All the talk about how poor the Air Canada and Aeroplan program, I think this merits a post about airline alliances.
As a Canadian, we are not stuck with only having Aeroplan as the only frequent flyer program. You can actually sign up for membership with pretty much all the airlines that you want around the world. Once you are a member of one airline loyalty program, then you can earn and redeem points on any of the partner airlines (if the airline is part of an alliance).
For example, if you want to avoid Aeroplan completely, you can sign up for United Airlines, which is a partner of Air Canada, and whenever you fly with Air Canada, you can bank your points into United Airlines instead of Aeroplan. Then, you can redeem your United points for any of the Star Alliance partners.
Or you can do the reverse and earn Aeroplan points with credit cards and use the points with United Airlines.
For me, I made sure I have at least one membership (including Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines) per alliance so that I cover all my bases. I prefer to pay for the cheapest airfare, instead of banking all my points into one account. It does take a little more work because you have to ensure that all your accounts remain active. Award Wallet is my key to helping me keep track of which account needs to stay active. There are various ways to keep your accounts active, doing surveys is my favourite way because at some point, those survey points will top up my account enough for a free flight.
Like I’ve always said, the more work you put into earning points, the more value you will get out of it. To make things easier, I suggest taking a look at the airlines and destinations that your local airport offers before deciding which partner airline to join.
Below are the three major airline alliances and their partners.
Air New Zealand
All Nippon Airways
LOT Polish Airlines
South African Airways
SWISS International Air Lines
TAM Airlines (ends March 30, 2014)
Thai Airways International
US Airways (ends March 30, 2014)
TAM Airlines (begins March 31, 2014)
US Airways (begins March 31, 2014)
Delta Air Lines
Middle East Airlines