Friday, October 24, 2014

Air Canada Altitude Elite Program 2015 Changes - Not very good news

Big changes, most of them not good are coming the Air Canada's Elite Program Altitude. Yesterday they released the details of the 2015 program. You can find all the details on the Air Canada website including a FAQ for the changes. The biggest reason for the changes as stated by Air Canada is:
" These changes are being introduced following a thorough benchmarking exercise in order to competitively position Air Canada alongside the world's leading carriers."
Devaluing a program to position yourself competitively just doesn't make sense. I can see some of the reasoning for the changes, in particular the minimum Air Canada Flight Requirement to weed out not so frequent Air Canada flyers but the eUpgrade changes are hitting loyal AC flyers below the belt.

The changes are as follows:

Minimum Air Canada Flight RequirementThe Minimum Air Canada Flight Requirement needed to reach Altitude status for 2016 is increasing. The Minimum Air Canada Flight Requirement refers to the minimum number of Altitude Qualifying Miles and Altitude Qualifying Segments that must be flown on flights operated by Air Canada, Air Canada Express and Air Canada rouge in order to reach any Altitude status level.

As you can see you now need to fly at least half of your qualifying flights on actual Air Canada metal. Not a huge deal for the Altitude flyers who fly mostly within Canada or are already flying lots on Air Canada but definitely a huge issue if you fly lots on United, Lufthansa or other Star Alliance airlines.  This is moving against the grain in the whole alliance attitude we have seen develop over the past 2+ decades. Airlines typically garner more revenue with people flying on their own metal is one factor for this change as well as trying to weed out those who don't even fly Air Canada but credit flights to Aeroplan to earn status sooner than other programs.
500 Mile Minimum

The 500 Mile Minimum privilege will no longer be in effect. For travel from March 1, 2015 onwards, miles earned will be based on the distance flown and the fare option purchased for flights operated by Air Canada, Air Canada Express, Air Canada rouge and Star Alliance™ member airlines.
Not a game changer but still for someone who flies a lot of short haul routes you may stand to lose out on miles.
eUpgrades to Business Class
For eUpgrade requests made on or after March 1, 2015, the number of eUpgrade Credits required to upgrade will be increasing. Furthermore, the number of eUpgrade Credits Altitude members can earn through Threshold eUpgrades is changing.
North America

Sun Destinations
Europe, Middle East, South America
Asia & Australia
This is a game changer. And it isn't good. With some increases over 50% on International flights, those of you Altitude members looking to upgrade on long haul flights are going to be fuming! This is the biggest devaluation of the program
Introducing eUpgrades to Premium Economy In early 2015, Altitude members will be able to access the comfort of Premium Economy using eUpgrade Credits when travelling on an eligible fare. eUpgrade Add-ons will not apply for these upgrades. Stay tuned for more information regarding eUpgrades to Premium Economy later this year.
 This is a welcome benefit
eUpgrade Nominees

Effective March 1, 2015, Altitude Super Elite™ 100K members will be entitled to share their eUpgrade privilege with one eUpgrade Nominee, while maintaining their ability to share their privileges with Travel Companions.
Not a welcome change to this benefit as it has gone from 4 to 2 to 1 now.
Priority Boarding

In early 2015, a new streamlined boarding process will be introduced to ensure that Altitude members get even more out of their Priority Boarding privilege.
A good change? Hopefully! Not sure how this will be implemented but I'm guessing Elite members have complained as Priority Boarding is not very priority when you have TD credit card holders and others getting access to Priority Boarding. Will the process be Altitude members followed by Star Alliance Gold, Business Class ticket holders and TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege cardholders?

Complimentary access to International Maple Leaf Lounges and Star Alliance Business Lounges

Altitude Elite 35K members will no longer have the option to choose complimentary access to International Maple Leaf Lounges and Star Alliance Business Lounges as part of their Select Privileges. Instead, members will be able to select a 50% discount on any Maple Leaf Club membership. As part of their Core Privileges, they will continue to enjoy the comfort and amenities of select Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounges located in the domestic and trans-border departures zones of Canadian airports, along with those in Los Angeles and New York
Good and bad news. Bad news for the 35K members to lose out on access to International lounges. Good news for all other members as this may curb some of the crowding found in some lounges.
Preferred Seats Altitude Elite 50K members will not only enjoy complimentary access to more Preferred Seats with the purchase of a Flex fare for travel within North America, but will also receive a 50% discount on the Preferred Seat fee with the purchase of a Flex fare booked for travel from Canada to an international destination. The expanded access to Preferred Seats is currently available. More details.

Altitude Elite 35K and Altitude Prestige 25K members will enjoy access to more Preferred Seats at a 50% discount on the Preferred Seat fee with the purchase of a Flex fare for travel originating in Canada. The expanded access to Preferred Seats is currently available. More details.
Some savings to be had here. This is one good benefit for being loyal.
Introducing Flight Rewards for Premium Economy
In early 2015, Aeroplan® and Altitude members will be able to redeem their Aeroplan Miles for seats in the Premium Economy cabin on Air Canada. Details will be coming soon.
Air Canada only recently started adding Premium Economy seats to select aircraft so it makes sense to offer redemptions for them.
Fuel Surcharge on Flight Rewards

For ClassicFlight Rewards made as of March 1, 2015, the flight reward fuel surcharges for travel within Canada and between Canada and the U.S. will be waived for Altitude members. This is applicable on flights operated by Air Canada, Air Canada Express and Air Canada rouge.
Furthermore, at the same time, the ClassicFlight Rewards fuel surcharges for travel between Canada and other international destinations will be waived for Super Elite 100K members on flights operated by Air Canada, Air Canada Express and Air Canada rouge.
Great news for Altitude members. Super Elite 100Ks will see lots of savings on Aeroplan award tickets while all Altitude members will save around $30 on Canadian and U.S. redemptions.
Flight Reward change fee waivers

Aeroplan® Flight Reward change fee waivers for Super Elite 100K members will be no longer be available for changes made on or after March 1, 2015.
This may seem minor but really, charging change fees to your top customers? But then again Super Elites could be the biggest 'abusers' of booking, changing, cancelling, booking again etc. It is just like the new fees for baggage within Canada. Air Canada could have chose to not charge the fee like WestJet but they would be foregoing tons of revenue. Same with these change fees, they are foregoing a good chunk of revenue.
Priority Rewards Priority Rewards will be limited to ten (10) reservations per eligible Altitude member, per benefit period beginning March 1, 2015. Super Elite 100K members are able to book a combined total of ten reservations in both Economy and Business Class. In the event that Aeroplan ClassicFlight® Reward seats are completely booked, Priority Rewards offer access to additional seats on flights operated by Air Canada, Air Canada Express and Air Canada rouge.

Another limitation but not a huge deciding factor in limiting the 2x miles Priority Rewards.

That's it. That's all she wrote. What do you think of the changes for the 2015 Air Canada Altitude program. Are they going to change your travel habits? Your loyalty? Are you going to switch programs? Let us know! To see what some major AC flyers think of the changes read this FlyerTalk thread.



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  2. Seems Par for the course - Delta and United paved the way for this by copycatting each other with program eroding changes:
    1. Delta introduced the concept of minimum spending requirements to qualify for elite status.
    2. United Airlines copied Delta’s move and introduced spending requirements for elite status.
    3. United then increased the mileage required to book award tickets in J and F cabins with its airline partners - up 70%!
    4. Delta announced the way frequent flyer members earn miles will change from distance flown to money spent on tickets
    5. United then copied Delta’s move and says it will change how members earn miles from distance flown to money spent.
    6. And finally, after less than a year Delta increased its minimum spending requirements to earn elite status.
    Given these benchmarks it's no wonder that Air Canada's benchmarking exercise pointed to eroding the value proposition.

  3. Yes copycatting seems to be the way of the loyalty program and airlines. One airline announces bag fees, the others follow. An FFP moves to revenue based another follows. What is seriously lacking in the loyalty industry right now is sense of innovation that not only benefits the loyalty program but also the loyal consumers.

  4. I am not sure how i feel about being loyal to Air Canada and Star
    Alliance after this. I was not happy that I was so close to get my 50K
    Altitude and so dropped to 35K My most coveted perk is the lounges in
    Europe so was happy that that was an option to choose and now they will
    ask me to pay for that privilege. Not good. Recently retired and
    wondering if trying to maintain status is worth the diminished perks.
    Right now don't think so!!.

  5. The e-mail I received says:

    “Below you’ll find
    some important updates regarding Air Canada AltitudeTM in 2015. These
    changes are being introduced following a thorough benchmarking exercise in order
    to competitively position Air Canada alongside the world’s leading
    carriers. Air Canada remains committed to offering
    one of the world’s best frequent flyer programs.”

    To paraphrase:

    "We did some benchmarking and discovered we were losing ground in the race to the bottom. So we reduced most benefits to catch up."

    This fits well with the Air Canada business model. Make flying economy so utterly miserable that more people will pay to upgrade. Next step, I predict, will be to convert all economy to Rouge type configuration and charge more if you want leg room.

  6. Hello West Jet! I was super elite for 4 years then have slowly been moving my business to west jet. I am down to 50k elite for 2015 and I am sure I will be no status the following year. The changes to the programs are getting worse and not worth the money I spend for the fares. I find no reason to be loyal anymore. Sorry AC your programs are not appealing anymore to keep my business

  7. WestJet will give you Gold Elite status for your 50K Elite. See

  8. Great news. Thanks for posting.

  9. We'd love to hear back on how the status match process works out for you!

  10. As much as it could improve, Air Canada is still better than all US carriers. I avoid flying on United as much as possible since a couple years ago they don't really recognize AC status except for some boarding priority. I am hoping with the changes in priority boarding it will help with thinning out the herd when they call priority boarding - there is nothing priority about it the way it is now. Most US carriers break up flyers with status by rank at least. Another gripe I have: I have been SuperElite for the last 4 or 5 years and like to save my upgrade credits for longer legs. I fly a lot of rapid air legs out of Toronto - and pretty much every trip there are 2, 3 sometimes 4 crew members who are commuting to/from YYZ who are sitting up front while there are loyal paying customers sitting in economy. It's not about me getting a better the seat without upgrade credits, give it to someone who flies once every five years who's in 33E - I don't care what deal the unions have with the's just disrespectful to your customers and personally they should feel ashamed when they are sitting up there in uniform.

  11. I agree that AC is still better than US carriers but these new changes to the priority board are not all together fair. Under the previous process, my biggest gripe was including Star Alliance Gold to board with J Class and other Elites. It is certainly not reciprocated on other Star partners. As a 75K or 50K we are only good for Zone 2 boarding on UA. But now under the new plan, we are getting slapped by our own carrier. Elite get lumped in with Star Alliiance Gold, full fare Y and TD Visa card holders. Where is the privilege and why show loyalty when the privilege can be purchased.

  12. I don't think they have posted how the new priority is going to work, I think the comments above are editorials from the author interwoven into the article. Has AC posted details on the new priority boarding process which will be implemented?

  13. The latest Altitude newsletter contained a link back to detailing the new process to be in effect mid-December. It's funny however that the Altitude website does not display the same info. It only states that changes are coming in 2015. Am wondering if others like myself have been complaining.

  14. Air Canada explains all their changes as parity with other programs. Last time I checked increased customer service meant happier more loyal customers. Reduce customer incentives can only do the opposite. I'm an SE 12+ years and "MillionMile" member....I hear American will match status--brand new fleet coming this year....

  15. Really disappointed with the upgrade changes,fly frequent to Asia ,the business class was really nice ,most times there are empty seats so why would they up the eupgrades ,probably they want a few more vacant seats,not a good way to treat frequent flyers,I know several of my co-workers who will switch to Korean Air .i will also be checking it out. Thank -you AC

  16. No in fact they don't even call it a Fuel Surcharge anymore. It is now called a Carrier Surcharge so that it isn't called into question with the low oil prices!

  17. It looks like my new 50K Elite benefits basically give me international lounge access and 3 bags at 32 kg each. eUpgrades are a laugh at $500 plus credits for an upgrade. Guest lounge passes are questionable benefits especially if the host does not qualify. Meal tickets on domestic flights have some value but the numbers are limited. Looking at things "objectively" if the airline has empty seats up front and all it costs them is an extra J class meal and a couple of drinks this should be a small price to pay for loyalty. To gain the same amount of loyalty from advertising would likely cost tons more money. Something for AC to think about.

  18. They just removed Arrivals Lounge access at LHR for all but Super Elite... waters things down even more...

  19. So it seems Air Canada was completely able to sweep the changes to threshold rewards (i.e. eupgrade credit top-ups) under the rug. I only just now discovered - after blowing past 20k so far this year - that they are only topping up credits at the 60K mark. It used to be 10 extra credits for every 20k flown. So basically, at 50k, the credits you receive for a year are not enough to upgrade for two cross country return trips. So as someone else here pointed out, now the only benefits of 50K are lounge access and checked bags.