This Morning’s Unprecedented Air Canada Deal Gives Me New Hope For Travel

We’re facing an unprecedented global pandemic, and the economic impact on the travel industry is among the more significant – although it would be irresponsible to note what this is doing to small restaurants and retailers, and commercial property owners as well. Indeed, half the drop in first quarter GDP can be attributed to the health care sector. That may seem counterintuitive consider all of the resources going into COVID-19, but everything else there has been on hold.

I haven’t been on a plane now in two months. Every destination in the world now has some form of coronavirus travel restriction. And we’re likely now in an economic depression, however one that hopefully revert to a mere recession after not too long.

And yet I’m more excited about air travel today than I have been in a long time, and it’s all because a promotion Air Canada ran became so frustrating, the incredible demand for Aeroplan’s first-ever mileage sale offer.

  • 1 cent tranche: The first 10 million miles sold receive a 115% bonus ($0.014 CAD/mile + sales tax or $0.01 USD/mile without tax)

  • 1.1 cent tranche: The next 100 million miles sold receive a 90% bonus ($0.016 CAD/mile + sales tax or $0.011 USD/mile without tax)

  • 1.3 cent tranche: After the first 110 million miles sold they’ll offer a 65% bonus ($0.018 CAD/mile + sales tax or $0.013 USD/mile without tax)

I was hitting refresh in the minutes leading up to 10 a.m. Eastern and the start of this promotion. As the clock nearly turned, the (which manages these transactions) became non-responsive. Their website would time out, and it would error out.

I hoped but didn’t expect to be able to get in at 1 cent per mile. I figured I’d get in at 1.1 cents. I wasn’t able to get through until they had already sold 110 million miles and were selling at 1.3 cents.

Now, however I regret not buying at 1.3 cents when I was able to, because Aeroplan is making good for everyone who was trying to jump on the better deals and will reward those who purchased at 1.3 cents with the extra bonus miles they’d have received (they bought at a 65% bonus but will ultimately receive 90% anyway). They tell me they are making an additional donation to charity, and:

[A]ll miles purchased between 11-12pm at the 65% bonus rate will automatically be increased to a 90% bonus. In other words, in case a customer was trying to purchase at the 90% bonus and was unable to, we are taking care of them and ensuring they get even more miles (note: the issues ended within the first hour of the sale). It will take us some time to reach-out and deposit the additional miles.

Buying even now is still a great deal and several readers took them up at 1.3 cents apiece (65% bonus) not knowing they’d make out even better in the end. This is available through Wednesday.

It’s slightly less than LifeMiles sells miles at when offering their occasional best deal, and though LifeMiles doesn’t add fuel surcharges to any partner redemptions I’d rather deal with Aeroplan than LifeMiles.

My takeaways,

  • There’s confidence in Air Canada, even during the greatest challenge any airline has ever faced. People are willing to give them money now and are betting they’ll be there for customers later.

  • People want to travel. They’ll buy 9 figures of miles in under an hour, even when the website is having trouble processing transactions.

  • Indeed we want to travel so badly we’ll prepay to do so during a global pandemic and massive economic downturn.

I’ve never had so much optimism, gleaned from fellow travelers and from Air Canada, as I do right now. Travel brands are strong, the desire to travel remains strong and this doesn’t merely rely on survey data but real travelers are putting their wallets behind the sentiment. Even if this is merely hundreds of transactions in an hour, it’s finally something to be excited about in travel too – and a sign post for others in the industry.

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. Yeah, I tried to purchase at 90% bonus, but the CC transaction timed out. Let’s see if AC reaches out .

  2. I got in on the 115% deal for 129k miles (60k miles). I had a window that I opened seconds before 10am that went blank for about five minutes before continuing to load. All other windows gave me an error. I’m happy I didn’t close the one that just went blank.

  3. Is this really a great showing of demand? They sold 110 million miles at USD$0.01 / mile, which equates to $1.1M USD of demand.

    That’s barely a drop in the bucket to prove that travel demand is still there.

  4. @Gary – Why are you looking to buy miles, even at an unusually cheap price? IIRC you said around a year ago that you were sitting on around 800K Aeroplan miles. Given your very sizable balances on assorted miles and transferable currencies, this would be dead money for some time to come and specific airline miles are a poor investment.

  5. Wow, that offer is something else! Gary, you should buy as close to 10 million miles as possible. Hurry folks – this won’t last!

  6. @ Gary — My money says that AC will be back with an even better offer later. LifeMiles (and before that US Airways and BMI) has demonstrated that their is money to be made is being a Star Alliance mileage award consolidator.

  7. Sorry to hear you were so glum – people adapt quickly – we will be back to our usual complaints sooner than you think. The Spanish flu didn’t alter transportation or public health orders much beyond the first tragic fall and a brief relapse the following year – even as it actually reappeared each year in the 20s with no vaccine or reliable treatment – just much less widespread and virulent than the first year.

    Today we have so many more avenues to severity reducing treatment and possibly vaccine.

    Thank Scott Oleary former ‘CO Insider’ for this clever Aeroplan promotion is my bet

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