Impressive: Air Canada Aeroplan’s solution for cancelled Etihad bookings

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Earlier this year, we reported on amazing award space to fly in Etihad apartments between London and Abu Dhabi. In some cases, all nine seats in the Etihad first class cabin were bookable as award tickets. Unfortunately, some of these bookings got cancelled without reason. Aeroplan committed to fixing that and I think most people got rebooked in Etihad first class. Then, over the past week, we started receiving reports of some bookings being cancelled again. Unfortunately, it seems that at least some of the bookings won’t be honored after all, but Aeroplan is stepping up and offering a very unique solution that I think demonstrates an impressive desire to do right by their members.

a seat in a plane

The saga of cancelled Etihad first class awards booked via Aeroplan

For those who haven’t followed this story, let me sum up the saga in easy bullet points:

  • Etihad released a ton of first class award space back in March 2023, with up to all 9 first class seats bookable on some dates
  • A few weeks later, in mid April 2023 many passengers received notice of a change in itinerary that turned out to be the cancellation of their awards. Air Canada Aeroplan helped people get rebooked in Etihad first class when flights were still available.
  • At the end of October 2023, we received a number of reports from at least some of those passengers who received another email about a change to their itinerary. The email looked like nothing had actually changed, but the bookings disappeared from both AirCanada.com and Etihad.com.
  • Several readers who were cancelled again within the past week initially reported Aeroplan phone agents saying there was nothing they could do but accept a business class booking on another carrier if flights were available as awards.

At that point, I reached out to Air Canada Aeroplan for more information about what was going on, whether passengers were going to have their Etihad apartments bookings honored, and what affected passengers should do to get a solution. Members obviously want to be confident in the fact that their bookings will be honored and many booked entire trips around the chance to fly Etihad apartments.

Air Canada Aeroplan’s solution

Late last night, we heard back from Aeroplan. Here was part of the response we received:

We do know that many of our members were looking forward to taking advantage of this redemption opportunity specifically with the goal of experiencing Etihad’s First Class apartments, and we understand that for those members, being rebooked on just about anything else doesn’t compare. For these reasons we are offering to accommodate impacted members with the following:

  • The option for the original itinerary to be rebooked into First Class or Business Class on any available redemption seat on any day with AC or any of our partner carriers, including Emirates to/from/via Dubai, for no extra points cost (and for a refund for the difference in points if rebooked purely into Business Class), and
  • A credit of 50,000 bonus Aeroplan points per traveler, deposited into the original redeeming member’s account, in consideration of this highly unique situation

Members wishing not to rebook are eligible for a full refund of points and taxes/fees paid. In these cases, the 50,000 bonus Aeroplan points per traveler will still be awarded.

Needless to say, we sincerely regret this inconvenience to our members.

That is an impressive solution. Obviously, in an ideal world, everyone would have their Etihad apartments bookings honored and I think Aeroplan understands that (and in fact, I have to imagine that was the solution they would have preferred). In an unideal world, I’d say that they are going above and beyond expectations to fix this.

This solution demonstrates two things to me.

First, the problem here is clearly Etihad. If Air Canada Aeroplan ultimately wanted these bookings cancelled, they wouldn’t be offering the chance to fly on Emirates for no additional miles (Aeroplan has a separate award chart for Emirates that costs significantly more than awards on all of their other partners) and they certainly wouldn’t also give 50,000 points per traveler. Clearly, Etihad just wasn’t willing to play ball here. That’s disappointing. It’s also confusing. My understanding is that bookings made through American Airlines AAdvantage have been unaffected. I’m not sure why Etihad and Air Canada couldn’t work this out, but it doesn’t make me wildly confident in the future of the partnership.

Second, this says a lot about Air Canada Aeroplan. Not only does it clearly indicate that they “get in” in terms of the fact that many people plan entire trips around special redemptions like this one, which are more valuable than the simple transportation from point A to point B, but it says a lot about their desire to do right by customers. It doesn’t matter who you are, things don’t always go right. This response shows a willingness to go the extra mile to make it as right as they can.

I’m sure that many will still be disappointed that they won’t get the expected chance to fly in Etihad apartments, but I’d say that this is as fair of a solution as one could hope to see. I had simply hoped that they would offer to reaccommodate people on a partner like Emirates or that they would be able to lean on partners like Singapore or Swiss that don’t often release first class space to partners and ask for them to help members out, but I wouldn’t have expected the added gesture of fifty thousand bonus miles per passenger. Given that first class awards on this route only cost 65,000 miles per passenger, Aeroplan is essentially almost entirely refunding the cost of the ticket and offering to rebook passengers either in first class on partners who have first class award availability or in business class on partners with award availability (and still refunding the difference in price between first and business class on top of it!).

Obviously a big problem here is that some people simply won’t be able to find replacement award space. That stinks and I imagine that some folks will have to cancel trips because of that fact. In that case, the 50,000 bonus points per traveler will hopefully ease the burden on a future trip.

I don’t think one could have expected a more generous solution. Kudos to Aeroplan for taking care of members here.

I should note that I’m not sure how long it will take to implement this solution or whether you’ll need to reach out to Aeroplan proactively to receive the bonus miles, but it’s worth searching for award space and calling Air Canada Aeroplan to get rebooked if you find something that works. You can even change the dates of the trip entirely, so it appears that there is quite a bit of flexibility. My assumption is that the 50K bonus points will post automatically and might take a bit of time.

Bottom line

Etihad had released a a flood of first class award space to partners back in March. Some of those who had booked via Air Canada Aeroplan have had their bookings cancelled. Aeroplan has indicated that they are not able to rebook at least some of those itineraries and for affected passengers, they are offering the chance to rebook on any available partner in first or business class, including on Emirates, for no additional miles (or for a refund of the difference if rebooked entirely in business class) and 50,000 bonus points per traveler. While it’s disappointing that some members who were counting on the Etihad apartments experience won’t be getting it and others will have to cancel entirely if they can’t find alternative availability, Aeroplan is offering as generous a solution as anyone could have expected.

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