The Future of Aeroplan?

Aeroplan and Air Canada - divorce?

So Air Canada and its favourite bankers and Visa Canada are trying to buy Aeroplan, mere hours (OK, days, but that’s just a lot of hours) after Aeroplan announced their plan to charter flights when they formally split from Air Canada in 2020, a year after Air Canada announced they would be dumping Aeroplan, ten years after Air Canada sold Aeroplan, and some 34 years after Air Canada created Aeroplan in the first place (1984). What does all this mean? Right now, questions are much more plentiful than firm answers, but, undaunted, BoomerTraveller is willing to speculate…

From a purely business pages perspective, one might ask questions like: is this Air Canada bid legal or does it smack of market manipulation? Is it a good deal for Aeroplan shareholders? For Air Canada shareholders? for others in the aviation and loyalty industries? Who will profit from this turn of events? We will leave these questions to the business pages to answer; some are quite intriguing, and we have thoughts on them, but for us they are mere intellectual curiosities, not personally significant.

The questions we want answers to are: Should I hold or fold my Aeroplan points? Should I start collecting them aggressively again? What will they be worth in 2020, when Air Canada’s new loyalty program goes live? These are the questions that matter to the travelling points collector.

Here is what we know:

  • Air Canada will launch its own points program in 2020.
  • They have said that if this proposed buy-out of Aeroplan is successful, then Aeroplan points will be converted to the new Air Canada points (we do not know what they will be called yet).
  • Aeroplan has said that they plan to start chartering flights to popular points redemption destinations and to partner with hotels (mainly sun destinations and western European tourist spots like Paris, one assumes).
  • We know that this would place them in direct competition with Air Canada Vacations and Air Transat, among others.
  • We also know Aeroplan claims that we will be able to continue redeeming points for “classic fares”, e.g. 60,000 points for economy class round-trip tickets to western Europe.

And that is about all we know.

What we do not know is a lot more:

  • how easy will it be to collect the new Air Canada points – will they only be available by flying, or will we be able to collect them through other purchases – and which ones? which credit cards? what rate?
  • how easy will it be to actually get a “classic fare” under Aeroplan’s new scheme?
  • how much will Air Canada points be worth? How flexible will they be? How easy will it be to redeem them for good flights at good rates?
  • will either Air Canada or Aeroplan points be exchangeable with other reward programs at reasonable rates?
  • where and when exactly will Aeroplan charters fly to – and from? Will they only fly from Toronto to Punta Cana, or will there be direct flights from other Canadian cities to and from other destinations?
  • if Air Canada’s buyout of Aeroplan goes ahead, will the Earth split open and spew molten marshmallows?

BoomerTraveller speculates that, whether or not the Air Canada bid is successful, then AC points will be collectable  through credit cards – they are after partnering with banks to bid for Aeroplan. We speculate that there will be, as has long been the case, limited but significant availability of “classic” fares, but that there will be more “market fares”, which will generally not be a very good deal – in any future. We speculate that AC points will be worth about the same as Aeroplan points, but, critically, with less flexibility than we are used to having. It is likely that at least at first, conversions with other loyalty programs will be few.

As for Aeroplan charters, should the AC bid fail, we forecast sun and western European destinations will be largely seasonally available from major Canadian cities – and those Aeroplan collectors in smaller centres will lose out on this.

In typical fearless BoomerTraveller fashion, we are willing to go out on a limb with our boldest prediction of all: no molten marshmallow-spewing cracks in the Earth will occur.

So, what shall we do? BoomerTraveller will continue to collect Aeroplan points, confident that they will not turn into useless chaff when the clock strikes midnight on some night in 2020. That said, we will continue to focus on collecting American Express Membership Rewards, as they remain the most flexible and most obtainable points out there – at least for our money.

And remember, if you use this link, you can get an extra 10,000 points when you sign up for an American Express Platinum card (see our review here).



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