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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.”

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 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 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.

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (April 2024)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £15,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and FREE for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (71)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • 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.


    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.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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