Love Me or Leave Me – Air Canada may not be the best option for Aeroplan members

WM Circle Logo

By: Aaron Dauphinee, CLMP™ |

Posted on July 27, 2018

The last two weeks have been very exciting for Aeroplan members! They learned from Jeremy Rabe, the new CEO of Aimia, Aeroplan’s parent company, of what his future vision for the program will be in January 2020.  His new Aeroplan will focus on “offering increased flexibility, delivering leading value and improving the member experience.”

Rabe revealed that Aeroplan is partnering with an innovative technology company, Kaligo Solutions, to provide choice to their 5 million members across nearly 20 airlines.  I checked out Kaligo’s travel sector clients to find brands such as British Airways, Air France and KLM’s Flying Blue, United, Air China, Etihad Guest, Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and Turkish Airlines to name only a few.  Aeroplan members should find this list to be impressive.

They also heard directly from Benjamin Smith, President of Passenger Airlines and Chief Operating Officer for Air Canada that the airline wants to purchase the Aeroplan program along with TD Bank, CIBC, and Visa Canada.

Air Canada activated a communications plan this week that seemingly intends to be transparent and open about their reasons for wanting to purchase Aeroplan.  The airlines “Your questions, answered.” FAQ page on their website answers questions that range from why this group of companies wants to purchase Aeroplan to what the impact will be on members to why they have only given Aimia one week to consider their offer.

Aeroplan members now know of two potential paths forward.  The first from Rabe is very clear and initially compelling if we are to believe Aimia can deliver on their promise.  The second from Smith is founded in their commitment to listening to their customers along with building and delivering a best in class rewards program.

Wait?! But you’re only going to give Aimia a week to consider the deal?  I am a bit confused.

On one hand, Air Canada has “heard from thousands of customers that, in addition to expecting a better loyalty program, they would prefer to transfer their Aeroplan Miles to the new Air Canada loyalty program.”  Buying the program will allow this to happen.  But if there is no deal, then there will be no transfer of Aeroplan Miles.  Fair enough.

On the other hand, Air Canada rationalizes their insistence for giving Aimia only one week to respond to the deal as “we need to define our core program partners well in advance to ensure that we have enough time to build a best in class loyalty program” and “there have been other proposed transactions to purchase Aimia over the past several months.”  The airline is looking for certainty and wants this resolved quickly.  Also, fair enough.

However, my sixth sense is off the chart.  Air Canada announced they were leaving Aeroplan well in advance so they could build a best in class program.  It’s fair to then assume that’s exactly what Air Canada has been off doing until now.  Right?

Establishing a means for getting Aeroplan Miles to transfer to the new loyalty program I can understand.  But I’m baffled by the comments on timing to build at this point.

My hypothesis is that Air Canada may have bitten off more than they initially anticipated.  Perhaps they may be faced with complexities, either technology or systems integration in nature or simply resource or project costs overruns.  This may be putting their January 1st 2020 launch date at risk?   Certainly, one means of ensuring they can make good on their promise would be to simply purchase the Aeroplan program and fold it into their own plans.

I’m not saying Air Canada is not being as transparent as they’d have you believe about their true intentions.  But I’m also not not saying it.

What I am saying is that there are two paths forward for Aeroplan members.  One appears to be fresh and innovative and a departure from the past.  The other appears to be more closely aligned to the past, which is perhaps why it feels to be responsive.  It reminds me of what can happen after a break-up with someone when the other person you’ve left starts seeing someone new first.

We all can appreciate that leaving relationships, and partnerships, are not always easy.  This on and off again love affair between Air Canada and Aeroplan is case and point and it likely has more complexity to it then what is being played out in public. Fair enough.

Taking what we do know, and being curious beyond what we’re being led to believe, it very well may be that Aeroplan members and Aimia are better served by finally parting ways with Air Canada?

The best option may be a fresh vision and a path forward instead of a path leading back to someone that not too long ago was telling everyone that you are not quite good enough.