If you live in the United States and haven’t been paying attention to Air Canada, continue to do so at your own risk. Since the middle of last year, Air Canada has been announcing new components of a completely reimagined loyalty program under a familiar name, Aeroplan. While it’s certainly good news for Canadian residents, it’s also good news for US residents.
When Air Canada announced the new program last year, there was plenty to be excited about. New status perks and new credit cards were really enticing. In two interviews I had with Air Canada execs (found here and here) it was clear how excited they were as a team to bring this new program to market.
One of the most exciting benefits for me was called Status Pass. If we turn back time almost ten years ago, I can remember being interviewed by the Wall Street Journal’s Scott McCartney. He asked me what I thought airlines should consider for innovations in the future for elite members. At the time, I thought a “Get Out of Jail Free” card was a great idea.
In my head, that was loosely defined as a way for me to tell the airlines when I needed something important that was out of the ordinary. On a daily basis, I don’t need much as an elite traveler. However, there are the occasional circumstances where I need something special. One of those key spots is when my family is traveling without me. It doesn’t happen often, but once or twice a year they’ll join me somewhere at the tail end of one of my work trips. But, since I’m not on the flight with them, they’re treated like second-class citizens unless I fork over the cash or miles to snag them first class seats (not really a huge fan of either option from a budget standpoint). Enter Air Canada’s new Status Pass!
Air Canada’s Status Pass Provides Perks
The list of Status Perks are pretty comprehensive, especially for someone who doesn’t already have airline status:
- Complimentary Checked Baggage – 3 bags, up to 32kg/70lb each
- Priority Check-in – when departing on AC flights
- Priority Baggage Handling –when checking in with AC
- Priority Security Clearance – at select airports, when departing on AC flights
- Maple Leaf Lounge access
- Priority Airport Standby
- Priority Boarding – Zone 2 boarding
Status Pass won’t score you an upgrade to first class, but it covers pretty much everything else you’d want. Lounge access is a pretty awesome kicker for someone with no status.
How to Earn Status Passes
It’s actually pretty easy for Air Canada Aeroplan elite members to earn Status Passes. Quoting from Air Canada:
Since January, eligible Aeroplan Elite Status members have been able to choose Status Pass as one of their Select Benefits:
- 50K members can choose 2 passes
- 75K members can choose 3 passes
- Super Elite members can choose 4 passes
Super Elite members also receive 2 Status Passes as a core benefit each year, above and beyond those they can choose as one of their Select Benefits.
These numbers are pretty reasonable to me. A Super Elite member, a true road warrior, can earn up to 6 passes each year. That should be enough to manage a family vacation or to where everyone isn’t traveling together. I also like that Super Elite members get 2 by default. That’s a pretty easy low-cost benefit for Air Canada to provide.
How to Redeem Status Passes
A Status Pass can be used for multiple segments on the same itinerary, though is only eligible on flights operated by Air Canada. Status Passes can be applied on Air Canada’s website or through their app. Once a single flight on the itinerary is flown, the pass is considered redeemed. The benefits to Status Pass apply to all travelers on a reservation for both the outbound and return trip.
There are a few other conditions in regards to their usage:
- The member can “revoke” an unused status pass that has been awarded, so long as it is done at least six hours prior to travel. It will automatically be returned to the member’s account.
- If a reservation including a Status Pass is changed, the Status Pass will continue to apply so long as at least one Air Canada-operated segment remains on the reservation. Otherwise, assuming travel has not commenced, it will automatically be returned to the member’s account.
- If a reservation including a Status Pass is cancelled, the Status Pass will be returned, unless travel has already commenced. If travel has not commenced, it will automatically be returned to the member’s account.
The Final Two Pennies
When I spoke with Air Canada execs this past summer, I immediately thought of the Guest of Honor benefit that World of Hyatt offers their top-tier Globalist members. Friends and family of Globalist members can essentially become “Globalist for a stay”. Status Pass is a really good direct comparison. I really love the innovation in the new Air Canada program, and Status Pass is such a great example of that.
It’s fair to say that American, Delta and United don’t typically extend innovative, new benefits to their elite members. Sure, United tried to create a more flexible system for upgrades with Plus Points. That’s not exactly groundbreaking and it isn’t a better system for every top-tier elite. Benefits like Status Pass are a refreshing change from the menu of elite benefits the Big 3 airlines have traditionally offered. Unfortunately, I don’t suspect it will spur innovations by the US airlines. That may mean some elite members of American, Delta and United find a wandering eye pulling them North of the border.
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