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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Aeroplan Changes went into effect yesterday (January 1)

Rewards Canada was one of the first third party outlets to break the Aeroplan news back in June about the credit card changes, award chart changes, the Distinction program and more. All of these changes came into effect yesterday (January 1st) and taking note from our expanded thoughts post in July here once again are the changes that are taking place:

7 Year Expiry Rule
Firstly, the 7 year expiry rule is over and done with. A good move in my opinion. A couple of other programs have already done this, Delta SkyMile and more recently JetBlue TrueBlue. However with Aeroplan they still have the inactivity rule in place which means if you don't use your Aeroplan account at least once every 12 months (either earn or burn) you will lose your miles. Now if you read any other frequent flyer blogs or forums the removal of the 7 year rule is not a big deal. True for frequent flyers or big time credit card spenders it's not, they earn enough miles quickly to redeem well within 7 years. But for the average Canadian Aeroplan member who is neither a frequent flyer or big time crest spender this is great news. Just look at all the comments from people on numerous articles in the Canadian media when the rule was introduced or even when it hit the airwaves for a second time just before Christmas 2011. I have even received many emails from people who have or were about to scramble to redeem their miles. I know my parents did redeem theirs and I was about to as I still had around 23,000 miles from before 2007 in my account even after past redemptions. Now I didn't have to rush to do so and I'm sure many Canadians were in the same boat.

Reduction in Miles for one way awards
For both the frequent and infrequent traveller this probably the best news to come out of the changes. One way flight awards are now only 50% of the round trip mileage requirement. Groundbreaking? No not at all. In fact most other frequent flyer programs that offer one way awards have been at 50% so Aeroplan just put themselves in line with everyone else. This is a great option now though so that you can mix and match flights (ie one way with an Aeroplan reward and the the other way on a seat sale fare). Also if you plan it right and book award flights on Aeroplan partners that do not have fuel surcharges tacked on (United, US Airways until March 30, Air China, Brussels Airlines, EgyptAir, Ethiopian, EVA Air, Scandinavian, Singapore, Swiss, and Turkish) this option becomes very attractive!

Market Fare Flight Rewards
The current ClassicPlus Flight Rewards are now replaced by Market Fare Flight Rewards, which apparently will require up to 20% fewer miles than the late ClassicPlus Flight Rewards.  This somewhat good news and initial random searches do seem to show that Market Fare rewards are priced better than their predecessor! 

Increased Mileage Requirements for International Business and First Class Rewards
The primary negative action announced in the Aeroplan changes last June which is a BIG negative is the increased mileage requirements for certain International Business and First Class award tickets. Here are the changes:



As you can these are some significant increases and what adds salt to the wound is that most of were just increased in 2011. For example the coveted Asia 1 redmeptions have gone from 100,000 in early 2011 to 125,000 in July 2011 to 150,000 in 2014 for Business Class while First Class went from 120,000 to 175,000 to 210,000, a 75% increase from 2 years ago. Add to this Aeroplan now charging the fuel surcharge on many of their partners Asian flights and these awards have gone from being some of the best in the industry to just mediocre ones. You can still complete the mini-RTW with Aeroplan but it is going to cost you a lot more miles as of January 1st. 

Distinction Program
In what some are calling the first elite status program for accruing miles in an loyalty program via many methods rather than butt-in-seat or body-in-bed status earning for flights and hotels, Aeroplan's new Distinction program will reward Aeroplan members who earn lots of miles via various earning methods. Is it the first program of its type in Canada? No, Air Miles Gold had that distinction many years ago and even HBC Rewards has elite tiers. So technically speaking this concept is not new but being tied into such a large program and offering certain travel benefits does make it somewhat different than those others. Now please heed this: Distinction does not replace Air Canada Altitude. Altitude which is Air Canada's elite status program remains the same and will continue to serve those who fly on Air Canada and their partners. Think of it this way: Air Canada Altitude is a frequent flyer status recognition program while Distinction is a frequent mileage earner recognition program.


How do you earn Distinction status?
Distinction includes three status levels based on a member’s total eligible mileage accumulation:
·         dSilver – 25,000  miles accumulated during the calendar year;
·         dBlack – 50,000 miles accumulated during the calendar year;
·         dDiamond – 100,000 miles accumulated during the calendar year

What miles are eligible?
Eligible miles are miles earned in the Aeroplan Program directly at participating partners and include base and certain bonus mile offers. Unless otherwise indicated at the time of offer, the following miles are not eligible for Distinction status: financial card sign-up; bonus  miles received as a benefit of the Air Canada Altitude  program or Aeroplan Distinction status; miles  accumulated through conversion from other programs  or transfers between member accounts, top-up miles,  contest prizes, and reinstated miles.

Points converted from other programs do not count towards distinction status. So for most this would be from credit card like the American Express Membership Rewards program. Also a source of lots of miles are conversions from hotel programs like Starwood Preferred Guest. Now if you choose to earn miles directly instead of hotel points those will count towards distinction status. Now don't let the lack of status qualification deter you from converting, as that is still a good option for topping off your account for a redemption.

Once you earn Distinction status, what does it get you?
This is what the various levels of Distinction status will get you:

To expand on this once you reach Distinction status you will receive a further discount on the aforementioned Market Fare Flight Rewards (nee ClassicPlus flights). You will have access to Distinction Flights. If you have been a CIBC Aerogold cardholder this will be familiar to you. These are flights exclusively reserved for Distinction status holders who want to redeem for those flights. I believe from what I've seen from the CIBC ones is that they are very Toronto-centric so this benefit may not be of much use to many.  You will also get bonus miles for eligible Air Canada flights, hotel stays (that earn miles directly to Aeroplan) and purchases made via the Aeroplan eStore.

Related: Distinction Bonuses released


With all these changes, including the new TD cards which we had a separate post about earlier today, what are you thoughts on Aeroplan as it stands today? Are you going to participate more with program? Keep your earning about the same or are you going to jump ship to another program? And if you reached Distinction status, what level did you achieve? I got to dBlack and that was without credit card spend.

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