrade certificates.

Ottawa Dash8-300 June 2007
Ottawa Air Canada Dash8-300

Aeroplan Elite (Gold)

Elite is equivalent to Star Alliance Gold Level. It can be achieved at 35,000 paid miles or 50 paid segments on Air Canada or Star Alliance in a calendar year.

Now you're really getting somewhere. This gives all the normal perks that you'd expect for a high-tier card. you get Priority Airport Check-In at the Air Canada Executive Class/Executive First counters, and check in at Business Class at all Star Alliance airlines.

You get lounge access to the Maple Leaf lounges for free, plus one free guest for each visit, and access to the Star Alliance lounges with the same perks.

You get a 2,500 status mileage bonus on getting to this level, and celebrate for the slight delight that is a special priority tag identifies your luggage, so that it is among the first on the carrousel when you arrive at your destination.

You get 4 system wide upgrade certificates, and 2 special system wide upgrade certificates.

Aeroplan SuperElite

SuperElite has no equivalent to a Star Alliance tier level, however it comes with Gold level perks. It can be achieved at 100,000 paid miles or 95 paid segments on Air Canada or Star Alliance in a calendar year.

Definitely the top tier, it has all the perks of Aeroplan Elite, with the same number of upgrade certificates.

You get a 5,000 status mileage bonus on getting to this level. You also have the exclusive benefit of a guaranteed seat in Economy Class, even when the flight is already booked to capacity.