Air Canada? Aeroplan? Nothing to see there. In the world of airline loyalty programs, those two are non-factors, and have been since 2008, when Air Canada sold its remaining interest in Aeroplan to what is now Aimia.
While Aeroplan slogged on, less as a frequent-flyer program than as a frequent-buyer scheme with Air Canada as one among many partners, it became increasingly irrelevant as a competitive force in the North American travel market.
Fast forward to today’s announcement from Air Canada. The headline: “Air Canada to Launch Its Own Loyalty Program in 2020.” That’s right, Air Canada will sever its ties with Aimia when the contract expires on June 29, 2020, and replace Aeroplan with a new program of its own design on June 30.
According to Air Canada’s news release:
The new program, launching in 2020, will offer additional earning and redemption opportunities, more personalized service and a better digital experience for Air Canada customers… Similar to all of Air Canada’s North American peers, by managing our own loyalty program, we will be able to take better care of our customers by making decisions in real time that address specific needs.
Sounds good. And really, given the sorry state of Aeroplan, there’s nowhere to go but up.
From a financial perspective, Air Canada expects the transition to generate $2 billion in additional revenue and cost savings over a 15-year period.
For the next three years, it’s business as usual for current Aeroplan members. After June 2020, miles for Air Canada flights will be credited to the new program, while all previously earned points will remain in Aeroplan. Elite and Million Mile status, and qualifying miles, will be honored in the new program.
Starting with a blank slate and designing a program from the ground up gives Air Canada the rare opportunity to truly distinguish itself among competing programs. Or, as cynics suggest is the more likely scenario, Air Canada could follow a lowest-common-denominator strategy, and simply match the other programs in the marketplace.
Reader Reality Check
What are your expectations for the new Air Canada mileage program?
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.