Air Canada Launches Mileage Sales And Bidding For Upgrades At An Unusual Time

You won’t expect to see a lot of new features launching with airlines or hotel companies right now. Technology investment – indeed, any investment of any kind, will largely be on the back burner. But projects that are well underway may be completed. And projects that are almost done?

Air Canada just launched two new Aeroplan features.

  • Mileage sales. Aeroplan only used to offer purchase of miles in conjunction with redeeming for an award, not they’ll sell miles (using on a standalone basis and offer gifting as well. Regular price is 3 Canadian cents per mile.

  • Bidding for upgrades. This is a PlusGrade implementation where you bid for available business class seats. Worth always checking customer experiences online to see what prices are frequently accepted – once people start traveling again and have experiences.

    American Express, by the way, generally lets you use points at a penny apiece towards PlusGrade upgrades.

Copyright: ronniechua / 123RF Stock Photo

There’s not a lot of use bidding for upgrades today for most folks, though remaining Air Canada flights if you’re traveling may have seats available. In the future this will be a more useful feature.

Selling miles makes a ton of sense and it’s really strange that it wasn’t something Aeroplan had done. It doesn’t make any sense buying at regular price.

What Air Canada – and every other airline – should be doing now is offering miles for sale at a deep discount.

  1. It is cash now, obligation to redeem later (in most cases, after the crisis ends). That’s at worst an interest-free loan

  2. They control the cost of redemption, but anything over a penny is gravy even leaving cash flow issues aside.

  3. There’s less risk now than usual. Often the concern is people buying for immediate high cost redemption. That’s not going to be how miles purchased now are used.

It’ll take low prices to generate consumer interest, and many members may be concerned about their airline’s future. For most large carriers I’m confident in the mileage programs even in the event of an airline bankruptcy.

Having the feature is necessary to discount it, so that’s great for Air Canada. But where are American, United, Delta, and others right now? They need to be making the mileage printing press go brrr.

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. Gary, you forgot the KEY reason not to buy any Air Canada/Aeroplan points: their program is scheduled to be revamped this summer, now that Air Canada has re-acquired Aeroplan.

    NO ONE knows what the new program will look like. So, why buy miles when you don’t know the redemption value at time of purchase?

  2. Is it true that Turkish is offering refunds in miles at one cent a mile? If so, that would certainly be a win/win scenario.

  3. Maybe I misinterpreted this story but I’d imagine airlines would love to sell miles right now. It is cash now for a promise of something later. And later they can always devalue the miles. So basically it is getting a $1 now in return for giving back less than a dollar later.

    Why you think all these companies are pushing gift cards? They want cash now and maybe you’ll get something later, assuming the company still is around later.

  4. Purchase airmiles? TERRIBLE suggestion Gary!!!!!
    Airlines can…and have devalued their airmiles programs OVERNIGHT. Just look back two years ago to Qatar Airways with a near 40% devaluation overnight.

  5. Doesn’t seem that odd to me that they launched upgrade bidding…as you note, the project was likely very far along, and this is actually a rare opportunity to thoroughly test and roll-out an IT platform rather than just dumping it off systemwide. This way they can get the bugs worked out before a big scaling in volume (and low margin for error, since every dollar will count) once things start to come back.

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