I was going to title this post “An Indictment Against Aeroplan” but I don’t think anyone wants to read another list of gripes about Aeroplan’s shortcomings. So Aeroplan, consider this my free consultation for how you can bring yourselves into the 21st Century and offer customers a dramatically better experience.
1. Aeroplan Call Center Must be Open 24-7
Last week I wrote about Aeroplan closing foreign call centers and the literal blackout zone for seven hours per day in which you are up the creek without a paddle should you run into any issues.
This must be the first change — a customer-service oriented company with customers around the world cannot just shut down for a third of the day, not when customers across all time zones are traveling and run into problems that require agent assistance. The world does not operate on Eastern Time.
2. Aeroplan Website Must be Open 24-7
What is even more shocking than the limited call center hours is the limited website hours on the Aeroplan site. Each night the site goes down for “routine maintenance” meaning nothing can be booked or cancelled. This is insane — surely there is no viable reason to shut down the site *every night*. Aeroplan can solve this problem simply — don’t shut down the website overnight.
3. Aeroplan Website Must Allow More Complex Searches and Award Changes
The Aeroplan site is better than it has ever been, but it still has a long way to go to catch up to United Airlines, which while not perfect is the “gold standard” of Star Alliance award booking websites.
Currently, the Aeroplan site does not allow complex award bookings (such as a stopover plus open-jaw or two stopovers) — that requires a call. The website does not even allow co-terminal bookings, like flying into and out of different New York or Washington DC airports. Being able to search NYC and WAS (all airports in each city) would be very helpful.
Further, the website does not allow any modifications to awards once booked except to cancel them. Any routing or date changes requires a call to the Aeroplan call center.
If United can do it, I am confident Aeroplan can also develop a more robust award search and booking tool that would allow for more complex itineraries and changes to existing itineraries.
4. Aeroplan Must Hire More Call Center Agents
Aeroplan has two call centers — one in Montreal and one in Vancouver — and that is clearly not enough, judging by routine wait times exceeding one hour. This has been an aggravating issues for years. Even though Aeroplan has argued that its call center hold times are no longer problematic, they are — in fact, they are just as bad as ever.
Even worse, Aeroplan still does not have sufficient technology to even place all the calls that come in on hold — when the call center gets too busy you may still experience a busy signal.
Aeroplan introduced a call-back option like many other airlines, but it tends only to work if the wait time is moderate. For longer wait times, I often am not offered a call-back, making for an excruciating 50-80 minute wait (seems to be the average hold time in the morning or evening).
Aeroplan must hire and train more call center agents and fix its call-back feature to work as designed.
5. Aeroplan Must Fix Irregularities with United and Lufthansa Award Space
United space that is available does not always show up and Lufthansa space that is not available often does show up.
This has been a persistent issue and the Lufthansa issue also shows up on the United website, but surely if it is made a priority to fix, it can be fixed. Oddly, the hidden United space seems only to be an Aeroplan issue.
Simple solution — fix it.
5. Aeroplan Should Drop Telephone Booking Fees
Until Aeroplan is able to truly fix its website, itineraries that cannot be booked online should not be charged a C$30 telephone booking fee. Currently it is nearly impossible to get a telephone fee waived and customers booking something too complex for Aeroplan’s tepid website should not be penalized.
6. Aeroplan Should Offer More Clarity Concerning Fuel Surcharges
Aeroplan’s introduction of fuel surcharges in 2011 fundamentally changed the program. Even though oil has dropped substantially, fuel surcharges for carriers like Lufthansa and Austrian have remained unchanged.
Aeroplan claims “All fuel surcharge amounts applied by Aeroplan are passed through to the ticketing carrier for settlement.” This is misleading. Do you really think United or Avianca (who do not charge fuel surcharges) would eat up $450 in each direction on an award ticket if it had to pay Lufthansa?
No, the truth is much more murky. Reimbursement rates are much less and Air Canada (the “ticketing carrier”) pockets the difference. Aeroplan plays with words, for the ticketing carrier is Air Canada, not Lufthansa, meaning Aeroplan is cleverly admitting that Air Canada is just pocketing the money.
Notice, I am not calling for Aeroplan to abolish fuel surcharges — they seem to be permanent — but trying to argue that its hands are tied and it must “pass them on” to consumers is totally disingenuous.
7. Aeroplan Should Restore MPM+5% Award Routing Rules
Aeroplan once had a very straightforward process for pricing awards — the routing had to either be a published routing or not exceed the Maximum Permitted Mileage (MPM) by more than 5%. Using Expert Flyer and GCMap, it became easy to plan, knowing exactly what routings would work and which routings would not.
Aeroplan abandoned MPM in 2014 and while it has led to better routing options in certain markets (like Australia), traveling to Asia via Europe has become much more difficult and in many cases you just don’t know whether an itinerary will be valid or not until you call and ask.
Returning to the MPM+5% rule would restore a sensible, transparent routing policy.
Aeroplan does many things well and while not industry-leading, its award chart and overall program is not bad. But the issues above are incredibly annoying. The good news is that Aeroplan can fix these seven issues above in relatively little time if it is willing.