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Deep Dive: Aeroplan's New North America Award Chart - Part 1


We've now had some time to sit down and study the new Aeroplan award charts. As most of our readers who collect Aeroplan points reside in North America, and given that there is very little international travel currently going on, I thought it would be useful to do a bit of a deeper dive into intra-North America award redemptions under the new Aeroplan program.


This series of articles will take a look at changes in Aeroplan award redemption rates for flights within North America, comparing the current program with the new Aeroplan program that comes into effect on November 8, 2020; explore how to price and calculate redemptions for flights in North America; highlight some tools that will assist with calculating distance based redemptions; and explore, by using examples, the various distance tiers for Aeroplan redemptions in North America to discover some of the sweet spots in the new Aeroplan program for redemptions in North America.


In this first article, we will briefly look at the new Aeroplan program and then compare the key differences under the new Aeroplan program with the current Aeroplan program as it relates to travel within North America. Given that the current program is scheduled to end next month, this series of articles will hopefully assist you in planning your future North America travel under the new program as well as help you determine whether to book that flight you are planning under the current program before the change over on November 8th, or whether it would be better to await the implementation of the new program.


While this article will review some of the upcoming changes to the Aeroplan program as it relates to intra-North America redemptions, for a basic introduction and overview of the new program, check out our recent article, Air Canada Overhauls Aeroplan.


The New Aeroplan Program - Introduction


As noted, the new Aeroplan program comes into effect as of November 8, 2020. It is zone and distance based. Below is a depiction of the 4 travel zones under the new program:

As you can see, the North America zone under the new Aeroplan program covers all of Canada, the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii), Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.


Old vs. New


Before we dive into the award chart for travel in North America under the new program, we want to highlight some key differences between the current Aeroplan program and the new Aeroplan program as it relates to travel within North America.

First off, the bad news. Under the current program you are entitled to one stop over on each round trip redemption. That means, right now you can redeem 25,000 miles for a round trip economy class ticket and fly, for example, from Vancouver to Los Angeles, stop over for a week, and then travel Los Angeles to Miami (your destination), and then return Miami to Vancouver. Unfortunately, under the new Aeroplan program, stopovers will no longer be permitted in Canada or the United States.

Under the current Aeroplan program, there are fixed redemption rates for travel within Canada and the continental United States – which represents a single region. Similarly, there are fixed redemption rates for travel between Canada/US and other regions in North America, such as Mexico, Hawaii, the Caribbean and Central America. Below is the award chart for travel in North America under the current program:

Aeroplan Award Chart - Old Program


In contrast, the new Aeroplan program creates a single zone for North America, doing away with the concept of separate regions within North America. As a result, you will no longer pay more points for a flight simply because you are flying between two regions in North America, such as, for example, between the United States and Mexico. However, instead, under the new program, the price of all flights within the now broader North America zone will be based solely on distance travelled.


By way of example, under the current program, provided you travelled within Canada and the continental United States, you pay a fixed price of 12,500 points for a one way economy class ticket (the one exception to this being short haul flights, referenced below). Accordingly, whether you travel between Vancouver and Los Angele or Vancouver and Miami, the price is the same. Under the new Aeroplan program, however, the cost of your redemption will be based on the distance you are flying – the shorter the distance the lower the price (subject to dynamic pricing discussed below).


The current Aeroplan program does have some limited element of distance-based pricing for flights solely within Canada and those states bordering Canadian provinces by distinguishing on the award chart between short haul flights and long haul flights. A short haul redemption, in general terms, allows travel to nearby states and provinces at the reduced rate of 7,500 miles for a one way economy ticket. For example, in British Columbia an award redemption under the current program for a flight within British Columbia or to Alberta, the Yukon, Oregon or Washington is considered a “short haul” flight.


One could say that the new Aeroplan program has done away with the concept of short haul flights. While it is true that short haul flights under the current program will disappear and there are no redemptions named "short haul" as such. In many ways, however, the new Aeroplan program actually embraces the concept of short haul flights by charging less for shorter flights and further expands upon it by making it North America wide rather than limiting it to Canadian provinces and US states bordering Canada. Under the current program, our American friends who redeem Aeroplan awards for short flights do not receive the benefit of reduced pricing for a "short haul" flight unless they happened to live in a US state bordering Canada. For those who live in other US states, under the current program their minimum redemption price for flights within the US or to Canada is always 12.500 points for a one way economy class ticket. By introducing distance based travelling throughout the new North America zone, the new Aeroplan program effectively expands the concept of short haul flights throughout the North America zone by making short flights cheaper. As a result, Aeroplan redemptions could now be an attractive option for short flights between US states.


As we analyze the new Aeroplan program and its award redemptions for travel within the North America zone, keep the current redemption rates for travel within Canada and the continental United States under the current program in mind for comparison purposes.


The New Aeroplan Program – Travel Within North America


As I've noted, the award chart for North America under the new Aeroplan program, being distance based, creates four pricing tiers based on the distance travelled. The new award chart is below:


Before we jump into the distance aspect of the chart, there are a few other important points to take note of:


1. Dynamic Pricing on Air Canada Flights

As referenced above, flights on Air Canada (as opposed to partner airlines) will be based on dynamic pricing. That means, and as the chart reflects, one can expect a different redemption price depending on the date or particular flight time of the Air Canada flight you wish to take. Accordingly, you can expect that Air Canada flights over Spring Break or Christmas will be priced higher because of the higher demand.

What is a tad annoying, and as I mentioned in our previous article, is that the range of pricing stated on the award chart does not actually represent the maximum redemption price you may have to pay for an Air Canada flight. I think it would have been more transparent for Air Canada to actually state the maximum cost you could pay for a seat in a high demand situation. What’s the point of putting a price range at all if it’s not the actual range? In any event, the positive aspect of the dynamic pricing model is that every seat is now available on points. Therefore, if you are swimming in points and want a particular flight on a particular day, if even only one seat is available on that flight, you will be able to book it using points.

For the purposes of the analysis in this series of articles, we will be using the starting redemption price on the award chart as the cost of an Air Canada flight. We are giving Air Canada the benefit of the doubt that it will be making at least the same amount of award inventory available at the lowest redemption price as it makes available now. Time will tell, of course.

2. Fixed Pricing on Partner Flights

As you can see on the award chart, partner flights will not be subject to dynamic pricing, rather, redemptions will have a fixed price. As a result, if there is award inventory on, for example, a United Airlines flight, the actual redemption price is listed with a fixed redemption, not a range of redemption rates.


Under the current program, fuel surcharges push people away from flying on Air Canada toward those partner airlines that do not charge fuel surcharges, such as United Airlines. We would expect that with the new Aeroplan program doing away with fuel surcharges, people will now happily fly Air Canada on award redemptions. One wonders, however, whether the dynamic pricing of Air Canada flights might still push people toward flying partner airlines, where that option exists, for better redemption value. Certainly, if Air Canada is stingy in making award inventory available at the starting redemption range that will be the effect. Of course, award inventory on partner airlines will be limited as it is now.


Conclusion


As you can see the changes in redeeming flights for intra-North America travel under the current Aeroplan program versus the new Aeroplan program are significant. The new program brings with it a single, broader North America zone, with pricing not based on travel between regions but, instead, based on distance travelled. In our next installment, we will delve further into Aeroplan's new distance based pricing model and provide some tips on tools to use to plan and price trips under the new Aeroplan program.

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