A month from today, December 6, Aeroplan change fees will be adjusted for members. I haven’t written about this when it first came up, so here are my thoughts.
Aeroplan Change Fees (Prior to Dec 6, 2016)
Aeroplan has had their current fee structure for the longest time. Any changes or cancellations for tickets more than 21 days would cost 90 Canadian Dollars plus applicable tax. Tickets can’t be refunded within 21 days from departure, so the trick to cancel a ticket close-in was moving the flights to a date outside the 21 day range, then refunding. Essentially, a modification of an award today for travel far out would cost around $70 USD, while refunding a ticket close-in would be twice that.
Aeroplan Change Fees (After Dec 6, 2016)
In addition to change and refund fee amounts increasing for general members, change fees now apply per direction per travel. With a multi-city reward, the maximum amount would be $200 for general members and $150 for Diamond status members. All fees will now be lower for Aeroplan Distinction top-tier Diamond members.
My Thoughts on these Aeroplan Change Fees
To summarize my thoughts in a couple words, I think these changes were long due.
I’ve always said Aeroplan would be closest to a US legacy carrier frequent flyer program. Thus, it makes sense that they’re adding tiers of fees for elite members. If we look at United, the fee for cancelling your trip and sending the miles back to your account is $125 USD for members with no status, and absolutely free for top-tier 1K members.
Nobody likes changes where fees are increasing, but in comparison, Aeroplan’s change fees are very reasonable for general members.
There are various other factors to consider. Aeroplan was spun off from Air Canada, so frequent flyers such as Air Canada top-tier Super Elites don’t even get free changes or cancellations on Aeroplan awards.
The other thing is that there really isn’t much competition in the market. Looking at LoyaltyOne’s Air Miles program, their Flight Reward Terms and Conditions read:
There are no cancellations or refunds permitted on tickets once booked. Changes to flights may be permitted, restrictions may apply and are subject to applicable fees.
Air Miles doesn’t have access to any award inventory and are just bulk buying flights with partner like a consolidator, so it makes sense that this is their change and cancellation policy. However, Air Miles in Canada is the other brand that the average consumer hears about along with Aeroplan when asked for the top 2 most recognizable programs, if that’s Aeroplan’s competition…
The change in award chart fees makes Distinction status much more valuable. Previously, benefits which were marginal at best – an extra point on the mileage portal, larger discounts on Market Fares – however, now, there’s real tangible cash to be saved. The rationale is that Aeroplan wants you to be spending money credit cards such as their cobrand TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite, and not transferring points to Aeroplan from other currencies like Membership Rewards or SPG.
Aeroplan Distinction Diamond is achievable with 100,000 “status miles.” Exclusions include financial card sign-up bonus miles and miles accumulated through conversion among others, so it’s not as simple as just transferring 100,000 AMEX points. But most people spend tens of thousands of dollars on credit cards (and at merchants which don’t take American Express) so just selecting how you spend your dollars brings you so much closer.
At the end of the day, I personally don’t really care. If you’re in the know, it’s pretty easy to get call center priority, fuel surcharge free travel on Air Canada, among other benefits. It’s all about who you know. I’ve made at most 3 or 4 changes, all within several days of departure. They’ve all been one way, so I actually will come out not too bad with the changes. I’m really looking forward to the really cheap $30 online cancellation of tickets, as that’ll make it a lot easier to make speculative bookings.