I believe the Most Devalued Airline Frequent Flyer Program in North America award goes to Air Canada and Aeroplan.
I do caveat this, I am very specific in the title of the award.
- Airline frequent flyer program so the March 28 bloodletting at Hilton HHonors doesn’t count. (Nor does the introduction of category 7 awards at Starwood, although that was a specific devaluation and meanwhile the program has improved elite benefits.)
- North American programs, so LatinPass which first tried to make members earn back their existing point balances and then changed from being a frequent flyer program to an online shopping program doesn’t count.
- Devaluation isn’t the same as “going out of business” so while I lost all value from my Mexicana Frecuenta miles I don’t really think that airline’s shutting down is really a frequent flyer program devaluation.
With those caveats in place, I believe the program that’s devalued the most in the past few years has to be Air Canada’s. The elite benefits are on the Air Canada side, the mileage redemptions are on the Aeroplan side (technically the frequent flyer program was spun off from the airline and is a different company). Both have hit members hard.
First there was the gutting of their award chart on July 15, 2011. For instance, my favorite award — first class to most of Asia — went from 120,000 miles to 175,000 miles (a 46% increase in one shot). Australia awards went from 75,000 to 80,000 in coach; 100,000 to 135,000 in business (35% increase), and 140,000 to 185,000 in first (32% increase).
And now they’re increasing award prices again. Remember that first class Asia award that two years ago cost 120,000 miles? It’s going up to 210,000 miles. First class to Australia? 220,000. And that’s not even the most expensive award.
But it’s not just mileage redemptions that have been hit brutally, nearly doubling in some cases plus now requiring hundreds of dollars per passenger in cash. It’s the elite program as well.
And the latest hit? The imposition of cash co-pays on elite international upgrades.
Now, they’ve offered the improvement that all paid fares are going to earn elite qualifying miles — though that’s not quite as good as it sounds, the cheapest fares will earn only 25% of flown miles.
But once you achieve your status, it’s going to be far less valuable. They’re taking away the ability for top tier elites to upgrade on award bookings, and they’re restricting the ability of elites to upgrade other passengers.
The biggest killer, though, is adding a $500 each way cash co-pay for upgrades to Europe and South America and a $750 co-pay for Asia and Australia on top of spending upgrade credits. This is waived for Air Canada’s 100,000 mile flyer Super Elites, but is a new cost for all other members.
Air Canada’s frequent flyer program was — just over two years ago — among the best in the world. But its members have just gotten consistently hammered. And you have to feel bad, because our Northern neighbors are just so darned friendly. They don’t deserve this, eh?
(HT: Chris R.)