Thursday, October 28, 2010

Delta dropping service to London, ON

A long time Northwest Airlines city, London ON, will see its service cut this winter season due to poor performance. This will be the second city in Ontario that has been cut since Delta's merger with Northwest.

Source: Airline Route Updates

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Air Canada cutting Orange County service

This route has not been around very long (well this reincarnation of it) and according to Airline Route Updates the last flight between Toronto and Orange County will be on Oct 29.

AeroMexico to relauch scheduled service to Canada

According to Airline Route Updates, AeroMexico will return to the Canadian market with scheduled service between Montreal and Mexico City. The daily  flights will resume on Dec 15.

Flight Timings:
Montreal - Mexico City Dep 0815 Arr 1330
Mexico City - Montreal Dep 0105 Arr 0700

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

American Express Gold Rewards Card Review

This is part 3 of a 3 part series on the American Express Gold Rewards Card sees me give the card the full on Rewards Canada review process! As you may recall, American Express has asked me to test drive this new card and in return they offered me 50,000 points to experience the earning and redemption process with the card. This is first time we have been able to do a review on a card while we have actually used it and not just on what the card claims on paper. Below you will find the complete review of the card as seen on the main Rewards Canada site.

At the beginning of October American Express Canada re-launched their American Express Gold Rewards Card. This reincarnation of American Express' flagship charge card takes the best features of its competitors and puts them into one package. The card falls into the hybrid travel rewards card category which means you have the option of using the points for any travel booking or you can choose to convert the points to frequent flyer miles and frequent guest points.

The American Express Gold Rewards Card provides an excellent insurance and benefit package that is similar to its primary competitors. The card features a good earning ratio that meets and in some cases exceeds other hybrid and travel points cards like TD's First Class Infinite Visa and RBC Infinite Visa Avion because of the double points earned on certain everyday spending. It has an industry average sign up bonus and is fee free for the primary and all supplementary cards in the first year.

The American Express Gold Rewards Card comes with a $150 primary card annual fee that may seem higher then its competitors but the first supplementary card is free in comparison to the $50 or so seen on other cards. A nice benefit is that the $150 annual fee is waived in the first year of membership. The card offers a 15,000 Membership Rewards point welcome bonus when the new Cardmember spends $500 in the first three months. Additional cards over and above the first free one are $50 (although once again this fee is waived in the first year) which is roughly the same as many of the card's competitors. Since the Gold Rewards Card is a charge card it technically does not have an interest rate like its credit card competitors but should the cardholder miss a payment or not pay off the balance American Express charges a 30% non-revolving annual interest rate.

The American Express Gold Rewards Card earns 2 Membership Rewards points for every dollar spent on the card for travel, grocery, drugstore and gas station purchases. For all other purchases the card earns 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar spent.

On the redemption side, the Membership Rewards points earned with the American Express Gold Rewards Card can be redeemed for any travel from any provider or they can be converted to frequent flyer miles and frequent guest points. The first option which American Express calls TripFlex, allows the Cardmember to book any travel from any provider they want, be it a travel agency, online booking engine or directly from an airline, hotel, train, car rental company and more and then call Amex to redeem their Membership Rewards points against the charge on their statement. The rate of redemption for the TripFlex option is 1,000 points for a $10 credit with a minimum redemption of 1,000 points. Cardmembers have up to 12 months from the date of travel purchase to redeem points and can use them to pay for only part of the purchase should they choose. The second option of this hybrid card is to convert the Membership Rewards points for frequent flyer miles or frequent guest points. For most Canadians their primary frequent flyer program is Aeroplan and this card offers a 1 to 1 redemption rate on conversions to Aeroplan. Other airlines offered are Alitalia MilleMiglia, British Airways Executive Club, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, and Delta SkyMiles. For all of these other airlines 1,000 Membership Rewards points will net 750 miles in the respective program. For hotel programs, Cardmembers can convert to three frequent guest programs: InterContinental Hotels Priority Club (1,000 MR points = 800 Priority Club points), Hilton HHonors (1,000 MR points = 900 HHonors points) and Starwood Preferred Guest (1,000 MR points = 500 Star points). Beyond these two main redemption options Membership Rewards points can also be redeemed for American Express Travellers Cheques, gift cards and merchandise.

Features and Benefits
As stated above the American Express Gold Rewards Card comes with an insurance package that competes with all the other high end cards. The card features your standard travel accident, baggage and car rental insurance that are found on almost all fee based rewards cards but it also includes some that are only found on a few select cards. These include, trip interruption insurance, hotel/motel burglary insurance and travel medical insurance

The card also American Express' Front of the Line Service which provides advanced ticket and reserved ticket access to some of Canada's most popular events.

What is good about this card
The earning ability of 2 points per dollar for travel, gas, grocery and drug store spend means that cardmembers, particularly those who travel a lot, will be able to earn points at a much faster rate then many of this card’s competitors. Being totally fee free the first year is a nice perk and by not charging for the first supplementary card each year thereafter actually makes this card cheaper to own over other cards. With a one to one redemption to Aeroplan, the card is also one of the highest earning Aeroplan cards on the market when you take into account the 2 points per dollar feature. A good insurance and benefit package means the cardholder is well covered when travelling in Canada or abroad.

What is not so good about this card
There are only a couple of minor details which may keep some people from getting this card. The first is that it is a charge card, for anyone who runs a balance, this card is not for them as the balance has to be paid off every month. Second, some may say that American Express is not widely accepted like its competitors and while this may be true the current trend has more and more merchants accepting American Express everyday. Third, for some people who travel a lot, the lack of Trip Cancellation insurance may push them to a card that offers this benefit and the peace of mind should they get sick, have a death in the family or lose their employment.

By combining the best features from many of its competitors, the American Express Gold Rewards Card as a whole is a great card. I have had the card in my wallet for a little over two weeks at the time of writing and have used the card quite a bit, particularly on gas and grocery spending and plan on continuing to use it as it will replace my American Express Blue Sky credit card. The card will definitely shake up our Top Travel Rewards Credit Card rankings for 2011 in the Hybrid card category. The higher earning ability, the vast redemption options including the ability to book travel yourself and a nice benefit package make this an above average card in the Canadian travel rewards credit card market.

Related Links:
- American Express Gold Rewards Card (American Express Website)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Air Canada to allow cell phone usage on the ground

Technically speaking this is new for Air Canada although if you flown recently many passengers were already doing this without permission but Air Canada will now allow passengers to use their cell phones after the aircraft they are on has left the active runway:

From Air Canada:
Effective October 18, 2010, customers on board all Air Canada and Jazz operated flights will be permitted to use their handheld electronic devices, such as cellular phones, Blackberries and smart phones during the taxi-in to the gate after the aircraft has turned off the active runway.

The handheld electronic devices must be retrieved prior to landing as all carry on bags must be stowed until the seat belt sign is turned off at the gate. Flight attendants will advise customers when mobile phones can be used after arrival.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

WestJet and American Airlines announce commercial agreement

Agreement is WestJet's First Interline Agreement With a U.S. Airline - Opens Up Travel to More Cities in Canada for American's Customers

FORT WORTH, TX, Oct. 19 /CNW/ - American Airlines and WestJet Airlines announced today they have entered into an interline agreement. The interline agreement means American Airlines customers travelling to Canada and transferring to a WestJet flight can purchase a single ticket and check bags through to their final destination.

The agreement provides American's customers seamless connecting service to 25 new Canadian cities not currently served by American or American Eagle. WestJet serves a total of 31 Canadian cities and 71 destinations in 13 countries.

The connections will first be available through the six gateways in Canada currently served by American or American Eagle - Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver, Halifax and Ottawa. American and WestJet expect to implement a second phase of their interline relationship in December that will add additional connecting opportunities through WestJet's non-stop U.S. flights to Canadian cities.

"American's interline agreement with WestJet complements our North American network and greatly benefits our customers by offering additional connections to and from new Canadian markets," said Virasb Vahidi, American's Chief Commercial Officer. "WestJet offers a high-quality on-board product that our customers will enjoy."

"This agreement represents WestJet's first interline with a U.S. carrier and we are excited to be working with such a well-established and recognized global airline like American Airlines," said Hugh Dunleavy, WestJet's Executive Vice-President, Strategy and Planning. "We look forward to welcoming the many American customers on board our aircraft as guests who will experience WestJet's world-class guest experience."

The interline connecting itineraries will be available for booking on American's award-winning website, as well as through travel agencies and American Airlines Reservations, effective Nov. 9, 2010.

The companies also said they are exploring other ways to enhance customer benefits through other commercial co-operation agreements.

Source: WestJet Press Release

Monday, October 18, 2010

2010 Mega Award Winners

I spent the majority of this past week in Montreal attending the Airline Information 2010 Mega Event and the 1st Annual Mega Awards which I was honored to be a judge for. The conference itself was extremely well attended with nearly double the number of people over last years Mega Event in Huntington Beach. From airline execs to technology vendors the 3 days of networking, workshops, panels and the awards were a resounding success for the boys from Airline Information. One of the highlights of the Mega Event was of course the Mega Awards which were hosted by Freddie Laker Jr. The Mega Awards recognized marketing campaign excellence in 2009 by airlines, vendors and professionals in the areas Loyalty, Social Media and Ancillary revenue. The awards gala was pretty much sold out and Freddie Laker Jr. (with his marketing background and of course airline heritage from his father) made the perfect host for the evening.

The winners of the awards were as follows:

Best Ancilliary Revenue Product: Wessco International

Best in Airline Social Media: Air New Zealand

Most Innovative Loyalty Technology: Loylogic

Airline Loyalty Manager of the Year: Phil Gunter from Virgin Blue (he's totally awesome! A little inside humour here)

Best in Airline Loyalty: Virgin Blue

Best in Airline Social Media (People's Choice): Air Baltic

Best in Airline Loyalty (People's Choice): American Airlines

I look forward to next year's awards as 2010 has been another great year so far for the various marketing campaigns run by airlines, vendors and professionals.

For more details on this years event and on future events from the organizerst please visit

Friday, October 15, 2010

Earning and burning points on the new American Express Gold Rewards Card

This is the second blog post of my three part series on the new American Express Gold Rewards Card that was introduced to the Canadian market at the start of this month. As mentioned in my first post, American Express has asked me to test drive this new card and in return they offered me 50,000 points to experience the earning and redemption process with the card.

One of the main things I have found valuable about the card is the ease and value of the Membership Rewards points earned. A large portion of my credit card spend is on everyday purchases at gas stations and grocery stores which have the accelerated earning of 2 points per dollar. A recent Angus Reid survey revealed that 24% of Canadians spend $10,000 and $15,000 per year on Gas Stations, Grocery and drugstore purchases which all fall under the earning ratio of 2 points per dollar with the Gold Rewards Card. For me this earn ratio will allow me to rack up a lot of points over and above what American Express awarded me for trying the card, allowing for a greater redemption. Add to this the 2 points per dollar on all travel purchases which according to the survey fits in nicely with the 89% of Canadians who take one or more vacations a year.

While I have not booked a trip yet with the points awarded to me, you may recall that we were toying with using either a points transfer to Aeroplan or the TripFlex option that allows the cardmember to book travel anywhere and then redeem points against the charge on your statement up to 12 months later. What my family and I have decided however is where we are going to go and what redemption option we are going to use. We have decided to take our kids to Beaches Turks & Caicos in the New Year and will be using the TripFlex redemption. Going this route allows us to pick the exact date that works for us, the flexibility to pay for the fees and taxes with points and allows me to comparison shop online and then book with the provider that offers the best pricing

Another plus of using the TripFlex option is that I don’t have to have all the points at the time of booking and continue to collect for the trip after I book. In fact holders of the Gold Rewards Card actually have up to 12 months after the travel booking is posted to their account to redeem points against the charge. This restriction-free redemption is not only important to me but it is the most important factor that Canadian consumers look for when choosing a rewards program according to the Angus Reid survey. Over and above all of this, I will earn double points on the vacation purchase and can continue to earn points on my everyday spend on the Gold Rewards Card and then redeem those points towards this vacation to bring the cost down even more. Should I choose, I don’t have to redeem these extra points on the travel and save them up for future travel like nearly a quarter of Canadians who keep banking their miles and points. One thing members of other rewards programs may have to watch for is miles or points expiry but with the Membership Rewards Program this is not an issue as the points never expire.

I am going to continue to use this card up to my third blog post and more then likely will continue to use it after as it will replace my American Express Blue Sky Credit Card (another very good travel rewards card). The third blog post will be a complete review of the credit card in the typical Rewards Canada fashion that we have used since the start of this year.

For more details on the card or to apply for it please visit

Monday, October 11, 2010

Cathay Pacific & WestJet launch Canadian code share service

This past week saw the official announcement of a code sharing agreement between Cathay Pacific and WestJet which will further solidifies the relationship that these carriers have had with each other.  As of October 20th, Cathay Pacific will out their code (ie own flight number) on numerous WestJet flights that connect to the two cities that Cathay flies to: Vancouver and Toronto. The cities that Cathay will 'serve' now with this agreement include Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa and Winnipeg. They will also codeshare on some of WestJet's flights between Toronto and Vancouver.

To see the complete list of code share flights please see Airline Route Updates

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Air Canada to commence Toronto City Airport flights in February 2011

From the Air Canada press release:

MONTREAL, Oct. 4 /CNW Telbec/ - Air Canada today announced that it has settled the terms of a long term Commercial Carrier Operating Agreement (CCOA) with the Toronto Port Authority (TPA), operator of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. Conclusion of the agreement is subject to certain conditions, including agreement with the lessor of terminal space, City Centre Terminal Corp. (CCTC), for lease of space at the airport. In addition, the airline has entered into a letter of intent for the leasing of aircraft and has finalized arrangements with a regional carrier to operate flights from the Toronto Island airport beginning in February 2011.

Air Canada's initial schedule will offer customers the choice of up to 15 daily non-stop flights from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, in close proximity to downtown Toronto, to Montreal Trudeau International Airport.

"We are very excited to return to Toronto City Airport in the coming months," said Ben Smith, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer. "These arrangements mark solid progress as we work to develop a unique product tailored to meet the diverse needs of travelers between Canada's two largest cities. Our customers have told us they want an airport option close to downtown Toronto to complement our Rapidair service which offers flights up to every 30 minutes at peak times."

Flights will be operated with Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprop aircraft. Air Canada has signed a letter of intent with a lessor for the five aircraft that will be operated on the Toronto City Airport-Montreal route. Formal terms and conditions of the lease agreements are expected to be finalized in the coming weeks.

Following a competitive bid process to select a Canadian regional operator for these aircraft, Air Canada has concluded a capacity purchase agreement with Sky Regional Airlines Inc., an associated company of Skyservice Business Aviation. The regional carrier will sublease and operate the Dash 8 Q400 aircraft on behalf of Air Canada. Selection of Sky Regional Airlines was based on a number of criteria including a competitive cost structure, a proven track record in customer service excellence and experience maintaining Dash 8 Q400 aircraft. The selection of Sky Regional Airlines to operate these flights has no impact on Air Canada's commercial arrangements with other regional carriers including Jazz Air LP with which Air Canada maintains a strong commercial relationship.

Air Canada is actively engaged in talks with the airport terminal owner, City Centre Terminal Corp. (CCTC), towards an agreement to lease terminal facilitates that will accommodate the new service.

Full press release can be found here

British Airways Executive Club increases mileage earned on discount fares

Over the past few years the trend with many airline frequent flyer programs has been to reduce the amount of miles earned on discount economy fares. Whether it was Aeroplan, Miles and More, Executive Club or any host of other programs, the move to awarding less miles was to cut costs associated with the low margin discount fares. Some airlines only did it on domestic fares (ie Air Canada) while others like British Airways had it across the board. Well, BA has made an about face and has decided once again to offer 100% of the mileage flown on discount economy fares for their Blue Executive Club members (non-status members). Previously, they were only awarding 25% of the mileage flown. They have also increased the amount of elite qualifying tier points from 25% to 50% on the same fares. In this day and age it is tough to find an airline giving back to the conusmer due to low margins but this is nice move on BA's part and hopefully some of the other carriers will follow suit.

For more details on the this change please visit British Airways

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Vote for your favorite frequent travel program at the FT Awards

Many of you have probably seen it in your emails from the various airline or hotel programs or online at certain Frequent Traveler sites but just in case you haven't, well we're going to let you know about it! The Frequent Traveler Awards are essentially replacing the Freddie Awards which were last awarded in 2009. The Frequent Traveler Awards allows the general public to vote on their favorite frequent flyer and guest programs as well as earn and burn promotions offered by those programs. Voting is open now and runs until Oct 15, 2010. So let your voice be heard and vote today at

Enhancements to AIR MILES Flight Rewards now live.

You may recall our post on August 31 outlining changes to the flight rewards portion of the AIR MILES program that were due to come out soon. Well that time has come (last week actually), as the enhancements to the program that were announced are now live. Members can finally book flights online at, they can book one way flights (at roughly 60% of the roundtrip cost, comparable to Aeroplan), they have access to 25 more airlines and more seats on partner airlines for additional reward miles and the ability to book travel for flights outside of Canada (eg London, UK to Paris).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Air Canada adds new routes to sun destinations

According the Airline Route Updates Air Canada will be adding the following sun routes for the upcoming winter season:
Montreal-West Palm Beach
Ottawa-Punta Cana
Most of these routes will commence in the mid to latter half of December

Friday, October 1, 2010

American Express Gold Rewards Card officially launched

As you may have read in an earlier blog post of mine, I have partnered with American Express to test drive their new Gold Rewards Card that launched October 1 in the Canadian market. The task for me will be to blog about this card over the next three weeks and give my professional opinion on the card while I use it. What do I get in return? American Express will be awarding me with 50,000 Membership Rewards points so that I can actually experience the booking or point transfer process with American Express Membership Rewards.

The card itself was introduced to me and other social media practitioners at a dinner held at the Canadian Air & Space Museum in Toronto. The team from American Express were very excited about the new Card launch and I have to admit that after hearing all the details, the Card is a very good offering in the competitive travel rewards Credit Card market. For us here at Rewards Canada, the card falls into the Hybrid Card category as you have the option of converting points to frequent flyer/guest miles or to use the points for any type of travel booked via any travel agency, online or tour operator for example. Unless other Cards change by next July, this Card will shake up the ranks in this category for our annual Credit Card ranking.

The Card itself is a Charge Card, meaning that it has no preset credit limit but the balance must be paid off in full each month. The benefit of a Charge Card is that requires Cardmembers to be disciplined about their spending and typically Charge Card holders do not spend more then they can afford.

What does the Card offer? To start, it will award 15,000 Bonus reward points once the Cardmember spends $500 on the card in the first three months and the first year annual fee is waived (thereafter it is $150) plus the first supplementary card is free for life. Additional supplementary cards are $50 per year, although this is also waived in the first year. The card earns 2 points per dollar spent at Gas Stations, Grocery, Drug stores and all travel, 1 point per dollar on all other spending. Those points can be redeemed for travel, merchandise and entertainment rewards via the Membership Rewards program.

Where will I go with the points that American Express has given me? Well, I haven’t decided yet, but my family and I have been talking about going to Caribbean in January and will more than likely put the points towards that. How will I use the points? I have two options, I can convert the 50,000 Membership Rewards points to 50,000 Aeroplan Miles to top off my Aeroplan account and book the flights via Aeroplan and the hotel separately or I may book a packaged all inclusive vacation and use the TripFlex option to provide a $500 credit to the overall booking cost. Assuming I have spent some money on the card, I should have more points available to further bring down the cost of the vacation.

Keep an eye out on our blog for information on an upcoming contest from American Express and of course on how I progress with the American Express Gold Rewards Card. For more details on the card or to apply for it please visit