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Upcoming Aeroplan Changes Are a Mixed Bag

As travelers know all too well, when loyalty programs announce changes, they're usually for the worse and can be categorically described as such.

Not so the latest program changes from Aeroplan, which take affect in 2014 and run the gamut from good to bad to just meh.

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Mileage Expiration

Aeroplan has a doubly pernicious mileage-expiration policy.

First, miles expire if there was no account activity in 12 months.

If that weren't harsh enough, miles also expire after seven years, regardless of how active the member is.

The new mileage-expiration policy retains the 12-month expiration rule but dispenses with the seven-year rule.

Even with the improvement, Aeroplan's policy remains one of the industry's most consumer-unfriendly.

Distinction: "Aeroplan's New Recognition Program"

Distinction is a new elite-type program that will exist side by side with Aeroplan's current elite program. Distinction-qualifying miles are earned "at participating partners," presumably a significantly wider range of Aeroplan partners than would count toward earning traditional elite status.

Benefits include reduced prices on Market Fare awards, bonus mile offers, and unspecified "privileges and limited-time offers."

It's all a bit vague at this point, but the general idea is a parallel elite program for those who earn lots of Aeroplan miles for non-flight activities. In other words, frequent buyers as opposed to frequent flyers.

Award Price Changes

The good news is that the price of one-way Air Canada award tickets will be pegged at half the number of miles required for a round-trip. That's nothing more than aligning with the industry standard, of course, but Aeroplan currently charges 67 percent of the price of a round-trip for one-way awards.

Aeroplan will also replace its capacity-controlled ClassicPlus awards on Air Canada with new Market Fare awards, with prices that vary according to the published price of a comparable paid ticket. Although the claim is that the new awards "will require up to 20 percent fewer miles than current ClassicPlus Flight Rewards," the prices could also be significantly higher than they are currently. That's the nature of demand-based pricing.

And finally, in the bad news column, Aeroplan is taking the opportunity to raise some award prices on partner awards. For example, award flights from Canada and the U.S. to North Asia will increase in price from 125,000 and 175,000 miles in business and first class, to 150,000 and 210,000 miles.

Reader Reality Check

How do these changes affect your engagement with Aeroplan?

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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