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Interview with Aeroplan’s General Manager of Marketing, Chris Willoughby – Beyond June 2020

On April 26, 2018, Aeroplan released a statement outlining its commitment to redefine its travel rewards and a preview of what to expect beyond June 2020. Today, I am interviewing Chris Willoughby, General Manager of Marketing of Aeroplan to get more insights about this announcement. On behalf of Pointshogger, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions!

Please tell us about yourself. What is your role with Aeroplan?

I’ve been with the company for about eight years now focused on Marketing and bringing our member’s journey to life through our various touchpoints (e.g. web site, email) ensuring our communications are relevant and personalized to members so that they can get to their travel plans faster.

So what is this new commitment to Aeroplan members about?

We’re really excited to let our members know that Aeroplan has released a brand promise outlining our commitment to redefine travel rewards and continue our ongoing transformation into a superior travel and booking experience.

Aeroplan will provide members with the freedom to book flight rewards on more of their favourite airlines, as well as access to more earning opportunities and a greater selection of accommodations, destination activities, vacation packages and more.

We developed this based on a lot of input from members looking for more choice, flexibility and convenience.  Our core focus will remain the same – ensuring that our members achieve their travel plans faster than with any travel rewards program in Canada.

Can you share more specifics about the freedom to book flight rewards on more airlines? Do you mean airlines outside of Star Alliance?

We conducted member research such as surveys asking for feedback based on a monthly topic, utility tests and focus groups from coast to coast. This research helped us make improvements and shape the program’s transformation strategy.    As part of this, our members told us that they wanted more choice and flexibility and we will be delivering on this by providing access to many airlines. In fact, our members won’t be limited to seat inventory from one airline or one network. Instead, they’ll be able to choose any available seat from more airlines to more destinations than today.

What do you mean by members having more opportunities to earn more miles with more retailers? Seems like Aeroplan has been losing partnerships, are you working on new partnerships?

Our Aeroplan Members have been very loyal and stable. They appreciate the value and features that the Aeroplan program has long offered.

As we unveil the next generation of our program, you’ll see a wider array of ways for members to earn Miles, shopping at stores that our members prefer, giving them the flexibility that they expect.  With a coalition model, it’s not unusual to see changes to partners both additions and departures, and strategies evolve. We’re working on providing members a wider variety of retailing partners that allow members to shop where they want for their everyday spend items, while maintaining exclusive partnerships with brands such as Toyota and Home Hardware to give members extra value.  Our new relationship with Amazon.ca is a great example of this – helping members earn on the purchases they are already making.

And don’t forget, members can earn miles on more than 150 retailers such as Hudson’s Bay, Indigo, Sephora and more through our eStore.

What are some examples of “additional opportunities for members to engage easily with the program”?

Recently we announced a new earning opportunity with Amazon.ca and this has members very excited.  Actually, right now until May 11th, members can earn 2x the miles when they shop at Amazon.ca via our eStore.

And furthering our commitment to delivering unmatched flexibility and convenience, we will be introducing a new cash and miles payment option to provide members more choice and offer an even greater earn as members will be able to accumulate miles on all cash purchases.

With these new products and program enhancements over the next months and years, we are making it very easy for our members to find relevant value in Aeroplan as we transition to our new offering in 2020.

What do you mean by members being able to redeem miles on any available seat from more airlines? Does that mean that there will be more market fare based rewards?

Starting in July 2020, Aeroplan Members won’t be limited to seat inventory from one airline or one network when they want to redeem their miles. They’ll be able to choose any available seat from more airlines to more destinations than we have today.

Aeroplan has always provided value on flights, and this value is core to our offer and remains, especially for our status members.    The ability to fly for less is a commitment that’s already in motion – in December 2017 we introduced Great Deals, a feature that’s offered when the Market Fare Flight Reward level drops below the Fixed Mileage Flight Reward level for a destination requiring fewer miles to travel.  You can find more info about our Great Deals here.

Sounds to me that Aeroplan is becoming more similar to the current Air Miles loyalty program and away from the frequent flyer model. How will you differ from Air Miles (aside from different earning partners)?

We believe that the best travel experience does not yet exist. We have an opportunity based on our existing assets, partnerships and analytics to do this. Flight rewards will remain at the core of our reward offering but we will also provide a broader travel offering while delivering the competitive value that members expect.

Any closing thoughts?

We know our members have questions about the future of Aeroplan and the transformation is already in progress. Last year, we enhanced our car rental rewards and our travel search platform. Recently, we renewed agreements with key partners, like Home Hardware and Rocketmiles.  This is simply the beginning of our journey; there are more great things to come from Aeroplan.  I encourage our members to check out our update at: www.aeroplan.com/ourpromise.

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Pointshogger aims to provide analysis and updates on earning loyalty reward points and maximizing the value of your points. We hope to inspire our readers to experience the joy of travel and make the most out of what they've already got!

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