Air Canada Altitude – Super Elite Status Overview

Air Canada Altitude is the program for frequent fliers, operated within the airline. The highest tier is Super Elite. I’ve never had elite status with Air Canada, but I’ve had it with all of the major US carriers (United, American, Delta, and Alaska). This makes me qualified to compare Air Canada to other US carriers. It’s like looking at Canadian credit cards and their American counterparts – always very interesting.

Source: Air Canada

Now, Aeroplan is the points program of Air Canada. They are two separate companies. This actually means when you earn miles on a ticket with Air Canada, they are actually purchasing miles from Aeroplan to put in your account. As well, unless you’ve been living in a cave, the programs are splitting up in 2020, although I wouldn’t panic.

Additional Reading: Will I Still Be Collecting Aeroplan Miles?

Short of being top-tier, I don’t find anything less than Super Elite significantly valuable, so I’m going to focus on that in this post.

Earning Air Canada Elite Status

To earn Super Elite status, you must fly either 100,000 miles or 95 segments on qualifying tickets. As well, there is a revenue requirement of $20,000 CAD, which is halved for non-Canadian residents. These requirements are per calendar year.

Air Canada Altitude Elite Status Qualification

Air Canada Altitude Elite Status Qualification

 

Many would say that Air Canada has been very tough on lower value passengers. I would agree with them.  It is impossible to achieve top tier without meeting the revenue requirement, which must be from tickets issued on Air Canada stock or certain Air Canada flights.

The US carriers with revenue requirements, which are United, American, and Delta, all have methods to waive the required revenue through co-branded credit cards. Since Air Canada can’t issue points earning cards due to the Aeroplan contract, for most point collectors getting Super Elite status is out of the question.

Benefits of Air Canada Altitude Elite Status

Here are the main benefits on flights:

  • Priority

Baggage, boarding, check-in, reservations, waitlists, security, you name it – Super Elite gets you all of those. Even when choosing your meal onboard.

  • E-upgrade credits

These can be used only on Air Canada flights, on mid-tier fares. Lower class fares and award tickets require a steep co-pay.

  • Star Alliance Gold Status

This gives you reciprocal benefits on all other twenty-something Star Alliance carriers, including lounge access, baggage, and priority benefits

  • Access to Concierges

Some concierges are probably the best employees at Air Canada. They are invaluable for issues that happen with flights – delays, tight connections, bags, lost items, and so on. They’re available to passengers on international business class, but only Super Elites have 24 hour phone access and can use them on domestic and transborder itineraries.

The benefits with earning and redeeming miles are weaker, but there are two very valuable items:

  • Fuel Surcharge waiver on Air Canada flights

The taxes and fees with redemptions on Air Canada can run upwards of a thousand dollars, so if you want that direct flight, you can save a lot.

Air Canada Fuel Surcharge

Air Canada Fuel Surcharge

  • IKK Priority Rewards

Priority rewards allow redeeming for any unsold economy class seat and any business class flights which have upgrade availability, for the same costs as any other redemption. Super Elites are permitted ten of these per year. This is invaluable if you want direct flights or there’s just no award availability at all.

This is extremely useful on something like Vancouver to Toronto three months out. There might be one or two flights available in I class, but upgrade space (R) will be much more plentiful – which means you can IKK an award.

Air Canada Altitude IKK Priority Rewards

Air Canada Altitude IKK Priority Rewards

Emulating Super Elite as a Points Collector

Since the majority of my flights are award redemptions in business or first class, e-upgrades, baggage, lounge access, and boarding aren’t an issue. I can’t really place a value on meal priority, other than the feeling that you’re better than others. It’s also easy to get free bags and priority boarding through credit cards and other airlines offering easier routes to status.

I fly business class

I fly business class check out the covfefe I have

Vancouver has excellent international connectivity, so I’ve never been stuck on flying Air Canada. That’d happen if I lived in a city like Saskatoon, but I don’t thankfully (sorry Saskatoon). I also don’t much travel within Canada, and even less so on paid tickets, so a lot of the benefits that you would get as a Super Elite I’m not really missing out on.

Concierge access is available if you have an international business class ticket, although I hear from friends that they are very useful in IRROPS and domestic/transborder flights and much better than the average call center agent.

Air Canada Altitude in the Future

What’s going to be most interesting in the coming years, is that right now, Air Canada doesn’t like low value customers, in my opinion. They’ve reduced benefits these customers get, which might be fine as an airline and an elite program.

However, with a loyalty program, there are going to be a lot of low-value customers who just get one credit card or accrue the occasional activity. But that’s not how this sphere works.

Co-Branded Cards

Co-Branded Cards

Since they are taking back their loyalty program, they have to realize that revenue generators of these programs are largely from financial issuers with partner or co-branded credit cards. If you’re program isn’t as good as everyone else’s, you’re just going to lose market share.

If your program has something consumers see as unfair, or pull a switcheroo on any aspect of the program, the reputation of your program will tank. Just look at Air Miles.

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Comments

  1. I’ve been an SE for a couple of years, and have noticed that since a year ago, I have not been given meal priorities. Not a big deal, as you say, but in one case, I have had my meal of choice run out. I’ve been thinking on if I should maintain my SE status or not, and have started experiments to see what my flight experience would be without SE. Records up to now indicate that life without SE (but with Altitude 50k or 75k) is absolutely ok.

    • Meal priority? Ha! Never seen it and have been an SE for a few years as well.. My meal choice ran out in Business and was told “tough cookie”

      Only true benefits I found was not paying the e-upgrade fee for long haul and the priority rewards. Super helpful

  2. For $20,000 threshold a year to achieve before anyone is qualified is absolutely not worth it as benefits are getting less and less.

  3. I’ve had SE the last couple of years and IKK is nice but I probably won’t miss it until I don’t have it (I won’t requalify this year). I have had almost ZERO involuntary upgrades. About 5 years ago when I was an SE for 2 years I had lots of them but the last 2 years maybe only 2 or 3 in that span.

    However, the Concierge service is just fantastic! If I ever need to switch flights, miss a connection, or even change a Tango flight usually without the fee they are always there – it’s a huge help and I’ll certainly miss it.

  4. As a 30 year veteran of Aeroplan, a decades long Super Elite and a Million Mile’r with AC I speak from experience. I also am quite familiar with other airline programs. Super Elite on AC is not worth the effort. The Aeroplan program is poorer than most other international airlines. Not only does the program not offer ways to do common things, like use your miles to upgrade, the Altitude website is buggy, takes forever to get your credits and often is wrong – forcing you into long battles with AC to fix it. It is a mess of a program with poor benefits. To make matters worse, Aeroplan is being discontinued so even though you accumulate miles – from now until 2020 you are wasting your time with Aeroplan.

    Loyalty on AC does not get you much, don’t bother.

    As for this blog, sounds to me like a paid puff-piece from Air Canada.

      • I’m open to a good sparing, ok, my comment on being paid by AC was unfair, but I stand behind my other comments. AC super elite is not as good as top tier on KLM/Flying Blue and BA in my opinion. My biggest complaint, and what I value most, is upgrades – AC have degraded the upgrade program a lot in recent years, it is hard to earn more eupgrade credits, you still have to pay with the upgrade (unless you are SE) and upgrades are rarely available on many routes. The fact is, AC keep reducing the benefits and making rewards more and more difficult every year – not only for the middle tiers, but for their best clients as well. It simply does not pay to be loyal anymore.

        • It depends on what you look at. I’m not sure about the European programs, but I would assume the AC has a better upgrade program (and with no co-pays) on paid tickets. AC upgrades are also still pretty good on Latitude and flight passes. And, AC concierges can be tremendous value, depending on which city you live in. IKK can also be extremely valuable, i.e. 4 pax IKK YYZ LHR during peak time. Obviously, earning and redeeming miles won’t be as smooth – but that’s simply cuz of the current Aimia AC situation.

          • My thoughts on this…

            1) “AC upgrades are good on Latitude fare” – to Europe that is a $2500 ticket in Y, often more expensive than Premium Y – so ya, I would expect to only have to use a few eup-credits on an upgrade. The reality is most people are constrained to Tango or Flex fares and they take a ton of points to upgrade – result is very few upgrades. And it gets less every year in the last 5 years – every year AC takes something away in the race with other airlines to offer the crappiest and cheapest service. Why doesn’t AC allow me to buy upgrades with AP points – almost all airlines allow for this?

            2) Concierge – sure, as a SE I can call the concierge number and get faster service – but all airlines offer that for their top tier clients. I see nothing special about this. I expect to be front of the line when I spend more per year than 98% of the other fliers.

            3) As for IKK, I agree that has some value, but if I redeem for flights I tend to go for J. And as an SE that means there has to be R space available, and often there is not. If you are not SE, forget it.

            As for AP and AC – what a mess, AC totally bollocks the communication on that and AP did no better. The long time feud between Aimia and AC management has cost AC FF’s plenty. Right now we sit in limbo, accumulating into a plan that is certainly doomed to complete failure in a few years. (70% of Aimia revenue is linked to AP) There is nothing good to say about this situation other than “wait, maybe it will be better” – I’ll wager it will not be better. Nothing with AC gets better.

            Ya, it’s like that.

          • 1) flight passes. Being stuck with flex or tango is a problem with your company travel policy, not acs or mine. If I was to qualify on SE, all my flights would be long haul business during a sale with some flight pass and transcons thrown in. Upgrades with points, baring BA, aren’t very good with most other airlines anyways.

            2) I’ve talked to a lot of US legacy “top-tier elite desk agents” and no way you can compare that to a concierge.

            3) That’s exactly why SE (and their IKK) is so useful.

            I’m not saying it’s going to be better. But as an SE right now, it’s pretty damn good barring upgrades with points and the disconnect.

          • Oh come on, not many people or companies pay full Y fares unless necessary, so it is not a reasonable comparison point. I’ve worked in several companies and none of them, big or small, pay full Y.

            I think I see the problem in our comparisons, it is the reference point. You are using, as your benchmark, the world’s crappiest airlines – United, Delta, American, so yes, you are right. AC is marginally better than the world’s crappiest airlines. Woohoo!

            I’m a long haul traveler, my comparison point is BA, KLM, even Lufthansa, and I would not even suggest comparing to Emirates, Singapore Airlines, etc.Compared to those, AC and their top-tier does not compare. I guess I would like to see AC aspire to more, but then again, my expectations are probably unrealistic.

            Good topic for your next blog!

          • Yep, you’re totally right. For me, status is primarily useful where US elites get complimentary upgrades (i.e. continental North America, Mexico, Caribbean). Otherwise, why would I need status if I can fly pretty much any first and business class product on points? 🙂

  5. Not to defend Air Canada, but they don’t own or run the programme. I’m as frustrated as anyone else at times, especially the $500 “surcharge” for Business Class upgrades. But let’s lash out at Aimia, not Air Canada for programme degredation over the years. Perhaps AC’s plan to bring it back in house is directly related to this. People continually blame AC for Aeroplan defciencies, and they have no control over how its run.

  6. I’ve been SE100k for a couple years running. I’m not going to renew. Fly a lot for business but when decided to use some eupgrades for a family trip on my own dime was stinged with a $750 surcharge per tix to use my eupgrades and get the wife/me into business. AC is out of touch. I fly business for work and want to use the eupgrades for personal trips. I presume others are in the same boat. All I can do is move to a different airline and advise others against falling for the SE sales pitch. PS… was particularly upset that I bought an L class ticket on the understanding I could eupgrade, then a month later the rules changed and I needed to pay a surcharge. Hopefully someone at AC reads this but think this is off into the ether. I’m currently sat in the newly renovated lounge in YVR which on a positive note looks a lot better. MK.

  7. As a SE and Million Mile Customer I am finally being pushed to look at other air lines as I don’t meet the $20,000 Bench Mark. Other Air Lines are now offering me much better deals to get my business by means of Matching my today status if I switch, 1/2 the flights to make my equal status plus— And heres the big one— As a Million Miler, I have 50K status for the rest of my life so why stay with AC if other Companies are offering what they are????? The point that hurts is —- AC doesn’t seem to care about the past so why do I feel guilty changing?

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