I haven’t yet verified this myself, but via Matthew Klint, Aeroplan has a new devaluation (on top of the pretty brutal changes to their award chart in July).
Aeroplan will no longer book domestic (and US-Canada transborder) first class seats as part of an international business class award. If you include domestic first class, they will price the whole award as first class.
Most airlines will include domestic first class on a business class award. There are exceptions. British Midland treats first class as first class, business class as business class, even when the flight is just an hour-long ‘first class’ seat on a United Express regional jet. That’s how Aeroplan appears to be proceeding, as a way of cutting costs on their redemptions according to the memo that an Aeroplan supervisor read to Matthew.
It’s absolute silliness that United, US Airways, and Air China call their domestic two-class premium products ‘first class’ rather than business class. (The Aeroplan rule would apply to Air China domestic flights as well.) If they called the cabin business class, it wouldn’t be an issue, the seats would be included in an international business class award.
Continental, of course, calls their front cabin first class on domestic flights. But Continental loads their reward inventory as “I” class which is Star Alliance parlance for award business class. And that means you can include a domestic Continental flight in the forward cabin inside the US or between the US and Canada in an Aeroplan international business class award, without paying a mileage premium, despite naming the cabin ‘First’.
It will be interesting to see whether, once United and Continental combine, the two airlines code their award inventory for the forward domestic cabin as I (business class award) or O (first class award). If as in most things United follows Continental’s lead, we’d be left in the rather bizarre situation where only the front cabins of US Airways and Air China cost more points.
Now, this situation exists in other alliances as well, because American Airlines calls their front cabin first class. I’ve had mixed experiences using British Airways miles on these flights — BA will sometimes allow me to include a domestic first class segment on American Airlines on an international business class awards, and sometimes they will insist that including such a segment forces a first class award price. But then most things with BA telephone agents are ‘your mileage may vary’.
What’s interesting here is both that Aeroplan miles become less valuable on international business class awards, but also that they’re making the change, they just bumped up many of their better value awards and are now tightening their rules. Of course, these rules aren’t published anywhere online which makes it even easier for them to do, they don’t publish their routing rules which permit an open jaw and a stopover or two stopovers on international awards, nor their willingness to exceed published ‘maximum permitted mileage’ by 5% either.
When booking a segment to get to or from an international gateway, as part of a business class award, it’s now desirable when possible to do the segment on Continental. Air Canada calls its front cabin business class, so that’s includable in a business class award, but of course Aeroplan adds fuel surcharges to Air Canada flights (and one of the really strange things about Aeroplan is that they add surcharges only to Air Canada flights, so it’s less expensive to book rewards on partners than on the airline most associated with the mileage program).