Aeroplan will punish inactivity by closing mileage accounts

The headline of the news release is a yawner: "Aeroplan Announces Two Program Changes." Further deflecting attention from what has to be deemed a major announcement—and clearly designed to do just that—the release is sandwiched between two "good news" announcements dated the same day, October 16.

The changes, in Aeroplan's own words, are as follows:

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"Effective January 1, 2007, Aeroplan will begin date-stamping Aeroplan Miles. This means that Aeroplan Miles issued on or after January 1, 2007, will have a date-stamp of 7 years (84-months) from the month the mile is accumulated. Miles in an account that exceed 84-months without being redeemed will be automatically deducted from members' balances on a monthly basis. All Aeroplan Miles issued prior to January 1, 2007 will be date-stamped as December 31, 2006, resulting in an end date of December 31, 2013. The average time between a member earning an Aeroplan Mile and redeeming it is approximately two-and-a-half years.

"Effective July 1, 2007, Aeroplan will change the terms of its mileage expiry policy to require members to have transacted with the program—either one accumulation or one redemption—once in a consecutive 12-month period. This means that, as of July 1, 2007 and onwards from this date, a member must have transacted once with the program in the 12 months prior to avoid expiry of all miles in the account.

"Effective today, members whose accounts expire, or whose miles exceed 84-months in an account, may re-instate those miles for a further 7 years (84-months) for an administrative fee of C$30 plus $0.01 per restored mile. Further, any Aeroplan member whose account has previously expired may take advantage of this re-instatement option."

To recap, Aeroplan miles will expire after seven years. And accounts with no activity during a 12-month period will be terminated. Expired miles and closed accounts can only be revived by paying for the privilege.

In an embarrassing bit of transparently self-serving spin, the news release explains the changes thusly: "These changes have been designed to renew, re-engage and revitalize Aeroplan's members' participation as the company evolves into a broad-based coalition loyalty program."

Renew, re-engage, and revitalize? More like outrage, alienate, and devalue.

(Aeroplan isn't the only North America program which has made changes to its mileage-expiration policy recently. Look for an upcoming feature on the subject, summarizing new policies at ATA, JetBlue, Southwest, Delta, and US Airways.)

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