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.
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.
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:
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.