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Are you listening British Airways? Air Canada shows how elite status extensions should be done

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Air Canada is not an airline we cover much on Head for Points, but it is definitely worth covering its approach to extending the status of its Altitude frequent flyers due to coronavirus.

Air Canada is a little like British Airways.  It dominates its market, with a strategy of buying up competitors (Canadian, Air Transat) with minimal Government pushback rather than wasting time doing anything innovative.  Only WestJet has slipped through its clutches.

Given that background, you could have imagined Air Canada taking a ‘stuff them’ approach to looking after its frequent flyers.  Instead, it has come up with an outstanding package.

The bottom line is that it is effectively wiping out 2020 with some extra benefits for those who will still end up flying.

As it says on its website:

“Loyalty is a two-way street – certainly in good times, but especially so in hard times. As an Air Canada Altitude member, you have proven your commitment to Air Canada, and that is a great honour to us. Just because most of us aren’t flying right now, that doesn’t mean we value your loyalty any less.”

Air Canada Altitude coronavirus status extensions

What is Air Canada offering to its Altitude elite members?

There are three elements to this, allowing them to cover all bases:

If you earned Altitude elite status in 2019, to run throughout 2020, your status has been extended to the end of 2021

If – by some miracle – you manage to renew your existing elite status in 2020, you can GIFT the status to a friend.  You won’t need it yourself, as your status has automatically been extended to 2021.  If you go up a status level based on your 2020 flying, your friend gets the higher status level.

If you are working towards earning or improving your elite status, you can donate your Aeroplan miles to charities fighting COVID-19 and receive Altitude elite status miles in return.  The conversion rate is 5:1.  (If you treat British Airways Executive Club Gold as equal to Altitude Elite 50K status, it is the equivalent of British Airways letting you earn up to 750 tier points by donating 167 Avios per tier point to charity.)

There are a few smart elements about this:

No-one needs to get stressed.  If you earned status for 2020, you will still have it next year.  Don’t worry about having to fly.

However …. if you ARE flying, there is still a good reason to stick with Air Canada because of the carrot of being able to give elite status for 2021 to a friend if you requalify

You even have the ability to earn a higher status level by trading in some of your Aeroplan miles

The only thing that is not clear is whether the requirement to also spend a specific amount with Air Canada to earn status is waived or reduced.  If it isn’t, it would drastically reduce the incentive to donate Aeroplan miles to charity in return for additional Altitude status miles.

There is also not a lot of incentive here for someone who currently has no Air Canada status and was hoping to earn it this year.

Air Canada Altitude coronavirus status extensions

Air Canada is also letting your earn status miles from home

Whilst the details are not yet public, Air Canada is also launching a series of home-based promotions which will allow you to earn additional Altitude status miles.  Traditional ‘redeemable’ Aeroplan miles will also be available.

The Air Canada website has more information on their coronavirus policies.

PS.  If you missed it, this article on how Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Club airport lounge pass scheme works is worth a read.

How is British Airways handling Executive Club status extensions?

For comparison, this HFP article looks at the British Airways Executive Club coronavirus status extension offer.

The current offer is:

The number of British Airways tier points you need to earn or retain status will be reduced by 30% for members due for renewal on 8th April, 8th May and 8th June

If your membership is due to renew from 8th July onwards, there is no concession.  You will need to earn the full number of tier points to renew or gain status.

The requirement to have flown four BA cash flights (on top of earning the necessary tier points) is waived

All 2-4-1 vouchers and Gold Upgrade Vouchers will automatically be extended by 6 months (which we already wrote about here)

This page of ba.com has more details.  2020 is definitely NOT cancelled for British Airways, even though Delta, Air Canada, Qatar Airways, Qantas, United and many others have already decided to roll over status for 12 months.

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Comments (72)

  • DavidB says:

    Alaska announced something similar yesterday too. Only AA and BA are glaring holdouts among the biggies.

  • Andrea says:

    I wonder what BA will do for customers (I have been an Exec club member since 1993) whose tier point year came to an end at the beginning of March. I have retained my status, my tier points were set to zero (as is standard) – and I would have flown a couple of times since. Obviously, that will not happen – and if this situation continues, many customers will have no chance to maintain their current tier status. I know it’s a ‘soft’ landing to the next tier – but it would also be a great gesture to move the end of the next tier period to the right. A number of hotel chains have written to me to say: don’t worry, we’ll do something for you. I wonder whether BA will follow suit.

    • Doug M says:

      I think it’s just wait and see, I’m sure they will do more, but in best BA fashion it’ll be the least they think they can get away with, and at the last possible opportunity.
      My TP year end is today, and I’d already renewed before the current situation took hold. Obviously I’m not getting the benefits, and not having the opportunity to accumulate for 2021-22, but I think something will be done for everyone eventually.

  • Oliver Harwood-allen says:

    Clearly my expectations of big business need to be lowered, after all I thought the customer is key, I must be wrong. BA will come out the other side of this but their reputation will be battered,

    Remember in good time they did not care about you why just because times are bad do we mere customer think any differently.

    ROLE ON CHOICE.

    Stay safe guys and girls.✈️✈️✈️

    • Andrew says:

      +1 Very much looking forward to trying different carriers now. It’s almost liberating to be free from BA and everything that is rubbish about them!

  • Tom says:

    Turkish Airlines just extended my Gold staus which I got through a status match by 6 months. I am not complaining obviously. 😊. BA should learn how to keep the core customer base.

  • ChrisC says:

    It’s easy to extend status / adjust eaarning levels when everyone has the same membershp / earning / status year which everyone does in a lot of schemes like Air Canada’s.

    Also easier when you have a lot fewer members than BA.

    • marcw says:

      … and easier when there’s a minimum spend requirement to gain status. You can easily achieve BAEC Silver (equivalent to *A Gold) for less than 600 GBP a year (if you plan nicely your exEU trip, and have a coherent qualification year,…).

  • Steven says:

    Why would you think British Airways would give loyal customers anything. They are the worst airline, most inflexible and honestly just poor.

    So we just put up with it.

    • Kev 85 says:

      Why do you put up with it? I’ve never been anywhere (I almost always fly from Heathrow) where there wasn’t another airline flying directly/had a similar connecting flight to my location of choice.

  • Alex Sm says:

    Oneworld partner S7 offers 100 miles for free every day for staying at home.
    You only need 4000-5000 miles for a domestic flight in Russia, so could be a good option to combine with a BA flight
    https://www.s7.ru/en/stayhome/