Any time a country or region imposes any sort of visa stipulation - even if it’s a waiver - the travel industry sighs a collective groan, knowing the obstacles and headaches to come.
MONTREAL — Few loyalty programs have been as wildly successful as Aeroplan, especially when it comes to client retention, where loyalty programs are worth their weight in gold. Word that Air Canada is ending its exclusive contract with Aeroplan provider Aimia will give frequent flyers and leisure clients a jolt but no doubt they’ll be on board with Air Canada’s new as-yet-unnamed loyalty program launching in 2020. It’s not so much the name of the loyalty plan as the airline and the benefits behind it.
Air Canada said Aeroplan members will continue to earn and redeem Aeroplan Miles and that it’s committed to “business as usual” through 2020, with a smooth transition to the new program. Air Canada also said it intends to continue to offer Aimia redemption seats post-2020.
The airline said strengthening customer relationships and service were at the core of its decision to walk away from Aeroplan. The move takes effect June 30, 2020. Air Canada expects the net present value of the program repatriation over a 15-year period to exceed $2 billion.
“Our relationship with our more than 45 million customers sits at the core of Air Canada’s ongoing transformation as we continue to grow our business beyond the 200 destinations that we already serve, and work to become a global champion,” said Air Canada’s President and CEO, Calin Rovinescu. “This decision is the right one for our customers, our employees and our shareholders.”
Benjamin Smith, President, Passenger Airlines said the new program will offer additional earning and redemption opportunities, more personalized service and a better digital experience for Air Canada customers.
Over the past decade Air Canada has invested $10 billion to renew its fleet and to improve its product offering, including all-new seats, WiFi connectivity, expanded and renovated Maple Leaf Lounges, increased digital capabilities and updated branding including new livery launched in February.
Smith said Air Canada’s move to reclaim its own loyalty program is in line with what other North American airlines have done. “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,” he said. “We’re excited to take this next step that delivers on our promise for continued investments in the customer experience.”
Air Canada’s contract with Aimia remains in effect until its June 29, 2020 expiration date. Until then Air Canada says it is committed to business as usual by working closely with Aimia with the objective of providing consistent service for Aeroplan members.
During this period, Aeroplan members can continue to earn and redeem miles in accordance with the Aeroplan program:
Aeroplan miles earned up to June 2020 will stay in Aeroplan members’ accounts, and will continue to be subject to the conditions of their program.
Air Canada says it intends to continue to offer Aimia redemption seats for Aeroplan members after June 2020, with pricing competitive with other third-party rewards programs.
The airline’s most frequent flyers will continue to get Air Canada Altitude status recognition and its associated range of travel perks, based on their annual flight activities with Air Canada and the Star Alliance member airlines. All Million Mile program qualification activity and status will also be honoured in the new program.
Air Canada intends to implement near-term improvements to Air Canada Altitude and other elements of the customer experience.
“Doing the right thing for Air Canada’s customers throughout this transition period will be our guiding principle,” said Rovinescu.
More details will be unveiled at Air Canada’s Investor Day on Sept. 19, 2017.
Asked how the move to drop Aeroplan will impact Air Canada Vacations’ ability to attract customers, the tour operator said it had no comment.