Supplementary Payment For Upgrades Introduced by Air Canada Altitude; Other Major Changes Announced

A Boeing 767-300ER aircraft to operate as Air Canada flight 888 to London Heathrow Airport rests at the gate in Ottawa. Photograph by FlyerTalk member AndrewE. Click on the photograph for a trip report written by AndrewE.

As if its frequent flier loyalty program was not already complicated enough, Air Canada has introduced more changes to Altitude — including eUpgrade Add-ons and more Altitude qualifying miles with many airfares.
In addition to the required number of eUpgrade Credits which will apply, the eUpgrade Add-ons are a supplementary payment to be imposed upon certain members of the Altitude frequent flier loyalty program as of March of 2014, as illustrated in the chart below:

  • eUpgrade Add-ons will apply for Prestige 25K, Elite 35K, Elite 50K and Elite 75K members of the Altitude frequent flier loyalty program. Add-ons will also apply to the upgraded travel companions of members who hold one of those Altitude status levels. Add-ons will not apply for Super Elite 100K members or their companions.
  • eUpgrade Add-ons will apply only for travel on long-haul, international flights. Specifically, add-ons are applicable for travel between Canada and Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and South America. Add-ons will not apply for travel within North America, including Sun destinations.
  • eUpgrade Add-ons will apply to upgrades from Flex fares. Add-ons will not apply to upgrades from Latitude or Premium Economy fares.
  • eUpgrade Add-ons will not change how you request an upgrade. You will continue to be able to request an upgrade at the official Internet web site of Air Canada, through Air Canada reservations, or with an agent at the airport. Where applicable, however, you will be required to provide a credit card in order to pay for the add-on. Note that the credit card will only be charged if your upgrade is successful, and all charges will be processed in Canadian dollars.
  • eUpgrade Add-ons will vary by market. The rate you pay will include any applicable taxes, and will be priced as follows:
    • Between Canada and Europe, the Middle East and South America: $500.00
    • Between Canada and Asia and Australia: $750.00

According to FlyerTalk member and official company representative Air Canada Altitude, the introduction of eUpgrade Add-ons are “to preserve the sustainability of the eUpgrade benefit on overseas International flights.”
Also beginning in March 2014, a few additional changes to eUpgrades will take effect:

  • The eUpgrade Travel Companion benefit will be expanded, and will replace eUpgrade Nominees. On the day of departure, all Altitude frequent flier loyalty program members will now be able to upgrade one companion who is not traveling on the same reservation, as long as both you and the companion are traveling on the same flight. This will supposedly give you more flexibility when upgrading companions who may not be traveling on the same reservation as you.
  • Altitude Super Elite 100K members will retain two eUpgrade nominees. This will be in addition to the new expanded travel companion benefit.
  • eUpgrades with Aeroplan ClassicFlight Rewards will no longer be available. This benefit, currently exclusive to Super Elite 100K members, will be removed.

There does seem to be some good news, however: by allowing all members of the Altitude frequent flier loyalty program to earn Altitude Qualifying Miles with all Air Canada fares — and more Altitude Qualifying Miles on premium fares — you will supposedly reach a higher elite status even faster than ever effective immediately, as shown below:

  • Earn 25 percent Altitude Qualifying Miles when you purchase a Tango fare for travel within Canada on flights operated by Air Canada and Air Canada Express. Tango fares for travel across all other markets will remain at 50 percent Altitude Qualifying Miles.
  • Earn 125 percent Altitude Qualifying Miles when you purchase a Latitude or Premium Economy fare on all flights operated by Air Canada and Air Canada Express across our network.
  • Earn 150 percent Altitude Qualifying Miles when you purchase an Executive First or Executive Class fare on all flights operated by Air Canada and Air Canada Express across our network.
  • Earn Altitude Qualifying Miles when you purchase any fare – including Tango fares, which previously earned non-qualifying Aeroplan Miles – on flights operated by Air Canada rouge.

This change will apply to all reservations, regardless of booking date.
FlyerTalk members appear to be virtually unanimously in an uproar — using words such as disgusted, insulting, unethical, terrible and betrayed to express their feelings — as they consider this latest announcement as yet another devaluation, with many threatening to leave the Air Canada Altitude frequent flier loyalty program altogether.
“From 4 to 2 nominees for SE?” asks FlyerTalk member acysb87. “I always choose Mrs.acysb87 first and generally one “set” of young adult family. Now I have to choose, disappointing”
FlyerTalk member gglave states that there is “no surprise here, but what is VERY annoying is the insufficient notice. If this policy was planned for March 2014, then it should have been announced in the fall of 2012. That way we could have decided where to direct our 2013 ticket purchases, either with AC or with another carrier / alliance.”
“Ah, the infamous co-pay. Twice”, posts FlyerTalk member KenHamer. “Notwithstanding that Air Canada has often claimed, incorrectly, that they don’t have a co-pay, they really did. The difference was that on other airlines you could request the upgrade and then only pay the co-pay when the upgrade cleared. With Air Canada you needed to pay the co-pay up front (in the form of much higher Tango+/Flex fares) and all you got was the risk of an upgrade. Now you need to pay the non-refundable, up-front co-pay, regardless of whether or not you get an upgrade, and then pay another co-pay if the upgrade clears. Ta-da! The Double Co-Pay!”
At least one Altitude Super Elite frequent flier loyalty program member — FlyerTalk member jarusoba — applauds the announcement: “Awesome changes! Bravo!”
As I stated here, I cannot help but think that Air Canada is striving to have the most confusing loyalty program for frequent fliers — and this latest announcement only exacerbates the confusion, rendering an already overly-complex frequent flier loyalty program to be even more unnecessarily complex. What appears to be a decrease in trust by its frequent flier loyalty program members does not exactly help Altitude.
My head is still spinning. I feel like George over at TravelBloggerBuzz. Air Canada, please stop this madness of excessively tinkering with your frequent flier loyalty program — and throwing in what are perceived to be significant devaluations in the process.
You want to improve Altitude, Air Canada? Simplify it. Period.

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