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Having worked in retail for years, I am well aware of the power of the words “up to” and “starting at.”

Up to 75% off!

This rack starting at $19.99!

These words – though often less emphasized than the main hook – are pretty important words.

For anyone who has been shopping lately (online or in-store), you may have been burned by these words. You go in looking for the best deals ever, only to realize that maybe 2 items are 75% off and everything else is closer to 15% off.

Every once in a while, you will luck out and that thing you’ve been searching for is one of the two things on sale. But more often than not, those sale signs are really just there to get you in the door.

With the latest announcement from Aeroplan, I can’t help but wonder if I’m being fed some of this same good ol’ fashioned marketing.

Or maybe Aeroplan really is working on a loyalty program that is worth getting excited about.

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The latest from Aeroplan

Through a press release and interview with the new CEO of Aeroplan, Jeremy Rabe, Aeroplan is making some pretty big promises to Canadians:

“The value Aeroplan already delivers to members is unmatched in the Canadian travel loyalty rewards industry. In transforming Aeroplan to be the best travel loyalty program in Canada, we will maintain our differentiation on exceptional value and deliver a more flexible and enhanced experience for our engaged base of five million members. Given our strong assets and unparalleled purchasing power, Aeroplan has an incredible opportunity ahead to capitalize on the growing travel market.”

Their plan to become the best Canadian travel loyalty program revolves around 3 main points:

  • Increased flexibility
  • Great value
  • Improved member experience

Increased flexibility

One of the biggest changes coming for Aeroplan in 2020 is that loyalty members will be able to choose any seat on any airline, anywhere, anytime.

Canadians love to travel and are travelling more often. Seventy-two per cent of Aeroplan Members surveyed reported that expanding redemptions to any airline would be a “big improvement” to the program. Aeroplan’s offering will respond to Canadians’ demand to travel more often with more airlines by expanding the broad reach of destinations currently offered through Aeroplan beginning July 2020.”

This will come as a great relief to anyone who has tried to book with Aeroplan in the past. Getting a seat you want on the flight you want when you want it wasn’t always easy at the “Classic” redemption levels that offered the best value.

There was always “Market Fare” seats to access any seat on the plane, but those typically cost 2 or 3x the number of miles.

On top of that, in July 2020, Aeroplan miles collectors will be able to transfer their miles to close to 20 different airline programs and a number of different hotel loyalty programs.

This will allow Aeroplan members to purchase economy, business and first class tickets to a number of different places, globally, and gain access to premium hotels all over the world.

This transfer will be done through Kaligo Solutions, which is a company based out of Singapore that has a partnership with approximately 50 loyalty programs. Chances are Aeroplan’s 20 different airline transfer partners will come from that list.

There is no word on what these transfer rates will be yet and my guess is that it isn’t going to be anything spectacular.

In this push to rebrand, Aeroplan is going to want their members actually redeeming their miles for flights and not just transferring them to another loyalty program – especially people who are looking to get rid of their Aeroplan miles.

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Great value

Even though Aeroplan flights were sometimes hard to book, they were still a favorite loyalty program among Canadians.

One major reason for that is because Aeroplan miles are valuable. Most points are typically worth 1 cent each, or less. Compare that to the 2.5 cents each we consider Aeroplan miles to be worth today (before the 2020 changes) if you redeem them smartly. That’s a big difference.

Aeroplan claims they have heard the cries of Canadians and will continue to give them that same great value. BUT, this is where more clever marketing comes in.

Aeroplan states that the following round-trip flights will be offered, beginning at the same rates they currently offer to the following destinations:

  • North American short-haul: 15,000
  • North American long-haul: 25,000
  • Mexico and Caribbean: 40,000
  • Europe: 60,000
  • Asia: 75,000

I don’t know about you, but this wording definitely makes my retail marketing alarm go off.

And while Rabe does state in the press release that 95% of flights will stay at these same levels, without a contract with any major airlines, I’m failing to see how he can make a promise like that.

He also didn’t indicate if there will be any caps on the dollar value the underlying flight’s cost or if the most expensive flights won’t be available. It sounds like they’ll just ratchet up the number of miles needed to book more expensive seats or continue offering something similar to the current “Market Fare” system they use with Air Canada.

The plan for Aeroplan is to buy blocks of seats and even full charter flights to use for their members, but what if these seats don’t get booked? What if Aeroplan is left footing the bill for tickets no one wants? What if the discounts they can secure aren’t large enough for Aeroplan to be profitable?

It seems like a lot of risk without a contract to back them up.

Unfortunately, we are left to wait and see what else Aeroplan announces in the coming two years and how it all plays out.

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Improved member experience

Finally, Aeroplan has announced that they will be unveiling a new online travel booking tool this September.

This tool will allow members to use their miles for booking flights and cars, but will also let them use cash to pay for a car rental or hotel, and anything paid for in cash will give the user back Aeroplan miles.

“In the near future, we will enable our members to earn or redeem miles for every part of their travel journey… With our ability to better understand our members through our industry-leading analytics capabilities and use of AI, we will revolutionize our engagement with members, giving Aeroplan a significant advantage in the travel rewards landscape.”

User-friendly tools can definitely help the user experience since a site or app that doesn’t work easily and fluidly can be frustrating.

For example, the Air Miles “app” doesn’t even allow you to redeem your miles. You are redirected to their mobile-unfriendly website to do that.

Fortunately, Aeroplan has committed to being mobile first now and even more so in the future. I can attest first-hand that their current mobile app is great for searching and booking flight rewards.

Hopefully, Aeroplan will take the opportunity to think outside the tech box and come up with a platform that really works for Canadians.

And now… we wait…

Call me a skeptic, but I’m in the “see it to believe it” camp.

Do I want Aeroplan to be the travel rewards program that Canadians deserve?

Yes! 100%

Do I believe they will be able to deliver on everything they are promising?

Right now, Aeroplan is talking a pretty big game and the only way they will be able to pull it off is either by relying heavily on their “beginning at” language or if they work out some pretty impressive deals with major airlines.

We are going to have to wait and see, but honestly, I think they are in serious danger of over-promising and under-delivering.

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What do you think?

How do you feel about the latest announcement from Aeroplan?

Are you remaining loyal to the airline program? Or have you already jumped-ship to one of the other airline loyalty programs out there?

Please let us and our readers know in the comments.