Aeroplan Adds Distinction to Frequent Flier Recognition

A Boeing 767-333ER aircraft operated by Air Canada — with the door to its cargo bay open — awaits its passengers at a gate at Heathrow Airport in London in 2011. Photograph by FlyerTalk member Weean. Click on the photograph for a trip report written by Weean.

Distinction is a new tiered recognition program to be launched by the Aeroplan frequent flier loyalty program on January 1, 2014 which will “reward top accumulating members with three levels of exclusive flight reward benefits, bonus mile offers, preferential treatment, and privileges.”
The three levels of Distinction include the following, as shown on the chart below:

Additionally, the ClassicPlus Flight Rewards will be replaced by Market Fare Flight Rewards, which will require up to 20 percent fewer Aeroplan frequent flier loyalty program miles than current ClassicPlus Flight Rewards. If you are a Distinction member, you will enjoy a discount of up to an additional 35 percent off.
Market Fare Flight Rewards will supposedly “offer you greater availability on flights operated by Air Canada and under the Air Canada Express banner at variable mileage levels, which are derived from market fares at the time of booking and the conversion of these fares into mileage levels. Mileage levels are influenced by factors that fluctuate including destination, time of booking, time of travel, demand, and conversion of fares into miles.
In other words, it sounds to me as though Market Fare Flight Rewards will be nearly impossible to predict — but I could be wrong.
You can also enjoy limited-time “surprise” deals on certain flights, offering you even lower mileage levels than ClassicFlight Rewards.
If you were hoping that the reduced mileage levels on Market Fare Flight Rewards will have an impact on the amount of taxes and surcharges which apply, think again: they will not.
The policy where your Aeroplan frequent flier loyalty program miles expire after seven years will be eliminated as long as you keep your account active — meaning that “you have one accumulation or redemption activity every 12 months.” Activity includes the following, which should not be difficult to do one per year to keep your Aeroplan frequent flier loyalty program miles from expiring:
  • Accumulate Aeroplan frequent flier loyalty program miles through greater than 75 partners representing greater than 150 partner brands with examples such as the following:
    • Fill up your car at Esso stations
    • Buy your hardware at Home Hardware
    • Fly with Air Canada or Star Alliance carriers
    • Pay with your Aeroplan-affiliated credit card
  • Redeem your Aeroplan frequent flier loyalty program miles for an array of flight rewards or non-air rewards
  • Donate your Aeroplan frequent flier loyalty program miles to one of the Beyond Miles charities
  • Transfer your Aeroplan frequent flier loyalty program miles to another member

 
There are significant increases in the redemption of Aeroplan frequent flier loyalty program miles to select regions in business class and first class, as shown on the chart to the left.
However, the good news is that you will only need to redeem half of the Aeroplan frequent flier loyalty program miles required for a round trip reward if you are only traveling one way — a reduction from the 67 percent currently required for a one-way trip with the ClassicFlight rewards redemption option.
Your eligible miles since January 1, 2013 have been tracked, and you still have until the end of this year to qualify for Distinction status in 2014. Some FlyerTalk members are already checking on what Distinction status they have earned, if any.
While there seem to initially be some positive changes which have been announced, I cannot help but think that Air Canada is striving to have the most confusing loyalty program for frequent fliers. For example, some FlyerTalk members initially wondered whether or not Distinction is replacing Aeroplan, when in fact Aeroplan is the entity under which Distinction will be launched…
…and let us not forget the launch of Altitude — the frequent flier loyalty program of Air Canada — earlier this year. Air Canada Altitude benefits remain intact, as Distinction will supposedly supplement those benefits with additional benefits such as:

  • Exclusive flight reward benefits
    • Reduced mileage levels on Market Fare Flight Rewards
    • Distinction Flights
  • Bonus Aeroplan frequent flier loyalty program mile offers
    • Air Canada Getaway Bonus
    • Bonuses on hotel stays for dBlack and dDiamond members
    • Bonuses with Aeroplan eStore
  • Preferential treatment and privileges
    • Contact Centre call priority for dDiamond members
    • Privileges and limited‐time offers

 
Here is how the difference between Distinction and Altitude are officially defined:

“Distinction is an Aeroplan recognition program and Distinction members qualify for status by accumulating eligible miles with all Aeroplan Partners. Altitude is designed to recognize Air Canada’s most frequent flyers, and Altitude members reach status by accumulating Altitude Qualifying Miles (AQM) or Altitude Qualifying Segments (AQS) on eligible flights operated by Air Canada and the Star Alliance member airlines.”

Members of Air Canada Altitude do not automatically qualify for Distinction status:

“You need to qualify for Distinction and Air Canada Altitude based on different criteria. Altitude is a frequent flyer recognition program offered by Air Canada, and Altitude members reach status by accumulating Altitude Qualifying Miles (AQM) and Altitude Qualifying Segments (AQS) on eligible flights operated by Air Canada and the Star Alliance member airlines. Distinction is an Aeroplan recognition program and Distinction members qualify for status by accumulating eligible miles with all Aeroplan Partners, including Air Canada.”

Not all Aeroplan frequent flier loyalty program miles are eligible for Distinction status: Financial Card Welcome Bonus; bonus miles received as a benefit of Air Canada Altitude status or Aeroplan Distinction bonus miles; miles accumulated through conversion from other programs or transfers between member accounts; top‐up miles; contest prizes; and reinstated miles are not eligible towards earning Distinction status.
FlyerTalk members are already calling Distinction extinction, and are generally not positively receptive to the announcement of Distinction, along with the other changes which have been announced.
What are your thoughts about Distinction status to be offered by Aeroplan?

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