Upgrading on Air Canada

May 26, 2013
Upgrading on Air Canada
  • There are four primary ways to upgrade to the Executive First cabin on Air Canada: eUpgrade credits, last-minute upgrades, Star Alliance upgrades, and operational upgrades. This page will describe each of these options. Of course you will always have the additional option of purchasing an Executive fare ticket.

    Note that upgrades always come out of R class unless cleared at the gate.


    Air Canada upgrades are now electronic: no more waiting to receive certificates in the mail, or worrying about forgetting them at home. Your eUpgrade Credits are deposited directly to your eUpgrade account soon after you qualify for them, giving you access to them at all times through aircanada.com.
    • eUpgrades are based on credits. Unlike paper certificates which can only be applied to an entire one-way itinerary on a specific route, eUpgrade Credits can be used for any Air Canada or Jazz itinerary or flight segment across our network.
    • eUpgrade credits can be shared. Depending on your Air Canada Top Tier status, you can designate eUpgrade Nominees whom you can then upgrade with your credits, even when you are not travelling with them.
    • eUpgrades can be requested online. Regardless of where you complete your booking, whether online, with a travel agent, or elsewhere, you can make upgrade requests and view your eUpgrade transaction history at aircanada.com.

    Earning eUpgrade credits(top)

    As an Air Canada Top Tier member, you can earn eUpgrade credits:
    • by choosing them as one of your select privileges
    • by qualifying for Air Canada threshold upgrades when you reach an eligible Air Canada Status Mile threshold
    Air Canada Top Tier status qualification: Each year when you qualify for Air Canada Top Tier status, you have the option of choosing eUpgrade Credits as one of your Select Privileges, both as recognition of your status and for eligible flight pass activities.

    Air Canada thresholds: For every 20,000 Air Canada status miles you fly during the Top Tier qualification year (i.e. between January 1 and December 31 of any given year), you automatically earn additional eUpgrade credits.

    Checking your eUpgrade balance(top)

    The Air Canada eUpgrade site lists your current balance and the required credits for all distance and fare combinations. You can also learn more (and post your questions!) in the MilePoint eUpgrade discussion thread.

    Using eUpgrades(top)

    To use your eUpgrades prior to your flight, you log your request to upgrade at the Air Canada eUpgrade site. You will need your booking reference number and your last name.

    If your upgrade does not clear 24-hours before the flight, the upgrade wait list is automatically transfered to the airport wait list so you no longer have to rush to web check-in to be the first on the list.

    Air Canada gate agents can access your eUpgrades to upgrade you at the gate and have your eUpgrade credits removed from your account at that time.

    Using eUpgrades with a travelling companion - waitlisting(top)

    What happens if both you (a Super Elite) and a travelling companion are waitlisted for upgrades using eUpgrades?

    Prior to departure day
    • If SE and basic member are on the same PNR, both will get SE priority on the reservation waitlist and you (SE) will only clear if there are 2 R seats and you're next on the list
    • If SE sponsors a basic member on a separate PNR, the basic member will not get SE priority on the reservation waitlist
    At the airport
    • Everyone clears according to their own status. There's no such thing as guest of SE ranking higher than guest of E
    • At the gate if there's one seat left and the two of you are next on the list (travelling together); the GA would always page you up and ask if you want to take the seat (they won't bypass you)
    [courtesy of Andrew Yiu/AC]

    Cancelling a confirmed upgrade(top)

    If you choose to to cancel a confirmed upgrade (i.e., downgrade back to economy class) prior to departure, you will have to be rebooked into your original booking class; if this original booking class is no longer available, you will be booked in the next available one. For this latter case you may incur a fare difference and associated taxes.

    If you choose to cancel a confirmed upgrade (i.e., downgrade back to economy class) at the gate, it will be a seat change back to Y. The transactions at the gate are not based on booking class. In this case, your original seat won't be guaranteed and may very likely have been reassigned, so you will be assigned an available seat, and not necessarily one that you might choose otherwise.

    [courtesy of Andrew Yiu/AC]

    Last-minute upgrades(top)

    A last-minute upgrade (LMU) is an upgrade offered to you by Air Canada at on-line check-in time. It is a revenue upgrade, meaning you are offered an upgrade to Executive-First or Executive-class for a dollar amount. The dollar amount varies based on the routing, the number of seats available, etc. If it's offered, it'll be during the check-in process; it will be on the page that displays your flight information (one of the buttons on the bottom) and it'll prompt you again on the next page. You won't miss it if it's offered. Air Canada revenue management decides when to offer LMU's, but last-minute upgrades are only offered on flights when there is R space available, i.e. R>0.

    [courtesy of Andrew Yiu/AC]

    Star Alliance upgrades(top)

    Star Alliance Upgrade Awards are available to the members of 20 frequent flyer programs when they are travelling on 20 member carriers. More programs and carriers are set to join in the coming months, including Adria, Aegean, Blue1, bmi, Croatia Airlines, Egyptair, South African Airways and Spanair.

    An overview of the Stair Alliance Upgrade Awards can be found on the Star Alliance website and also you can find an overview on the Air Canada website.

    Star Alliance Upgrade Awards provide you with lounge access, priority check-in, priority baggage handling and priority boarding regardless of your Air Canada or Star Alliance status.

    Specific to using your Aeroplan miles to upgrade on Star Alliance airlines
    Once you are ready, you can search for and request a Star Alliance Upgrade at this Aeroplan website page.

    Operational upgrades(top)

    So you are now at the gate, without an upgrade: not enough eUpgrade credits, no money for an LMU or miles for a Star Alliance upgrade. Do you still have a chance of sitting up front?

    In short, yes. It may not be a big chance, but operational upgrades do happen. The most common scenario is an oversold Y cabin. If there are not enough seats in Y but there is some room in J, some passengers will get bumped up to J. This will normally happen in order of status: Super Elite first, and then Elite.

    In some cases you might also receive a "courtesy upgrade" or be moved up to J for weight balancing (most commonly on smaller aircraft such as E75 or E90). Both of these will typically be given out in status order, Super Elites first.

    However, remember that the gate agents are normally not authorized to upgrade passengers without reasons such as the oversold situation. As such, neither begging nor berating the GA will gain you an upgrade, and will only serve to aggravate the AC employee trying to do his or her job.