It's time to plan your 2020 choice: Aeroplan or Air Canada's new loyalty program?
'Start using up those miles because we don't know what the future holds,' says expert
Air Canada and the popular Aeroplan loyalty program are breaking up in 2020. For now, nothing changes and your miles are safe.
But that doesn't necessarily mean you should put your seat back and relax. You may want to consider making some strategic moves and decide where your loyalties lie.
"You need to start getting an idea, planning what you're going to do for the future," says rewards expert Patrick Sojka.
Come June 30, 2020, Air Canada is launching its own loyalty program. From that date forward, passengers earning miles by flying Air Canada will only be able to use them in the airline's program.
According to Air Canada's website, Aeroplan members should still be able to redeem separate miles earned in that program for Air Canada flights. However, they won't be able to use Aeroplan points for flights with the airline's rewards partners including Lufthansa, United, and Air China.
So if you're aiming to redeem points for a seat on a partner airline, you may want to plan ahead, says Sojka, of Calgary-based resource site Rewards Canada.
"Now's the time to start using up those miles because we don't know what the future holds."
Where do your loyalties lie?
Many of the details about Air Canada's new program and what Aeroplan will do in response are still up in the air. But some members have already started making plans and even choosing sides.
Ottawa-based travel blogger Anshul Singh plans to burn through his remaining Aeroplan points and convert to Air Canada's loyalty program.
"I'm just counting down to 2020 to hear more about this new program and switch over," says the frequent flyer.
Singh hopes Air Canada will offer members more flight options.
"Air Canada will have complete control over the inventory and how many flights they can release," he says. "If it's done right, Air Canada can really hit a home run with this one."
Singh also uses a TD Aeroplan rewards credit card to earn points, but he says that won't deter him from switching. That's because he believes Air Canada will partner with a bank to offer a rewards credit card.
"I may have to let go of my TD card," says Singh
Sticking with Aeroplan
Gobinder Brar in Brampton, Ont., has also chosen sides: He plans to stick with Aeroplan — as long as he can still get his money's worth.
"My main concern is that my points don't get devalued, because I have a lot and I need to spend them," says Brar.
The software consultant used to travel a lot for work and has stockpiled a whopping 300,000 Aeroplan points.
Now he often redeems his miles for gift cards at retailers like Costco. Besides flights, Aeroplan offers an array of merchandise rewards.
"I do like the fact I can get more variety of stuff with my points," he says.
Brar mainly collects his miles not by flying but by getting gas at Esso — a partnering retailer with Aeroplan. Now that Air Canada is leaving the nest, Brar hopes that Aeroplan may sign up more retailers.
"If Aeroplan would go out and offer the ability to accumulate miles at more places, that would definitely be a benefit," he says.
Taking the best offer
Because Air Canada miles and Aeroplan miles apparently won't be transferable, some people may decide to pledge allegiance to both programs.
Aeroplan member Len Dvorkin believes it's smarter to stick with one, although he hasn't made up his mind which way he'll go.
"I see myself focusing on which one is best," says Dvorkin
He has just cashed in more than 200,000 Aeroplan miles for a trip to Europe with his wife. It involves multiple stops and two partner carriers — Lufthansa and Polish Airlines — to make all his destinations.
But Dvorkin isn't too concerned about Air Canada's claim that Aeroplan members won't be able to access partner airlines come 2020.
"I'm not panicking about that one because they will fix it. It is too important a feature," says Dvorkin who lives in Thornhill, Ont.
Aimia, the parent company of Aeroplan, told CBC News that it's already considering new partners, although it did not specify which ones.
"We are very confident we'll have alternative ways for members to use their miles," said Aimia's group chief executive, David Johnston.
He added that with five million active members buying up around $700 million worth of airline seats every year, it shouldn't be difficult for Aeroplan to make new friends.
"There's a very attractive membership base for other companies to want to partner with us."
Still time for a deal?
Dvorkin also isn't convinced that in 2020 he won't be able to combine his Aeroplan miles with miles earned by flying Air Canada. "I wouldn't be surprised," he says if Air Canada and Aeroplan reach some kind of agreement.
He hopes that with increased competition, either Air Canada or Aeroplan might lower some of the fees for booking a flight using miles.
In 2014, CBC News interviewed Dvorkin after he got stuck paying $2,565 in added charges when using Aeroplan points for three round-trip Air Canada tickets from Toronto to Milan.
"Maybe there will be a little bit of healthy competition for our attention," he says.