It’s perfectly understandable to be confused by these two customer loyalty programs by Air Canada, and the fact that they both start with the same letter doesn’t make matters any easier. However, I’ll do my best to explain how these two programs differ from each other in this post.
Aeroplan is Air Canada’s mileage program, but unlike most of the other airline loyalty programs, Aeroplan is administered by a third party – a public limited company called Aimia. Aeroplan was rolled out in 1984, but since 2008 it has been fully ran by Aimia after Air Canada divested from the Montreal-based marketing and loyalty analytics company. Look these up. Despite the difference in the way it’s managed compared to other programs, the frequent flyer program operates on the same principles – you earn Aeroplan miles whenever you fly and can redeem them for free flights or gifts, either on Air Canada or via one of its Star Alliance partners.
While Aeroplan is all about earning and redeeming miles, Air Canada’s Altitude program is more about earning elite status on the airline. Like most airline elite programs, it has several tiers – five, to be precise: Prestige 25K, Elite 35K, Elite 50K, Elite 75K and Super Elite 100K.
The different elite status tiers are awarded based on Altitude Qualifying Miles (AQMs) or Altitude Qualifying Segments (AQSs) earned while flying on Air Canada (or any of its Star Alliance partners). In addition you must also spend a given amount of Altitude Qualifying Dollars (AQDs) on airline ticket purchases to get elite status.
Aeroplan’s Parallel Elite Program
From this point that things become confusing. For one, being a separate company from Air Canada, Aeroplan has its own set of partners with whom travellers can earn and redeem miles. These include Star Alliance members, hotels like Starwood hotels and resorts and credit card companies like American Express.
Aeroplan also runs its own elite status program referred to as Aeroplan Status (previously called Distinction), which puts it in direct competition with the Altitude program. According to Tweak Your Biz, customers can earn status on its 3 tiers – Silver, Black and Diamond – through which members enjoy benefits exclusively on its program but not on Air Canada. For example, members with Aeroplan Diamond status are entitled to a preferential rate on flight reward changes and refund fees, while travellers seeking to enjoy free checked bags or room upgrades through paid flights on Air Canada can only do so via its Altitude status program.
Severing Ties with Aeroplan
Hopefully, this somewhat confusing situation will be cleared up once Air Canada launches its own reward program, as it has announced it intends to do upon expiry of its contract with Aeroplan in June 2020. Until then customers on Air Canada and Aeroplan will just have to learn to live with the differences between the two reward programs.