As the travel industry slowly recovers from COVID, we've seen a variety of interesting approaches from airline and hotel loyalty programs aiming to retain their most frequent (and most profitable) customers with offers to extend and incentivize elite status. This week's entry from Air Canada / Aeroplan is no exception, as they offer to "jump start" status for existing elites and regular passengers alike.
...the first catch is that this offer is only available if you're holding a Premium-tier Aeroplan-branded credit card, all of which have an annual fee of $500 or more. The second catch is that to qualify for this offer, you've got to be in a position to spend at least $10,000 on that credit card in the next few months.
As a result, this offer applies to a relatively small group of travellers. If you don't already hold one of these cards, I would only suggest this as reason to get one if you're already fairly confident you'll travel a lot in 2022, *and* you're equally confident that you'll spend more than $10,000 on the card even after it arrives a week or two after you apply.
That said, if you're eligible, there's some great value to be had here, so let's dig in!
Basically, if you spend at least $10,000 in "qualifying net purchases" on your Aeroplan-branded premium card (American Express Aeroplan Reserve, TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege, or CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege) between July 15 and November 30, you'll gain one extra level of Aeroplan status for 2022. If you're 25K, you'll become 35K, if you're 35K, you'll become 50K, and so on.
If you currently don't hold status, you'll receive Elite 25K status, and if you already hold top-tier Super Elite 100K status, then instead you'll receive 25,000 Bonus Status Qualifying Miles, 25 Bonus Status Qualifying Segments and $3,000 Bonus Status Qualifying Dollars towards your 2023 elite-status earnings.
This offer is "in addition to any other offers available", which is especially important to note if you're a Super Elite who's already back to flying; if you meet this offer, and also fly enough during 2021 to qualify for 25K Status naturally, which will qualify you to roll over this year's status earnings into next year, then you'll start off 2022 with at least 50,000 SQM and $6,000 SQD already in the bank; in other words, you'll already have earned Elite 50K / Star Alliance Gold status for the following year!
The Fine Print
This only applies to the primary cardholder, so for example you can't use it to acquire status for your spouse, and there's a long list of rules designed to thwart credit-card churning and manufactured spend, for example you can't just buy a ton of gift cards, or buy $10,000 worth of stuff and then return it. In previous conversations I've had with Air Canada about co-branded credit cards, they've said outright that they now have a team dedicated to watching out for exactly this kind of abuse.
If you signed up for your qualifying credit card prior to January 1, 2021, then you've only got from July 1 until October 15 to reach the necessary qualifying spend. This doesn't make a lot of sense, since it mainly punishes the early-adopters who bought into the new Aeroplan program in its first few weeks, but it's an important tripwire to watch out for.
Full terms and conditions are available on Air Canada's website, the two I've noted above are just the ones that stuck out most to me.
So, Is This Offer Worth It?
That depends entirely on your plans for 2022. If you're unlikely to do much flying in 2022, then there's not a whole lot of point to gaining extra status, but if you are - and you were *already* planning to spend about that much on your credit card in the qualifying period - there's some real value to be had here.
For example, I'm currently a 75K member, and between work and personal expenses, $10K by mid-October is very likely. Bumping up to Super Elite status will gain me a few meaningful perks, including a 25% bonus on award earning on flights (which I'll value at about $300), free Preferred Seats on all bookings (worth about $500 to me, given that I generally fly Economy Standard to and from Europe), and enough additional eUpgrade credits to upgrade one more long-haul flight using 'the Latitude Trick'.
Most of all, though, it'll open up Priority Rewards in business class, which will save me at least $1,000 worth of Aeroplan points on next year's trip to Australia. For me, this promo is almost all up-side.
On the other hand, my wife is currently 35K, her job has cut *way* back on international travel, and for 2022 she mainly plans to fly on points to visit family. For her, this promo has almost no tangible value.
As always, I caution anyone considering this offer to do the math before committing. The goal of offers like this is to get you to spend more money with the offering company than you otherwise would have: if that just means you're moving existing spending over from their competitors, then it's a win-win and you should feel good about it. If you find yourself adding on money you otherwise wouldn't have spent, just to qualify for the offer, then you'd better do the math beforehand and make sure it's still a good deal.
The Bigger Picture
My key takeaway from this promotion is that like many other carriers, Air Canada's starting to get a clearer picture of how the post-COVID recovery period is likely to unfold, and it sure looks like they believe they've got to work hard to retain high-spending elite flyers, the upper tiers in particular.
Two of the most-common ways to earn top-tier status have always been high-frequency business travel, and regular long-haul leisure travel in premium cabins. It's hard to know which of these two demographics have been hit harder by COVID, but as businesses discover just how much can and cannot be accomplished remotely, and border restrictions remain firmly in place to Asia-Pacific, it's not hard to predict that airlines will lose a substantial portion of their top-tier elite base in the next 18 months unless they take steps to incentivize those travellers to remain loyal.