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I hate flying Air Canada. Yet, I cannot seem to avoid them. Why? Surely, I must have some love for the airline? The relationship is complex and keeps pulling me back.
As a road warrior in a previous life, I reminiscence far too often the glory days I had with the airline in the 2000s when I proudly wore that Super Elite tag year after year.
Now, over a decade later, the tables have turned, and the airline always seems to find a way to annoy me on every single flight. Or perhaps it’s me and I focus too much on the negative? During my 2-month travel hiatus that is finally nearing an end, I’ve gotten a chance to reflect on Air Canada objectively and why I seemingly tend to keep flying with them and, more importantly, why I continue to be on the hamster wheel, investing time and money with them.
It will be difficult to put “love” and “Air Canada” in the same sentence, but here goes:
Let’s examine 3 very important reasons that are the crux of my love for Air Canada and why I cannot stay away:
1. Aeroplan Reward Program
Let’s face it; Aeroplan award redemptions have gotten expensive and convoluted in the refreshed Aeroplan program that debuted in 2020. Despite its ongoing issues, it is hands down, the best award program out there. If you spend some time learning it, there are magical sweet spots to be found. Just recently, Dalia shared how she scored Air Canada business class flights to Argentina last minute over the holidays for under 120,000 points.
Here are 8 aspects of the Aeroplan program that I love:
- Access to every seat on an Air Canada flight
- Fixed award pricing on partner travel
- Fair Pricing on taxes
- Stopover awards for an extra 5,000 points.
- Ability to book flexible awards with no change/cancellation fees.
- Easy to earn points: Directly through various credit cards and transferrable currencies.
- 50+ airline partners to redeem with!
- Ability to confirm upgrades directly into business class when booking with a Latitude/Flex fare and applying e-upgrades. For those who hate waitlists, as I do, this is great!
Love it or hate it, I’ve accepted the fact that Aeroplan is a superb award program, period.
2. The Hard Product
Air Canada’s latest Airbus A220 and their Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft offer great seats in all classes of service. I would consider them the best for flying domestically within Canada, Transborder, the Caribbean, and Mexico. I challenge you to find a better seat serving these routes direct from Canada. Be my guest if you want to fly Flair with no reclining seats (per Anshul’s review). Or how about WestJet with no IFE?
For international, I’ve realized that Air Canada is an acceptable option, especially for transatlantic flights to/from Europe. I do not like reverse herringbone business class seats (sitting at an angle bothers me), but I am likely the minority, and the seat serves the purpose of getting me from point A to B in comfort. Plus, there isn’t any other better option other than Air France and British Airways (the latest products) perhaps, which will cost more in taxes and likely require transit before the final destination. If you are flying economy, then it really makes minimal difference.
What about positioning out of a US hub and flying on United Polaris (Business Class), or even Lufthansa First Class? Yes, this is an option, but is it worth the hassle? Does the Air Canada seat suffice for a “short” red-eye flight to Europe that you’ll be spending most of the time sleeping anyways? I think it does.
Love it, or hate it, I cannot deny the fact that Air Canada offers some of the best seats for travel within North America and is also a great option for transatlantic flights to Europe.
3. Extensive Network
Look at Air Canada’s flight network; it’s quite extensive, isn’t it? Every dot on the map is a destination that the airline serves, not partners. So, why is this important? There are a few reasons:
- Having direct flights from Canada avoids unnecessary transits in the United States or overseas.
- Irregular Operations (IRROPS) advantage: When there is an IRROP, especially domestically, chances are that you will have better luck getting to your destination sooner than someone else who encounters IRROPS with a low-cost carrier.
- Redemption sweet spot opportunities on flights to lesser-known destinations that Air Canada serves.
Love it, or hate it, Air Canada’s vast network is an element that plays a vital role in my travel plans.
Canadians cannot avoid Air Canada, and nor can I; this is a fact. I will likely continue to curse at Air Canada in my future travels, but I’ll be thinking twice before I do next time. I chose to fly with them for a reason. I made the conscious decision to do so, and you know what? It’s likely because I got a great redemption deal in a decent business class product that offered me the most direct flight.
I love you Air Canada but hate you at the same time. See you on the next flight.