Image via WikipediaAeroplan is a travel reward program, formerly owned by Air Canada, up until it was sold off in an effort to raise cash in troubled times.
The program now runs independently, but is still closely identified with Air Canada.
Ever since the sale, I believe that Aeroplan has gone badly downhill, to the point where I wouldn't recommend membership to anyone, even for free.
That being my said, it was with great scepticism that I read the announcement by Aeroplan/Air Canada that they were making an additional 250,000 airline seats available to members, in the coming year. Link
An hour long search on the web-site confirmed my suspicions that nothing much has changed.
I've been a member of Aeroplan for over twenty years and until it's spin off from Air Canada, I had always been satisfied and in fact, adored the program. It offered an excellent level of service and the availability of reward flights at reasonable point levels was very gratifying.
Since my job in back in the day, required me to be on a plane twice a week, it made sense to remain loyal to Air Canada, racking up reward points that were truly valuable.
My wife and I would fly to Miami or Fort Lauderdale at a combined cost of 50,000 points. The flights were easy enough to book and were always nonstop, about three hours flying time from Montreal. You didn't have to book months in advance and the choices available then, make today's offerings look like table scraps.
Try to book that same reward today at Aeroplan and you'll find that it's well nigh impossible.
A search by myself yesterday (even with the 250,000 new seats) for flights to those same destinations and ranging up to ten months in advance provided a choice of unattractive flights, on precious few dates, the majority, not worth taking, even for free.
Dates were extremely limited and none of the flights were non-stop or direct. All required transfers via Toronto or Ottawa and no trip took less than six hours, most averaging between seven and eight hours.
In fact, one of the available itineraries required an overnight hotel stay and took an amazing 18 hours of travel time to complete!
Aeroplan has also introduced measures that reduce the value of your points by creating something called "Extra Access Flight Rewards" whereby the better flight options are offered at significantly more points, sometimes more than double!
What does Aeroplan say about these seats"
"They allow you to redeem extra miles to get more access to the flights you really want. These seats are beyond the original 3.5 million seats available for Aeroplan Members, so they are often offered at higher mileage levels, based on demand and market value. Get the flights you want, when you want them."
Like all other affinity programs, Aeroplan makes distinctions between membership types and those people at the top echelon are granted better options and rewards. For those of us who are not 'super-duper-elite-platinum-titanium' members, the pickings are decidedly slim.
Aeroplan's revamped website is also a step backward and is maddeningly slow and difficult to use. If you're a Mac user, you are dutifully informed that they can't be bothered to support the operating system because 'Aeroplan members are 90% PC users,' (For Quebec anglos, this is a painfully familiar scenario.)
As most Mac users can confirm, this access problem has practically disappeared from the the Internet and Aeroplan remains one of the last dinosaurs not to support multiple platforms and browsers.
I heartily suggest that if you spend over 10K a year on your credit card, you get a travel reward card from one of the big banks.
The cards usually cost around a $100 dollars a year, but offer significant travel advantages. Typically, they offer signing bonus' of up to twenty thousand points. That means that you automatically qualify for a short hop flight and you can earn a ticket to say, Florida, by spending as little a five thousand dollars on the card. The beauty of these programs is that the airline ticket is purchased for you, in the open market, from any airline and for any time, subject only to airline availability.
For a great website to compare which credit travel reward program best suits you, try this- creditcards.ca
Another great resource is- points.com, where you can track all your reward points in multiple programs and learn everything you need to know about them. You can also trade points with others!