Air Canada last year surprised its customers by announcing that it would sunset its partnership with Aeroplan, its outsourced loyalty program, and create a new product from scratch. That new program will eventually launch in 2020.
But after that milestone, Aeroplan has made it clear its members and a huge pool of points will still exist.
Where those customers and points will go has been a matter of great discussion — particularly among current Air Canada’s loyalty members — but as of this week Aeroplan has laid out its case for sticking around.
In June of 2020, Aeroplan plans to launch a portal through which members can redeem miles on a variety of airlines and other travel experiences. According to Jeremy Rabe, the group’s new CEO, Aeroplan will be able to provide better availability than a traditional airline loyalty program to a wider spectrum of inventory thanks to its purchasing power and unique marketing and datasets — though it’s not clear how much of that access will be passed on to passengers.
Traditionally, one might think that bold claims about wide airline and partner availability might point to a revenue-based redemption program where X number of Aeroplan points equates to Y dollars with any particular partner, but apparently that won’t be the case. In the program’s announcement this week, it committed to offering competitive tiers for award flight redemptions, with prices on par with a traditional legacy carrier’s rates. Long haul, domestic award tickets on the carrier, for example, will cost 25,000 miles, the same rate as a similar fare on American, Delta or United.
The downside of earning those points and spending them on an Aeroplan-partnered carrier, however, is that passengers won’t earn elite status, potentially creating a shortfall of miles and perks earned while traveling. Furthermore, none of the group’s partner airlines have yet been revealed.
Perhaps in response to this shortfall, Aeroplan also announced that it plans to start transfer relationships with as many as 20 frequent flyer programs, allowing members to use their accounts as a sort of mileage bank with access to multiple airlines. This move puts it in step with Starwood Preferred Guest, which has dozens of airline transfer partners and which many frequent travelers use as a centralized points bank.
All of this seems like a strong incentive for Aeroplan members to stick around and carry their points over to the new program in 2020. Without the faucet of inbound points from Air Canada, though, Aeroplan may have trouble in keeping its membership levels flush.