The Most Devalued Program in North America Devalues.. Again

Aeroplan has announced changes going into effect December 15. These are mostly devaluations, like increased prices for business class awards between North America and Europe, and changing the definition of zones for award travel.

US frequent flyers should care about Star Alliance member Air Canada’s Aeroplan frequent flyer program because:

    The program is a transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest and an instantaneous transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards
  • It’s historically been one of the most valuable programs for booking awards on Star Alliance partners
  • There have remained some great values, without fuel surcharges even, like 45,000 points each way between the US and Europe in business class on United

Here’s the new award chart side by side with the current one (.pdf). Changes go into effect December 15.

In August 2013 I called Aeroplan the most devalued airline program in North America.

First there was the gutting of the Aeroplan award chart on July 15, 2011. For instance, my favorite award — first class to most of Asia — went from 120,000 miles to 175,000 miles (a 46% increase in one shot). Australia awards went from 75,000 to 80,000 in coach; 100,000 to 135,000 in business (35% increase), and 140,000 to 185,000 in first (32% increase).

Then the cost of redeeming awards went up hundreds of dollars through the imposition of fuel surcharges on many of their partners effective November 2011.

Fortunately many partners can still be booked without fuel surcharges.

  • Air China
  • Brussels Airlines
  • EgyptAir
  • EVA Airways
  • Scandinavian
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Swiss
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United

Fuel surcharges are whatever would be charged on a similar, paid itinerary. LOT fuel surcharges are low, so booking an Aeroplan award on LOT Polish isn’t very costly.

Two years ago Aeroplan increased award prices again. Remember that first class Asia award that cost 120,000 miles? It went up to 210,000 miles. First class to Australia? 220,000.

In 2013 they introduced a $500 each way cash co-pay for upgrades to Europe and South America and a $750 co-pay for Asia and Australia on top of spending upgrade credits (waived for Air Canada’s 100,000 mile flyer Super Elites).

  • Between North America and Western Europe (‘Europe 1’): business class roundtrip goes from 90,000 to 110,000 miles and first class roundtrip goes from 125,000 to 140,000 miles.

  • Between North America and Europe 2: business class roundtrip goes from 105,000 miles to 115,000 miles and first class goes from 145,000 miles to 160,000 miles.

  • Between North America and Southern South America: business class roundtrip goes from 95,000 to 110,000 miles roundtrip and first class goes from 135,000 to 140,000 miles roundtrip.

  • Between North America and Australia: economy roundtrip goes from 80,000 to 90,000 miles

Some zone definitions are changing, too. Here are those changes:

  • Poland moves from Europe 1 to Europe 2. Luxembourg moves from Europe 2 to Europe 1.

  • Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam will move from Asia 1 to Asia 2. This is a separate price increase for those awards.

  • Russia (Eastern) and Mongolia will move from Asia 2 to Asia 1

On the upside one-way award travel will no longer have to be to or from North America in order to price at half the cost of roundtrip, effective December 15. And awards between India and elsewhere in the region, Africa, and Australia and South Pacific become a little more reasonable.

Matthew is “relieved” by these changes arguing that they could have been so much worse. But it’s been only two years since the last big devaluation, which came only two years after the previous big devaluation. I somehow thought they were done for awhile so I am anything but relieved. Instead, it reinforces the notion that they continually devalue every two years.

Air Canada’s frequent flyer program was — just over four years ago — among the best and most generous programs in the world. But its members have just gotten consistently hammered. And you have to feel bad, because our Northern neighbors are just so darned friendly. They don’t deserve this, eh?

(HT: One Mile at a Time)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Garry you mixing up Air Canada’s altitude elite program and Aeroplan reward loyalty its 2 different programs and is administrated separately under different entities

  2. Aeroplan has really pushed the limit.
    So many devaluations in such a short period of time, and by such large numbers…
    Aeroplan, you better think twice about these changes before you actually take them into effect in December.

  3. Aeroplan has fast become the Skymiles of Canada for award redemptions, while Altitude is basically the same for the FFer on AC these days.

    The only positives here are the 50% one way redemptions anywhere now.

  4. @Tom – Or what will happen? Please explain.

    AE are just doing what everyone else has been doing given that there too many miles floating around and the planes are full. The vast majority of Canadians basically only redeem with AE.

    However, I don’t think this is really aimed at Y pax, because TATL flights are pretty cheap these days, esp. with Iceland AIr, Norwegian and Westjet becoming more aggressive in the TATL market for the kettles.

    AC management has a man crush on Richard Anderson, so you know where AC Altitude is heading.

  5. Any word yet how they’ll handle changed to bookings made before December 15 after that date. Would be nice to lock in a few 90k round trip J tickets to Poland before it goes to 115k but not 100% certain of my travel dates yet.

  6. @Johnny33 in general other blogs ‘cut and paste’ more from me than the other way around. This is big news so I am covering it, and didn’t write about it on Friday when a couple of others did … the day of my annual board of directors meeting at work!

  7. Quite sad to see how Aeroplan has gone down hill after receiving the Best North American FF program (for both elite benefits and redemption values) at the first awards in Houston a few years ago (conducted with the STAR MegaDo2 IIRC). This is a further hit to the Aeroplan side of AC’s FF program, after major downgrading of elite tier benefits under the Altitude branding. About the only thing positive is one-way awards within other regions, but the rejigging of some regions along with the increased number of miles several years ago, plus further increases to come, (fuel surcharges are a given negative) is a further decline. On the AC side, RDM and PQM earnings have similarly done down hill as have elite tier benefits…including advance seat selection and access to AC’s version of E+ economy seats (for a charge even to 50K/75K elites) not to mention copays on using international e-upgrade credits (increased number required this year) in addition to having pay higher fares to even request such upgrades. On the other hand, AC’s profits are soaring and it’s stock went from $1 to $12, so seems these moves have paid off for the bottom line!

  8. Business class awards within Asia are going from 30k r/t to 80k r/t. This is an extreme jump! I fail to see any remaining values left in this program.

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