Air Canada Altitude Ties Earning Elite Status to Spend in 2016

Air Canada Express Airplane

Earning elite level status in the Altitude frequent flier loyalty program starting in 2017 will be tied to how much you spend annually on eligible Air Canada flights with the introduction on Friday, January 1, 2016 of Altitude Qualifying Dollars — which will represent the monetary value associated with an eligible ticket — and they will be combined with the number of either Altitude Qualifying Miles or Altitude Qualifying Segments you earn over the course of a year to determine which level of elite status you earned.

The introduction of Altitude Qualifying Dollars also replaces the minimum Air Canada flight requirement; and as with Altitude Qualifying Miles or Altitude Qualifying Segments, Altitude Qualifying Dollars will always be credited to the member who travels — not the member who purchases a ticket. This means that for eligible Corporate Flight Passes where there is more than one traveler, the value of Altitude Qualifying Dollars will be credited to the person who travels — not to the purchaser.

These changes reflect similar requirements in other global frequent flier loyalty programs — such as Delta Air Lines and United Airlines — and “will ensure that we continue to better recognize our most valued customers.”

Qualification Criteria for Altitude Elite Level Status in 2017

You will be able to track your Altitude Qualifying Dollar earnings at any time on your dashboard as of Friday, January 1, 2016.

The chart below shows the number of Altitude Qualifying Dollars combined with either Altitude Qualifying Miles or Altitude Qualifying Segments which you will need to earn between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016 in order to reach Altitude status in 2017.

Altitude Program Elite Status Level
Altitude Qualification Miles or Altitude Qualification Segments
Altitude Qualification Dollars
Prestige 25K 25,000 or 25 $3,000.00
Elite 35K 35,000 or 35 $4,000.00
Elite 50K 50,000 or 50 $6,000.00
Elite 75K 75,000 or 75 $9,000.00
Super Elite 100K 100,000 or 95 $20,000.00

The Super Elite 100K level of status will most certainly be more exclusive than ever with the minimum amount of spend required set to $20,000.00 per year.

Earning Altitude Qualifying Dollars

Altitude Qualifying Dollars can be earned via the following methods:

  • The base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges — Y, YQ and YR — on eligible flights flown as a passenger, including:
    • Most flights operated by Air Canada, Air Canada Express and Air Canada rouge — including codeshare flights marketed by another airline and operated by Air Canada
    • Codeshare flights marketed by Air Canada and operated by Star Alliance partner airlines ticketed on Air Canada ticket stock, which are ticket numbers beginning with 014
  • Flight Pass purchases and eUpgrade Add-ons based on the monetary value of the purchase

Tracking of Altitude Qualifying Dollars

Altitude Qualifying Dollars will be tracked in Canadian dollars — regardless of the currency used to purchase tickets — based on the following criteria:

  • The date of travel; and will apply only after travel is completed — this means that if you pay for travel but never complete it and do not receive a refund, your account will not be credited the corresponding Altitude Qualifying Dollars
  • The payment of each monthly installment for Unlimited Flight Passes
  • The value of each individual flight segment for the base fare and the carrier-imposed surcharges for eligible limited-credit Flight Pass purchases

Please note that due to data exchange processes between Air Canada and its industry partners, there can sometimes be a delay between the time of travel and the posting of Altitude Qualifying Dollars depending on the type of ticket. This can occur as soon as 24 hours after your Altitude Qualifying Miles have been posted, but in some cases can take up to one month.

What Purchases Do Not Earn Altitude Qualifying Dollars?

Any purchases other than ticket purchases — base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges — and eUpgrade Add-ons will not count towards your balance of Altitude Qualifying Dollars. This includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Maple Leaf Club membership
  • Last-Minute Paid Upgrades
  • Air Canada Café
  • Certain specialty tickets which include but not limited to
    • Promotional tickets
    • Flight Passes
    • Opaque fares
    • Group, consolidated or bulk fares
    • All-inclusive vacation packages — meaning flights and hotel — purchased through Air Canada Vacations or other Internet web sites offering vacation packages
  • Flights marketed by Air Canada but operated by airlines that are not Star Alliance partners
  • Taxes imposed by the government
  • Fees
  • Surcharges
  • Service charges
  • Promotional or time-limited flight passes which do not permit the accumulation of Altitude Qualifying Dollars

If you were hoping to attain elite level status through those purchases, you are currently out of luck.

Discussion Amongst Members of InsideFlyer

Members of InsideFlyer are not exactly embracing this news. In this discussion, InsideFlyer member mevlanne posted the following open letter:

Dear ACMM, would that I had not such ill-starred news to have passed onward, but far better it is, to know the nature of the monster lurking under the Revenue Management desks.

I’ve lost track of how many years I had an SE card; it’s been a few. Years ago, before I started to travel so frequently, I held an annual Maple Leaf card, such as would get me through the doors of the (then much-smaller) clubrooms. It was handy enough to have, and ever since I have found the clubrooms useful as an office-away-from-office. Retirement, of course, changes that in odd and (as-yet-) unpredictable ways.

My takeaway from the enactment of AQDs is that, regardless of my level of ongoing business with AC. I’m not the customer that they are looking for. Can’t say that I blame them: all of those tins of tomato-juice quaffed over breakfast must have really hurt their bottom line.


Air Canada is simply following the trend of the frequent flier loyalty programs of other airlines which have implemented similar policies of earning elite level status based on the annual amount spent by the customer; and there seems to be an attempt to ensure that the highest level of elite status — Super Elite 100K — will become more exclusive than ever with the minimum amount of annual spend required set to $20,000.00.

The precedent of recent history over the past few years demonstrates that those airlines whose frequent flier loyalty programs implemented a revenue component to earning elite level status — such as Delta Air Lines with the introduction of Medallion Qualification Miles to earn Medallion elite level status for its SkyMiles program back in January of 2013 — eventually converted their frequent flier loyalty programs to be based on revenue and not on distance flown.

Do not be surprised if Air Canada follows that route sometime over the next few years.

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.