Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Air Canada Altitude devalued once again.....

On August 19th Air Canada's Elite program, Altitude, announced some changes to this already negatively modified program that are once again.... negative (well there is one slight positive).

Here are the details as announced on FlyerTalk by an Air Canada Altitude representative:

More miles with many Air Canada fares

Starting tomorrow – August 20 – all members will earn more Altitude Qualifying Miles on many Air Canada fares:

  • Earn 25% Altitude Qualifying Miles when you purchase a Tango fare for travel within Canada on flights operated by Air Canada and Air Canada Express. Tango fares for travel across all other markets will remain at 50% Altitude Qualifying Miles.
  • Earn 125% Altitude Qualifying Miles when you purchase a Latitude or Premium Economy fare on all flights operated by Air Canada and Air Canada Express across our network.
  • Earn 150% Altitude Qualifying Miles when you purchase an Executive First or Executive Class fare on all flights operated by Air Canada and Air Canada Express across our network.
  • Earn Altitude Qualifying Miles when you purchase any fare – including Tango fares, which previously earned non-qualifying Aeroplan Miles – on flights operated by Air Canada rouge .

Note that this change will apply to all reservations, regardless of booking date, for travel effective tomorrow.

eUpgrade Add-ons

In order to preserve the sustainability of the eUpgrade benefit on overseas International flights, beginning March 2014, certain Altitude members will see the introduction of eUpgrade Add-ons. eUpgrade Add-ons are a supplementary payment, in addition to the required number of eUpgrade Credits that will apply as follows:
  • eUpgrade Add-ons will apply for Altitude Prestige 25K, Elite 35K, Elite 50K and Elite 75K members. Add-ons will also apply to the upgraded travel companions of members who hold one of those Altitude status levels. Add-ons will not apply for Super Elite 100K members or their companions.
  • eUpgrade Add-ons will apply only for travel on longhaul, international flights. Specifically, add-ons are applicable for travel between Canada and Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and South America. Add-ons will not apply for travel within North America, including Sun destinations.
  • eUpgrade Add-ons will apply to upgrades from Flex fares. Add-ons will not apply to upgrades from Latitude or Premium Economy fares.
  • eUpgrade Add-ons will not change how you request an upgrade. As today, you will continue to be able to request an upgrade at, through Air Canada Reservations or with an agent at the airport. Where applicable, however, you will be required to provide a credit card in order to pay for the add-on. Note that the credit card will only be charged if your upgrade is successful, and all charges will be processed in Canadian Dollars (CAD).
  • eUpgrade Add-ons will vary by market. The rate you pay will include any applicable taxes, and will be priced as follows:
    • Between Canada and Europe, the Middle East & South America: $500
    • Between Canada and Asia & Australia: $750
Other changes to eUpgrades

Also beginning in March 2014, a few additional changes to eUpgrades will take effect:
  • The eUpgrade Travel Companion benefit will be expanded, and will replace eUpgrade Nominees. On the day of departure, all Altitude members will now be able to upgrade one companion who is not travelling on the same reservation, as long as they are traveling on the same flight. This will give members more flexibility when upgrading companions who may not be traveling on the same reservation as them.
  • Altitude Super Elite 100K members will retain 2 eUpgrade Nominees. This will be in addition to the new expanded travel companion benefit.
  • eUpgrades with Aeroplan ClassicFlight Rewards will no longer be available. This benefit, currently exclusive to Super Elite 100K members, will be removed.

We'll begin with the little bit of good news out of these changes. The ability to earn Altitude Qualifying Miles on more Air Canada fares and increased Altitude Qualifying Miles on Latitude, Premium Economy and Executive Class fares. These changes went into effect as of yesterday.

And now on to the bad news, as of March 2014 you can expect these changes to take place:

eUpgrade Add-ons
What does this mean? Essentially it means you will now have to co-pay to be able to use your eUpgrade credits on Flex fares for International travel (Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and South America). All Altitude Elite members except for Super Elite 100K will be affected by this change.

The Add-on rates are as follows and per flight segment, per upgraded passenger:

That is good chunk of change to be able to use your eUpgrade credits if you are traveling on a Flex Fare which are already quite a bit more expensive than other fares. These upgrade rates are similar to the Last Minute Upgrade options that are sometimes offered during online check in or airport check in and of course with those you don't have to use your eUpgrade credits. Watch the LMU rates will be drastically increased in March so that Altitude members are forced to play the upgrade lotto with eUpgrade credits + co-pay rather than just hope for the best and only pay cash at check-in.

According to Air Canada, here is why they are doing this (sounds like Delta a few weeks back with their reasoning behind Business Class award ticket increases for their new premium product)
eUpgrade Add-ons applied to eUpgrades by Altitude Elite 75K, Elite 50K, Elite 35K and Prestige 25K on long haul international overseas flights will allow us to better balance the system-wide eUpgrade benefit with the cost of delivering and maintaining the premium travel experience of Executive First. Even with this change, the eUpgrade benefit continues to deliver exceptional value to Altitude members in terms of access to the Executive First cabin, for less then the published fare

eUpgrade eligibility and transferability Finally, the last change to the Altitude program is for eUpgrade eligibility and transferability. Gone will be the ability to 'share' eUpgrade credits with your nominees. Now you have to be on the same flight to be able to upgrade a traveling companion who does not have to be on the same reservation however. Also gone is the ability for Super Elites to use eUpgrade credits on ClassicFlight rewards however Super Elites do retain the nominee option but that has been dropped from 4 nominees to 2 because of the new 'travel companion' rule that all Altitude members get.

Of course if you want to see all this on Air Canada's site you can do so here.

In conclusion these changes are primarily negative unless you are a Super Elite 100K member or simply earn AQM's for other status benefits outside of the upgrade options. The biggest hit is to those who are Altitude Elite 75K, Elite 50K, Elite 35K and Prestige 25K because of the new co-pay requirement. Plus when you combine these Air Canada changes with the Aeroplan changes over the past few years (the increased mileage requirements for premium International travel) you can see why some mid-level Air Canada elite members are seriously considering a switch to other Star Alliance based programs.

What are your thoughts on these changes? Comment below, we'd love to hear them and we're also sure many of readers would too!

Aug 28 Update: Read commentary about the changes from a Super Elite 100K member 


  1. With US Air coming on to One World and the BA/AA network.
    It is time to say goodbye to what has become an inferior reward program.
    I fly between 50-80k per year and have done so for about 10 years.
    I have a similar number of points with BA, great flexibility and much lower reward thresholds.
    This program has become a dog.

    1. I think you'll see some of AC's top flyers move to United MileagePlus if they want to stay with Star Alliance and have access to AC domestic flights and if they don't need ties to Star Alliance than programs like BA Executive Club and American AAdvantage will definitely come into play

  2. I should have added to my initial comments that I fly almost exclusively International.
    The Business lounges at T5 LHR are far superior to those at FRA/MUC if your're connecting onward, and the BA Premium Economy product (only missing lie flat and a slightly better meal) is almost as good as J or C Class if you can grab a bulkhead or isle seat. BA Bronze status which isn't hard to get or Silver offer many booking advantages and if you can do some reasonable scheduling is almost the same as a restricted economy.
    It appears that ACA is constantly thinking of ways to screw their best customers other than Super Elite.
    Spare me the rhetoric of crowded lounges, yada yada....stop selling access.