Air Canada eUpgrades are a reward for Aeroplan Elite Status members, who can use them to upgrade into a higher class of service on Air Canada flights.
In this article, we’ll look at some optimal ways to use your eUpgrades, including arguably the most valuable way to combine them with Aeroplan points.
If you haven’t already, may I highly recommend that you read through our guide to eUpgrades before continuing, as this article assumes you have a reasonable familiarity with eUpgrades.
Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the best strategies for using eUpgrades in conjunction with Aeroplan points.
How to Determine eUpgrade Availability
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Before diving in, let’s remind ourselves of how to determine eUpgrade availability, which is different from the regular award availability in premium economy and business class.
There are two ways to determine eUpgrade space on a particular flight.
The first is to do a Flight Availability search on ExpertFlyer. Under “Only Show Classes,” enter “R” (to find business class eUpgrade space) or “N” (to find premium economy eUpgrade space), or both.
If there is “R” or “N” space available on a flight, then there is eUpgrade space available to business class or premium economy, respectively. ExpertFlyer allows you to quickly determine which flights have eUpgrade space on particular aircraft throughout the day.
In the above results, we can see that AC101, AC185, AC103, and AC105 all have eUpgrade space to business class, as indicated by a number greater than zero next to the “R”. Only AC185 has eUpgrade space to premium economy, as indicated by a number greater than zero next to the “N”.
AC107, AC111, AC115, and AC119 do not have eUpgrade space available at this time.
If you don’t have an ExpertFlyer subscription, thankfully, the Aeroplan search engine has made it a lot easier to seamlessly view eUpgrade availability as well.
After completing a search for points bookings, click on “eUpgrade” above the search results.
If you have logged in to your account, your status will auto-populate. Select the desired class of service to which you’d like to upgrade.
The search results show if there is confirmed eUpgrade space with an arrow inside a circle and the words “Eligible for eUpgrade” written below it.
In the above case, our suspicions from the ExpertFlyer search are confirmed. There is eUpgrade space on AC101, AC185, and AC103.
If there is not eUpgrade space, you’ll see a clock with the words “You will be waitlisted” written below it.
Take note that if you are searching for a multi-segment journey, even if just one segment has eUpgrade space available, it will show “Eligible for eUpgrade” in the search results.
You’ll want to double-check this by clicking on the fare, as it will further break down which flights have eUpgrade space below.
After clicking on the Economy or Premium Economy fare, you are presented with the cost in points of booking an Economy (Standard), Economy (Flex), Economy (Latitude), Premium Economy (Lowest), or Premium Economy (Flexible) fare.
The eUpgrades required, and any add-on fee, for each fare are displayed at the bottom of the fare description.
How to Adopt the “Latitude Attitude”
One feature of Aeroplan that is of great interest to Aeroplan Elite Status members is the ability to redeem points for Economy (Latitude) or Premium Economy (Flexible) fares on Air Canada flights.
Recall that Economy (Latitude) and Premium Economy (Flexible) fares are the most expensive, and therefore least restrictive, fares among Air Canada’s Economy and Premium Economy fare families.
In addition to all of its other benefits, like free cancellations and preferred seat selection, Latitude and Premium Economy (Flexible) bookings also require the fewest amount of eUpgrades to upgrade to premium economy or business class.
Compared to Economy (Standard), Economy (Flex), and Premium Economy (Lowest), the savings in eUpgrade credits and the absence of any co-pay fees can be significant.
Furthermore, what’s special about Premium Economy (Flexible) and Latitude fares is that they can confirm an eUpgrade at any time, with no need to wait until the clearance window opens, as long as there is eUpgrade space available:
As you can see in the chart, all other fare types require you to wait until a clearance window of 3–14 days before your date of departure in order to clear eUpgrades into a higher class of service. However, Premium Economy (Flexible) and Economy (Latitude) bookings can clear at any time, including immediately after you’ve made your booking.
With the above information in mind, there is a very interesting optimal strategy in play for booking business class flights using Aeroplan points:
- Search for eUpgrade space.
- Book an Economy (Latitude) or Premium Economy (Flexible) fare using Aeroplan points.
- Instantly confirm an eUpgrade to business class.
Yes, you will pay more in points than with other fares, but in many cases (especially if dynamic pricing is unfavourable), you will pay substantially fewer points than if you booked in business class to begin with.
Plus, you have the added bonus of free cancellations and changes, should your travel plans change.
Let’s walk through a few scenarios to consider the optimal eUpgrade strategies on a few different Air Canada routes, taking the example of an Aeroplan 25K member with 20 eUpgrades at their disposal.
Example 1: Toronto–Vancouver
For the first scenario, let’s consider one of Air Canada’s flagship routes: Toronto to Vancouver in a lie-flat pod seat.
On a random date within the eUpgrade validity period, the search results show the following possibilities to either book or upgrade into business class on AC185 on the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner:
- Standard: 7,200 Aeroplan points + 11 eUpgrade credits + $250 add-on
- Flex: 18,200 Aeroplan points + 10 eUpgrade credits
- Latitude: 25,200 Aeroplan points + 4 eUpgrade credits
- Premium Economy (Lowest): 19,300 Aeroplan points + 4 eUpgrade credits
- Premium Economy (Flexible): 31,300 Aeroplan points + 2 eUpgrade credits
- Business Class (Lowest): 93,200 Aeroplan points
Let’s forget about the Standard fare, because even though it has the lowest cost in points, the $250 co-pay fee strips away much of the value.
The Flex fare is slightly less expensive than the Premium Economy (Lowest) fare, and it requires an additional 6 eUpgrade credits compared to Economy (Latitude), so this option can also be ruled out.
The Premium Economy (Lowest) fare offers a good value proposition, but since you are subject to the eUpgrade booking window of upgrading within four days of travel for an Aeroplan 25K member, you decide to consider Economy (Latitude) and Premium Economy (Flexible) instead.
In this case, the Economy (Latitude) fare wins out, as it costs fewer points than the Premium Economy (Flexible) fare, but comes with the same seat in the end. And, of course, it saves you a cool 68,000 Aeroplan points compared to booking business class directly.
Taking a look at the corresponding cash fares on this flight, we have:
- Latitude: $1,219
- Premium Economy (Flexible): $1,705
- Business Class (Lowest): $1,440
As you can see, the redemption value for Economy (Latitude) is very solid, at around 5 cents per point (cpp); moreover, the ability to book business class for only 25,200 points + 4 eUpgrade credits represents significant savings compared to booking business class directly using either cash or points.
Example 2: Toronto–Honolulu
For the second scenario, let’s look at a flight from Toronto to Honolulu. A search brings up the following results:
- Standard: 16,900 Aeroplan points + 11 eUpgrades + $250 add-on
- Flex: 28,900 Aeroplan points + 10 eUpgrades
- Latitude: 35,900 Aeroplan points + 4 eUpgrades
- Premium Economy (Lowest): 62,300 Aeroplan points + 4 eUpgrades
- Premium Economy (Flexible): 75,300 Aeroplan points + 2 eUpgrades
- Business Class (Lowest): 113,600 Aeroplan points
Again, let’s forget about the Standard fare due to the $250 add-on fee.
At 28,900 Aeroplan points plus 10 eUpgrade credits, the Flex option is decent. Compared to business class, Premium Economy (Lowest) is OK (but not great) at 62,300 Aeroplan points plus 4 eUpgrade credits.
But, due to the constraint of the booking window, we instead look to the Latitude and Premium Economy (Flexible) fares for the ability to instantly confirm an upgrade.
While the Premium Economy (Flexible) fare requires only 2 eUpgrade credits, the cost is much higher than the Economy (Latitude) fare.
On the other hand, the Economy (Latitude) fare saves 77,700 points and comes with the added flexibility with free cancellations compared to the Business Class (Lowest) fare.
So, in this case, we can say aloha to the Latitude fare using Aeroplan points, and then use 4 eUpgrade credits to instantly confirm our spot in business class.
For comparison, let’s look at the cash fares:
- Latitude: $1,659
- Premium Economy (Flexible): $1,338
- Business Class (Lowest): $1,653
Therefore, booking Latitude for only 35,900 points (plus about $80 in fees) equates to a satisfactory redemption value of 2.1cpp for your Aeroplan points, while 35,900 points + 4 eUpgrades is a highly attractive price point to book business class compared to shelling out 113,600 points for the same seat.
Example 3: Montreal–Athens
Let’s look at a flight from Montreal to Athens. Often, the greatest value you can glean from using eUpgrades is on long-haul, international flights – on these flights is when having a lie-flat seat makes a world of difference.
A search turns up the following results:
Here, we see a steady progression of cost in Aeroplan points. The economy fares break down as follows:
- Standard: 47,500 Aeroplan points + 21 eUpgrades + $750 add-on
- Flex: 59,500 Aeroplan points + 18 eUpgrades + $500 add-on
- Latitude: 79,500 Aeroplan points + 11 eUpgrades
- Premium Economy (Lowest): 154,700 Aeroplan points + 12 eUpgrades + $200 add-on
- Premium Economy (Flexible): 167,700 Aeroplan points + 11 eUpgrades
- Business Class (Lowest): 265,200 Aeroplan points
For this comparison, let’s forget about both Standard and Flex fares due to the hefty eUpgrade and add-on requirements. Both Premium Economy fares seem quite high, so we can forget about those, too.
The Economy (Latitude) fare comes with the ability to instantly confirm the upgrade, is fully refundable, and doesn’t have a pesky add-on fee. Furthermore, it saves a whopping 185,700 Aeroplan points compared to the Business Class (Lowest) fare.
For comparison, the cash fares are as below:
- Latitude: $1,839
- Premium Economy (Flexible): $2,216
- Business Class (Lowest): $8,692
In this case, the Latitude redemption fetches a value of 10.9cpp compared to the cash fare for business class. Since Aeroplan points are easier to come by than cash, this winds up being the most attractive option.
Given the many ways to earn Aeroplan Elite Status and thereby eUpgrades, including by never setting foot on a plane, it’s now more feasible than ever before to pay for economy class and wind up in a better class of service.
In particular, the possibility of instantly confirming an eUpgrade on an Economy (Latitude) or Premium Economy (Flexible) fare gives you flexibility, peace of mind, and more points to keep in your account for future consideration.
For many Aeroplan members, the ability to use points and eUpgrades for business class via the “Latitude Attitude” is likely to be one of the strongest motivations for pursuing Aeroplan Elite Status, especially when the dynamic pricing of business class fares shoots up in the astronomical range.