A Look At Air Canada’s Reimagined Aeroplan Program

By Robb Engen | August 11, 2020 |

A long awaited and newly reimagined Aeroplan program will officially launch on November 8th, 2020. The revamped loyalty program will feature exciting new improvements for earning and redeeming miles. I’ll summarize the changes, both positive and negative, to the new Air Canada Aeroplan program below:

New Aeroplan Changes Coming November 8, 2020

I’ll admit I’m always sceptical of any changes to loyalty and rewards programs because that typically means some window dressing and a general devaluation of points. But I’m pleasantly surprised with what I’ve seen today about some of the changes coming to Aeroplan in the near future.

Here’s a look at the core changes to the Aeroplan program:

  • Aeroplan.com and the Aeroplan mobile app will be retired on November 8, 2020
  • All bookings will then be made on AirCanada.com and the Air Canada mobile app. Aeroplan members can still log in to Air Canada with their same Aeroplan credentials
  • Every seat on will be available to book on Air Canada flights (including business class and premium economy)
  • A new and improved search engine for flight rewards and availability (up to 150 search results)
  • The flight reward chart now includes four zones: North America, South America, Atlantic, and Pacific
  • Dynamic pricing will apply to Air Canada award seats (oh no!), requiring more Aeroplan points for popular routes and high season demand
  • Conversely, off peak travel times and less popular routes will cost fewer points
  • Aeroplan partner airlines will still offer limited award seats at a fixed mileage rate regardless of time of year or route popularity
  • Air Canada eliminated fuel / carrier surcharges (YQ) for all carriers on flight reward seats
  • A new $39 partner booking fee will apply to any flight segment operated by a partner airline (other than Air Canada)
  • Family sharing allows you and your family (or a group of people) to share points for free
  • Aeroplan points will expire after 18 months instead of 12 months

It makes sense to move the flight rewards to one website (AirCanada.com) so there’s no need to have multiple windows open to compare flight reward costs versus cash fare. That’s a positive.

Having every seat available on Air Canada flights, combined with the elimination of fuel / carrier surcharges is a HUGE positive!

No more taking multiple connections on partner airlines just to save on Air Canada’s hefty fuel surcharges. This was a big pain point when our family flew to Scotland last year – we flew Calgary to Chicago to Edinburgh on United Airlines to save a few thousand dollars. Now we can presumably fly direct from Calgary, albeit paying more Aeroplan points but saving time and cash.

Dynamic pricing can really drive up the cost (in points) on your flight rewards – especially if you’re booking for a family of four like me. But travelling in low season can offer pockets of good value for your points.

New Aeroplan Credit Cards

Aeroplan currently has co-branded credit cards with American Express, TD, and CIBC – and here are the latest Aeroplan bonuses and offers to tide you over before November 8, 2020.

The goal with the Aeroplan relaunch is to have all three credit card partners roll out their newly refreshed line-up of Aeroplan credit cards. More importantly, all three partners will offer the same earn rate, perks & benefits, and annual fees within each card category (entry level, core, premium, and business).

Some of those enhanced benefits (depending on the card category) include:

  • Annual Worldwide Companion Pass when you spend $25,000 / year (premium cardholders)
  • Maple Leaf Lounge access (unlimited for premium cardholders)
  • Status Qualification Boost (1,000 status qualifying miles and 1 status qualifying segment for every $5,000 or $10,000 spent)
  • Free first checked bag for you and up to eight companions on Air Canada reservations
  • No Aeroplan points expiry for cardholders

American Express Aeroplan credit cards

American Express will launch / rebrand with the following line-up on November 8th:

  • American Express Aeroplan Card ($139 fee)
  • American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card ($599 fee)
  • American Express Aeroplan Business Reserve Card (brand new – no details)

TD Aeroplan credit cards

TD’s suite of Aeroplan credit cards will look like this on November 8th:

  • TD Aeroplan Visa Platinum ($89 fee)
  • TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite ($139 fee)
  • TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege ($599 fee)
  • TD Aeroplan Visa Business ($149 fee)

CIBC Aeroplan credit cards

Finally, CIBC will finally ditch the Aerogold name and rebrand its Aeroplan credit card line-up as follows:

  • CIBC Aeroplan Visa Card ($39 fee)
  • CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite ($139 fee)
  • CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege ($599 fee)
  • CIBC Aeroplan Visa Business ($180 fee)

What Are The Travel Experts Saying?

Aeroplan is my favourite loyalty program for booking flight rewards, but I am fairly new to the game. Here’s what some of Canada’s top travel experts have to say about the new Aeroplan program from Air Canada:

Related: Exactly how I redeemed more than 1 million points for travel

Barry Choi from MoneyWeHave.com called the changes a huge win for travellers and that we should be excited to fly again. Barry also covered the launch in the Globe and Mail with this mostly positive review of the program changes.

Ricky from Prince of Travel took a deep dive into the changes, particularly the new flight reward chart and travel zones. He said the information that was introduced today makes up only 60% of what’s to come with the new Aeroplan.

“The new Aeroplan has left me very impressed and encouraged from the outset.”

Ricky (aka the Prince) also looked at four exciting new Aeroplan features, including family sharing, points + cash, and more.

Longtime travel blogger Patrick Sojka at Rewards Canada was sceptical like me but came away impressed with the redesigned program:

“In my virtual meeting with their executives last week you could hear the excitement from all of them as they feel this isn’t a devaluation to the program being glossed over by several enhancements like we typically see.”

That’s what I like to hear!

Brief Air Canada / Aeroplan History

Aeroplan was first created by Air Canada to reward frequent flyers back in 1984. It was spun off and sold to Aimia in 2002 to raise money for capital and expansion.

Air Canada announced plans to launch a new loyalty program of its own in 2017, which would replace Aeroplan as its preferred loyalty partner. A year later, Air Canada teamed up with TD, CIBC, and Visa to buy back Aeroplan for $450 million. That acquisition was completed in early 2019.

Since then, we’ve waited for Air Canada and Aeroplan to launch their new program. And here we are.

Final Thoughts

I’ve seen enough from the newly reimagined Aeroplan program to throw away my sceptic hat and join in on the excitement. I still have a few hundred thousand Aeroplan miles and so I’m anxious to get to November 8th and put some real travel inquiries into the system to see what’s what.

My friend Barry Choi says there’s a nice sweet spot for travel to Japan and Hawaii for people based in Alberta – which is great for me! Hopefully we’ll all find our own sweet spots for flight rewards in the new travel zones.

I’m waiting for the new credit cards to be relaunched and hoping for some juicy sign-up bonuses. I can’t imagine Air Canada and Aeroplan (not to mention Amex, TD, and CIBC) would invest so much in this program only to fall flat with a tepid welcome bonus for their new card offers. Time will tell.

How Much Does It Cost To Go To Maui?

By Robb Engen | March 5, 2020 |

Maui is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful destinations in the world. We spent a week in Maui this February and can confirm that this Hawaiian island is indeed spectacular. A popular vacation spot for western Canadians (and Americans) looking to escape the cold, Maui isn’t just an endless string of breathtaking beaches. It also offers adventures on land, in the water, and in the sky.

Let’s be clear upfront: Maui is expensive. How much it costs depends on how long you plan to stay and what you plan to do. In this post I’ll breakdown the costs for staying in Maui for six nights, which is how long we stayed with our family of four. Some people stay much longer, so adjust your costs accordingly. Here’s how much it costs to go to Maui:

Maui Trip Costs

I track all of our spending, so I have a really good handle on exactly how much we spent on airfare, accommodations, car rental, groceries, dining, and entertainment.

Note that we booked our flights and our car rental with Aeroplan miles. That’s not possible for everyone, so I’ll also breakdown the cost of airfare by using the average cost to fly to Maui on Air Canada or WestJet, and the cost of a rental car using Budget.

These costs are in Canadian dollars:

How much we spent Estimated Cost (w/o points)
Airfare 180,000 Aeroplan Miles + $588 $2,900
Accommodations $3,068 (Airbnb) $3,000+
Car Rental 31,500 Aeroplan Miles $400
Groceries (inc. alcohol) $789 $700
Dining $362 $400
Entertainment $686 $500
Total $5,493 $7,900

Now that I’ve revealed our budget you can see exactly how expensive Maui can be for a family of four staying for six nights. It’s not just the cost of getting there or staying there. Everything is more expensive in Maui. Then factor in the CAD to USD exchange rate (which I’ve done in the above chart) and you can add another 30% to your total costs.

It’s possible to reduce these costs, as we did, by using travel rewards points. I’d suggest at the minimum looking into the best Aeroplan credit cards, some of which give out a welcome bonus of 15,000 – 20,000 Aeroplan miles upon first purchase. That’s like free money!

More frequent travellers might look to a premium travel credit card such as the American Express Platinum card, which comes with a $699 annual fee but whose perks include a $200 annual travel credit, plus 60,000 Membership Rewards Points once you meet their minimum spending threshold.

Membership Rewards are the most valuable travel rewards currency because they can not only be used to pay for purchases on your card, but also transfer 1:1 to Aeroplan.

Airfare:

The flight time from Calgary to Maui is approximately seven hours. We originally booked a direct flight via Air Canada that would have arrived in Maui around 7pm – enough time to hit Costco before it closes at 8pm (more on that later).

Instead, a few months before our trip, we got a notification from Aeroplan that our flight changed and would now connect in Vancouver. That set us back a couple of hours and we didn’t end up arriving in Maui until 9:30pm.

Travellers might look to book through WestJet, which offers a non-stop flight departing Calgary at 1pm and arriving in Maui at 3:30pm. In hindsight we would have preferred this option as it would have given us time to get settled and enjoy our first night in Maui.

The average cost of airfare for a family of four on either WestJet or Air Canada is $2,900. That’s a steep price to pay, so if you can mitigate the cost with Aeroplan miles or with WestJet Dollars (check out the WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard) then you can save a ton of money on your trip to Maui.

Accommodations:

Maui Accommodations

We much prefer staying at Airbnbs vs hotels when travelling with our kids. First of all, a condo or apartment is often cheaper than a hotel You also get more room, plus your own kitchen so you can prepare meals and not have to eat out all the time.

That said, nothing is cheap when it comes to accommodations in Maui. We spent $3,068 CAD for six nights in an ocean-front condo at a resort north of Lahaina. I later found a cheaper condo in the same resort (no ocean-front view) for about $450 per night ($2,700), so it is possible to save a bit on accommodations if you make some sacrifices on location or view.

Hotels were much more expensive, ranging from $524 per night to $800+ per night. Hotels in Wailea were charging $700+ USD per night, whereas the hotels in Kaanapali (where we stayed) were in the $500 range. The best value we found for families was the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, which cost $468 USD per night.

Again, you can lower the costs somewhat by using a hotel rewards card like Marriott’s Bonvoy Card. That said, most Maui hotels in the Marriott family fall into the category 7 range, which costs 60,000 to 70,000 points per night.

Related: Exactly how I redeemed more than 1 million points for travel

Car Rental

Renting a car in Maui is quite an interesting procedure. Well, renting the car was fine – I reserved an economy sized car from Budget through the Aeroplan website. The full cost would have been around $400 and included unlimited mileage.

Once we got the the Maui airport we could walk or take a short shuttle ride to the car rental centre – a massive complex filled with all the major rental car companies.

We found the Budget rental office (with one person working) and once we checked in we made our way down to a parkade, picked up a key from a mailbox, found the car and took off. No inspection or anything (I made sure to take pictures of the vehicle).

Returning the car was just as interesting. We arrived at the car rental centre and were greeted by a Budget employee who pointed us to a parking spot, checked the fuel level, and sent us on our way.

Our condo was a good 45 minute drive from the Maui airport. I’d say renting a car is an absolute must for getting around Maui, even if you only plan to hang out at the beach or in the pool.

Groceries

Maui groceries

We had every intention to do our grocery shopping at Costco before we drove to our condo (it’s close to the airport). Unfortunately, with the flight change, we arrived after Costco had closed. We thought it was too far to drive back there the next day, so we did our grocery shopping at a Safeway instead, which was just a few minutes south in Lahaina.

Safeway is typically expensive in Canada. It was even more so in Maui. I’m talking $12 USD for strawberries expensive.

$487 later we had enough groceries (and beer) to last a few days. We had to go back mid-way through our stay for another $200 grocery shopping trip. The rest of our grocery bill was spent picking up fruit at a nearby farmer’s market, plus some odds and ends at the local ABC store.

Next time we visit Maui we’ll make sure we arrive with plenty of time to visit Costco and stock up on groceries.

All that said, buying groceries – even at Safeway – still saved us a ton of money versus eating out at restaurants every meal.

Dining

We didn’t prepare all of our meals at home. We’re on vacation, after all, and it’s always nice to check out the restaurants in new places and see how the locals eat and prepare their food.

One complication is that our family has recently gone vegan, which means finding suitable restaurants and meals that cater to a plant-based diet can be a challenge. Not in Maui, though! We found a couple of great vegan restaurants nearby. One was called a’a Roots, which was a great lunch spot. The other was called Moku Roots, which was so good we went back again for lunch the day we left.

Restaurants weren’t overly expensive compared to anywhere else we’ve travelled. The pain point (for us Canadians) is the exchange rate, which adds 30% to every bill. That’s why we tried to limit the number of times we went out to eat, instead opting to prepare our meals at home.

Entertainment

Old Lahaina Luau

Our trip to Maui was about escaping the cold for a week and relaxing in the sun. For the most part, we couldn’t get our kids out of the resort pool or off the beach. It was amazing!

Still, we heard that you can’t visit Maui without going to a Luau. We researched the best luau’s in Maui and found the Old Lahaina Luau was not only the best, but also located right nearby our resort. We booked a front-row reservation and had an amazing experience watching the history of the Hawaiian people told through the traditional hula dance.

The luau was expensive – it cost $500 for the four of us – but it was a worthwhile one-time experience.

The other top attraction in Maui is the Ocean Center aquarium. It’s located near the airport so we saved this attraction for our last day in Maui. I’m not generally a fan of aquariums, but the Maui Ocean Center was terrific. The highlight was a mic’d up diver answering questions inside a 750,000 gallon open ocean exhibit filled with sharks, stingrays, and hundreds of fish.

We bought our tickets on Expedia.ca so I could pay in Canadian dollars and use some TD Rewards points. Tickets were $129 CAD for the four of us.

Whale watching is a popular activity in Maui and February is prime whale-watching season. Expect to pay about $50 per person for a 2-3 hour whale watching excursion. With our ocean-front property we were fortunate enough to see humpback whales swimming by and breaching the water pretty much all day, every day.

If you don’t have those views, you might want to take a once in a lifetime whale watching tour – you’re guaranteed to see these whales up close.

Final thoughts

How much does it cost to go to Maui? If you use travel rewards points and spend wisely you can spend six nights in Maui for around $5,000 CAD. Without points, and paying the average cost of everything from airfare to accommodations, car rental, food & beverage, and entertainment, you can expect a trip to Maui to cost nearly $8,000 for a family of four.

Yes, Maui is an expensive holiday. But after spending six nights in Maui paradise I can confidently say we’ll be back. This time with the goal to spend less than $5,000 over six nights.