Air Canada to Gain Altitude in 2013

Altitude — the new name for the Top Tier frequent flier loyalty program of Air Canada — becomes effective as of March 1, 2013.
According to FlyerTalk member Air Canada Top Tier — who also officially represents Air Canada on FlyerTalk — Air Canada Altitude will feature two new elite status levels versus the 2012 Air Canada Top Tier frequent flier loyalty program, and it has been redesigned to supposedly better recognize and reward customers of Air Canada in line with their travel frequency. The elite status levels are as follows:

  • Altitude Prestige 25K 25,000 Status Miles or 25 Status Segments
  • Altitude Elite 35K 35,000 Status Miles or 35 Status Segments
  • Altitude Elite 50K 50,000 Status Miles or 50 Status Segments
  • Altitude Elite 75K 75,000 Status Miles or 75 Status Segments
  • Altitude Super Elite 100K 100,000 Status Miles or 95 Status Segments

Be aware that — as part of the status mile or status flight segment qualification — a minimum of 10,000 status miles or five status flight segments must be earned on eligible flights operated by Air Canada or Air Canada Express. Status miles earned through the purchase of an Unlimited Flight Pass also count towards the minimum flight requirement.
The following is a timeline of events leading up to the official launch of the Air Canada Altitude frequent flier loyalty program:

Below is a summary of some of the most significant additions and changes of which to take note:

  • eUpgrade Credits Four eUpgrade Credits will be required with most Tango Plus airfares for members traveling on journeys fewer than 500 miles. Those members who fly on international journeys over 11,000 miles will be charged a larger number of eUpgrade Credits.
  • New airfares eligible for an upgrade Elite 75K and Super Elite 100K members will be eligible to upgrade a booking from Air Canada Vacations for the flight segment departing from or destined to Sun destinations such as within Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America. Additionally, Super Elite 100K members will be able to upgrade an Aeroplan Classic Flight Reward for travel within North America.
  • Maple Leaf Lounge access The bad news for Elite 35K members is that they will no longer have access to Maple Leaf Lounges located in the international departures zone of London Heathrow, Montreal, Toronto, Paris and Vancouver, as well as the London Heathrow Arrivals Lounge. Elite 35K members can secure access to these lounges when they choose Star Alliance Lounge access or Maple Leaf Lounge Guest Passes as part of their Select Privileges — and they will still have complimentary access to all Maple Leaf Lounges located in the domestic and trans-border departure zones of Canadian airports, along with those located in Los Angeles and LaGuardia Airport in New York.
  • Status recognition with partners Priority travel services and rewards when flying with the Star Alliance member airlines will extend to certain hotel and car rental partners in 2013. This could mean bonus miles, a fast-track offer to a higher status — or even a complimentary status match, depending on the Altitude status you reach.
  • Preferred Seats Elite 75K members will enjoy complimentary access to preferred seats when traveling on any Tango Plus or Latitude airfare starting in 2013, while Super Elite 100K members will have access to preferred seats with any airfare. Elite 35K and Elite 50K members will retain complimentary access to the forward bulkhead preferred seats.
  • Threshold Gifts Super Elite 100K members will continue to have access to the Threshold Gift program — as well as Elite 50K and Elite 75K members at the 60,000 Status Mile and 90,000 Status Mile thresholds, respectively. Gifts will include bonus miles, gift cards, travel incentives and more.
  • Aeroplan Flight Reward change fee waiver Super Elite 100K members will no longer pay the $90.00 change fee for the first change made on an Aeroplan reservation, including Classic and ClassicPlus Flight Rewards — except for when a reservation is fully cancelled and miles are refunded to your account.
  • Checked baggage allowance While complimentary checked baggage allowance for Altitude members will remain unchanged, when special equipment such as bikes and surfboards is checked as part of your complimentary checked baggage allowance starting in 2013, the handling fees will be waived for all Altitude members.
  • Altitude Elite 50K for a friend Super Elite 100K members will have the option to choose this benefit as a Select Privilege starting in 2013.

Air Canada Altitude members will benefit from the partnership Air Canada has with the Aeroplan program, and will still be Aeroplan members. Air Canada Altitude is designed to recognize the most frequent flyers of Air Canada with a range of priority travel services. Aeroplan offers a wide range of ways to earn and redeem Aeroplan miles with greater than 150 partners. The status miles earned on eligible flights with Air Canada and the Star Alliance member airlines — which count towards Air Canada Altitude status — are also redeemable Aeroplan miles.
Air Canada Altitude members can choose from three “bundles” of select privileges, in addition to the travel benefits they will already receive. This appears to be a nice feature which gives some choice as to what Altitude frequent flier loyalty program members want, but can it be limiting as well — similar to purchasing a car where you can only receive certain benefits as part of a bundled package?
Certain FlyerTalk members are not happy with the announced changes, as not only will Elite 35K members no longer have access to certain Maple Leaf Lounges, but they also will no longer be eligible for Star Alliance Gold elite status and the benefits it confers, such as an extra allowance for baggage. Effectively, 50,000 frequent flier loyalty program miles are required to earn elite status which formerly required 35,000 frequent flier loyalty program miles. On the other hand, FlyerTalk members who fly as passengers of Air Canada frequently enough to reach the top tier appear to support the changes as they will supposedly receive increased benefits, arguing that they have earned them.
The amazing part of this announcement is that there are even more details to come pertaining to the Air Canada Altitude frequent flier loyalty program — such as improved recognition for Million Mile members.
Do you agree that the changes — especially at the new Elite 35K status level — will pare down the number of frequent flier loyalty program members and help Altitude become more manageable for Air Canada, or does Air Canada merely have an attitude about Altitude when it comes to its mid-tier frequent flier loyalty program members? Has Air Canada created a winner with its Altitude frequent flier loyalty program — or is it simply too bloated and confusing?
What do you think?

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