Aeroplan Actually Makes You Fly Air Canada in Order to Earn Elite Status Moving Forward

Lucky notes an interesting rule change over at Air Canada for elite status qualification: at least 10,000 miles or 5 segments have to be flown on Air Canada in order to be eligible to earn status in the program.

Flying 35,000 miles earns mid-tier status and Star Alliance Gold. So for, say, a US Airways passenger who hits just 35,000 miles in a year and flies routes and times where as a Silver they’re unlikely to be upgraded often, they may be better off crediting their miles to Aeroplan. They’re a mid-tier elite, instead of a bottom-tier elite, and they receive free lounge access even for their domestic flying in the US (access to US Airways lounges, as a partner Star Alliance Gold). Not to mention access to partner lounges (like the Lufthansa lounge at Washington Dulles, and the Singapore lounge in San Francisco).

Lucky notes also that high-flying elites may credit miles to Aeroplan beyond their 100,000 qualifying miles, usually for the free lounge access. To me that’s probably not worthwhile, but some make the judgment.

And folks in these situations, that never actually fly Air Canada but accrue some benefit to their elite status from the airline, will no longer be able to do so goig forward, beginning with the 2011 program.

Lucky doesn’t quite understand the dynamics of the change.

I’m not totally sure if I understand the reasoning behind this. If anything, I would expect a non-spun off frequent flyer program to have this requirement. I guess the question is, do other airlines pay Aeroplan substantially less than Air Canada does for miles that are credited to them? Isn’t it in a way beneficial for Aeroplan to have a lot of members that don’t frequently fly with Air Canada, since (theoretically) they will redeem fewer upgrades for travel on Air Canada and use fewer of their accrued benefits? Does Aeroplan pay substantially less for lounge access to Air Canada lounges compared to partner lounges?

He gets that a program totally tied to an airline would wants its customers to fly the airline, so why would a program not so tied to the airlinec are?

I’d argue that the opposite is true. An airline which controls the mileage program cares about the mileage purchases from the program that are made by other airlines. But an airline which doesn’t control the mileage program doesn’t see the revenue benefit, but does see the costs of buying lounge access for people who aren’t really their customers.

While the Aeroplan mileage program is spun off as a separate entity, and is interested in drawing customers from all walks of life who accrue miles for activities throughout their life (since those miles are purchased from them by their partners), the airline makes money fly selling airline tickets.

But the elite program is the main area where the two programs are more in a joint venture than operating independently. So a decision to liimit access to elite levels wouldn’t have been a Grupo Aeroplan decision as such. Instead it’s something worked out in conjunction with the airline.

It’s likely because the airline is bearing costs for elite members who do not fly the airline, without accruing the benefits of those who fly other airlines (the purchase of miles by those airlines, whose revenue accrues to the separate Aeroplan program), that this sort of decision is more likely precisely because the frequent flyer progam is independent than if it hadn’t been spun off.

It does change the advice I give to the 35,000-mile flying member based in the United States who doesn’t fly Air Canada, that’s for sure. Aeroplan isn’t the easiest Star Alliance Gold out there so folks who have that as their primary interest do have other options. But Aeroplan was still a good choice for many.

The Aegean program has the lowest qualification threshold, but points earning and redemption rules aren’t as generous as Aeroplan, so if your interest is in redeeming the miles earned then Aeroplan was a good balance. The same holds true for considerations of programs like Turkish — where 40,000 miles gets you status for two years, and there’s even a lower requalification threshold after that.

There remain options besides Aeroplan for the frequent flyer outside of Canada, but it’s sad to see the demise of this one.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. You motivated me to go to the Turkish Airlines website.
    They state 40k in 12 months as per quote. Is this a change?
    To Qualify:

    Classic Plus card holders need to reach 40.000 Status Miles within 12 consecutive months in order to qualify for Elite Membership and Elite Card order is given automatically to the address that is registered in our systems. Elite Card is valid for 2 years.

  2. There goes my 2011 plan!

    So, if you’re a US-based that does elite-level domestic flying on Star AND you want to be able to top up your account with Membership Rewards points, where do you turn? ANA? This just got a whole lot more complicated!

  3. AC needs to raise 1 billion this year to deal with its debt…it looks like this is meant to drive business to their fleet…sucks but….better AC be here (i think).

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