Trust Over Turbulence
Air Canada has announced a new loyalty program that celebrates bringing people together. But will the innovative play, promising rich features such as family-member points sharing, digitally-integrated search and redemption experiences, and flexible seating options be enough to sway cautious customers in the era of COVID-19?
The airline’s new Aeroplan points system will be launched November 8th, and although the update timely coincides with an economy battling a pandemic, the overhaul was contemplated before COVID-19, according to chief executive Calin Rovinescu. In fact, some of these changes have been awaited since 2017, when Air Canada announced that it was cutting ties with the company that managed its loyalty program to conduct program development in-house.
Mark Nasr, Vice President, Loyalty and eCommerce at Air Canada goes on to state: “Since we announced our commitment to improve Aeroplan, we’ve been listening to feedback from more than 36,000 consumers; we’ve benchmarked against loyalty and frequent flyer programs from around the globe, and we’ve completely rebuilt our digital infrastructure. The result is a truly responsive and flexible loyalty program delivering a more rewarding experience so that members can travel more and travel better.”
Flexibility and bonus perks are the foundational elements supporting the new program advantages. Many of the features revolve around sharing benefits with family members and providing new ways to benefit from an industry fraught with regulation and red tape. Providing customers with these enhanced freedoms and utility, especially from a flag-carrier airline, is relatively unique in the industry.
Len Covello, CTO of Engage People, and a Canadian CLMP, added additional commentary to this annoucement:
“At a time when many airlines are either devaluing points or reducing loyalty program offerings, Air Canada stands out against the rest with its new Aeroplan program by offering more to its most loyal and profitable customers. The changes put in place truly put the customer first, which is crucial in a challenging air travel market.
Looking holistically, the Aeroplan program removes some of the long-standing barriers in travel programs — like expensive and limited redemption for flights and complex earning schemes. Once air travel picks back up, this paves the way for increased engagement with Aeroplan as a loyalty program, and not just for its core business traveler.”
Here are some of the key new features:
- Elimination of seat restrictions or black-out dates for points redemption.
- A family sharing model that allows members of the same household to combine points for free.
- Removal of airline surcharges from transactions.
- Flight upgrades on Air Canada Premium Economy or Business Class (if seats are available).
- Members have the option to combine points with cash for transactions.
- A Points Predictor Tool enables educated points utilization considerations.
- Extra perks, including Wi-Fi and entry to Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounge.
- Direct transactions available through aircanada.com or on the Air Canada app.
- An expanded suite of rewards, such as electronics and merchandise.
- Conversion of “Air Canada Altitude”, the former elite status membership tier, to “Aeroplan Elite Status”; these members can earn 50% off of eligible flight rewards.
The roll-out will be a seamless transition. On November 8, 2020, current Aeroplan accounts will automatically be transitioned to the new program, and in a change of branding strategy, Aeroplan miles will now be described as “Aeroplan points”, with existing balances to be honored on a one-to-one basis.
Industry pundits like Len will be closely examining the impact of the program on any tangible success metrics, but turning the needle won’t be easy; the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has recently forecasted the worst year of financial performance in the history of the aviation industry, with a predicted global loss of $84 billion USD.