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Aeroplan continues to expand and grow as Canada’s leading frequent flyer program

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on June 14, 2023

Scott O’Leary, Vice President of Loyalty, discusses recent announcements

Aeroplan is the frequent flyer program operated by Air Canada, the flag carrier of Canada.  The Aeroplan name is integrally linked with the history of customer loyalty in Canada and the business that is Aeroplan has journeyed through several progressions over the past 20+ years.

Air Canada originally created Aeroplan in 1984 and operated it until a spin-off in 2002. Later, Aeroplan rebranded as a separate business under the Aimia name. Then, in 2018, while that business took a slightly different direction, Air Canada, along with TD, CIBC, and Visa, agreed to acquire Aeroplan back from Aimia. Air Canada announced plans to launch a new loyalty program to replace the Aeroplan program in 2020.

Back together again, Air Canada has expanded Aeroplan to include a set of partners who collectively offer a rich value proposition for consumers whether they fly often or patronize the growing group of retail and daily spend partners. After reading the series of announcements from Aeroplan, The Wise Marketer connected with Scott O’Leary, Vice President of Loyalty to get an in-depth view of the latest developments at Aeroplan.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself and your roles/responsibilities at Air Canada.

A: Hello! I’m Scott O’Leary, Vice President of Loyalty and Product at Air Canada. I joined the Air Canada team in 2017, and since then I’ve held several leadership positions at the airline. In my current role, I lead the Aeroplan loyalty program and Air Canada’s product experience, both in-flight and on the ground, which includes our global network of Maple Leaf Lounges and Signature Suites.

Q: You've had several exciting announcements lately. The biggest and most recent one that impacts the cabin experience in a great way is that "Aeroplan members will soon be able to access free messaging on Air Canada flights". What will passengers be able to do, who is it available to? Is it a premium service? Any limitations? 

A: We’re thrilled to partner with Bell to help our customers stay connected while flying Air Canada. Thanks to this partnership, all Aeroplan members can communicate with their friends, family, or colleagues with free messaging on all Air Canada WiFi-equipped flights anywhere in the world.

So, whether it’s work or fun, our Aeroplan members can keep the conversation going on the messaging app of their choice, with free text-based messaging available from any WiFi-equipped Air Canada aircraft, including Air Canada Rouge, and Air Canada Express. We’ve also extended this perk to our member friends United MileagePlus, Lufthansa Group Miles & More and Emirates Skywards, as long as their account numbers are associated with an Air Canada booking.

Q: You just won 3 Freddie Awards for the Aeroplan program. Congratulations. Can you tell us about what you were recognized for and what contributed to the wins?

A: Thank you! We’re extremely grateful to our Aeroplan members and the frequent travellers who voted for us at the Freddies, and for our dedicated team who bring this great program to life everyday. This year Aeroplan was recognized with three awards, including Airline Program of the Year, Best Promotion, and Best Redemption Ability – our best showing yet!

For us, these wins are proof that our hard work in re-building Aeroplan around how people actually travel is paying off, and that’s very exciting for the team to see.

Since re-launching Aeroplan in November 2020, our member experience always comes first. Aeroplan now offers flight rewards to thousands of destinations worldwide on Air Canada and more than 45 airline loyalty partners – more than any other program. Our pricing is predictable, with access to every seat available on Air Canada flights, there are no carrier surcharges on Air Canada redemptions. Plus, with features like Family Sharing, it’s easier than ever to save up for great Aeroplan redemptions. We’ve also made the program super-easy to use – whether it’s the ability to search for and redeem flight awards online or being able to add a stopover to an international itinerary for just 5,000 points. We’re working hard to help our members build the trips they want to take and at a great value.

Q: You've announced a partnership with Parkland over a multi-year period. Please tell us about the details of the partnership and how it will impact the "Loyalty Experience" (LX) of Air Canada customers.

A: This fall Parkland will join our line-up of everyday partners alongside Starbucks, Uber, Uber Eats, and LCBO, creating yet another way for our members to earn and redeem their Aeroplan points in their everyday lives with brands they love. Thanks to the Parkland link-up, the Aeroplan and JOURNIE™ Rewards loyalty programs will provide a slew of new earning and redemption opportunities at Parkland’s fuel brands, including Ultramar, Chevron, Pioneer, and Fas Gas.

Our members will benefit from Parkland’s coast-to-coast-to-coast network of over 1,100 participating fuel and convenience stores. We’ll be adding fuel discounts, free merchandise, and targeted offers into the mix, along with ways to earn every time you gas up, grab convenience items, food, and other services at participating Ultramar, Chevron, Pioneer, Fas Gas, and ON the RUN retail locations.

Q: Canadian Tire and Petro Canada have also recently announced an extensive partnership and PC Optimum has a long-standing relationship with Imperial Oil. How will Aeroplan and Parkland's partnership be differentiated in the marketplace and what value will it offer to consumers?

A: We’re so happy to be adding an Aeroplan fuel partner. This was our members’ number one ask, and Parkland is the perfect match. The Aeroplan-Parkland offering will be differentiated because only Aeroplan offers the country’s best travel value, and we make it super-easy to get great value for rewards with our everyday partners, too. With Parkland, for example, rewards will start at just 300 points! Also, with Family Sharing, your points will add up even faster. I know they do for my family, and one of the best things we’ve done is to link our accounts through Family Sharing and pool points towards joint goals. If you like a bit of friendly competition like we do, racking up points together is even more rewarding!

Q: Parkland is a daily spend retailer and adds a big engagement factor to your FFP. Do you anticipate more partnerships of this type in the future?

A: We see a lot of value in having a smaller number of deep partnerships in everyday categories that matter most to our members, and with brands that Canadians love. By aligning ourselves with somewhere between eight and 10 brands, our program can continue to build its everyday relevance, especially among folks who only travel from time to time. Ultimately, our main goal with these partnerships is to create easy and convenient ways for our members to get maximum value out of their Aeroplan membership and make earning part of their everyday lives.

We know that Aeroplan members want even more ways to earn and redeem points, and really enjoy our partnerships with well-loved, frequently used brands like Starbucks, LCBO in Ontario, Uber, Uber Eats, and now Uber Eats Grocery. These partnerships are one more way we help members get closer to their next exciting reward or adventure. And on top of the flight, hotel, and rental car rewards currently available, they can also redeem points with our hundreds of retail partners at the Aeroplan eStore.

Q: Are there any other comments that you'd like to make, in addition to this list?

A: I just want to thank our members and our team for helping make Aeroplan the great program it is today. We’re very passionate about what we do, and we’re always looking for ways to help our members travel more and travel better. There’s lots to look forward to as we continue to build a truly best-in-class experience. Stay tuned!

Editor’s note:

It is always rewarding to be able to connect with executives like Scott O’Leary who are obviously passionate about their brand and are willing to share details of the work they are doing to delight customers.

To gain additional perspective, we reached out to Lia Grimberg, the Principal at Radicle Loyalty, a Canadian consulting firm to gain further views into Aeroplan. Lia commented:

“It is refreshing to see a loyalty program makes strides into the 21st century with highly relevant partnerships. Aeroplan was formerly considered a program primarily targeted at frequent business travellers. Bringing Parkland and Starbucks on board allows Aeroplan to get into the everyday spending category, thereby improving the earn potential for its members and decreasing the time it takes them to earn a meaningful reward.

Having innovative partners like Uber allows Aeroplan to stay relevant and potentially attract younger consumers. I am also thrilled to see the unique value proposition delivered through the partnership with Bell, showing that benefits can be whatever consumers consider to be valuable and can take forms other than points or cashback. In this case, this benefit is in the form of free messaging on board flights.”