Aeroplan – A Really Bad Reward Program

So our family use to fly with Air Canada after Canadian Airlines disappeared. But after moving out to Vancouver, and with the competition from WestJet, I tended to fly with WestJet for domestic flights, Air Transat for Europe and others for elsewhere. I didn’t accumulate any more points of Aeroplan  and because of their point expiry system, I didn’t bother anymore with the account.

I got lured into a new promo recently where by signing up to this new credit card, you would get a short-haul free flight for 2 people, plus 15,000 Aeroplan points (you can fly from Vancouver to Calgary with that mileage).

With spring around the corner, I wanted to take a short vacation to Las Vegas since I’ve never been there and it seemed like a fun place to go. I was not ready for the frustration and time loss that this ‘free’ flight would cost.

My heart sank as I read that I had to call into their toll free (thank GOD!) number in order to book these kinds of flights. I tried, but I only got a busy signal. I read up on their Facebook page, and I realized that I was not the only having a hell time with Aeroplan. I left a question on their wall (as Idea Rabbit). It was replied the following day, confirming that I needed to call in to book.

Now, for me, I don’t just pick up the phone and call, I always have to pull out my Aeroplan card, credit card, and I call from Skype on my computer, and since I’ve ready people waiting for an hour for someone to get to them, I usually am prepared to be comfortable.

Mar 22 6:49pm – busy signal
Mar 22 7:15om – busy signal
Mar 29 2:00pm – busy signal
Mar 30 1:45pm – busy signal
Mar 30 1:50pm – yay! a automated machine! yay! finally no busy signal!! but after 4 minutes and 13 seconds, the call was ‘dropped’

Does anyone really work there?

Mar 30 11:15pm – closed
I wasn’t sure if they were open this late. I was hoping that they outsourced their call centre abroad and were available 24/7. At this time, the automated machine said that the offices were closed, but would open again at 7am Eastern time, but did not mention what time they closed. Why, I have no clue. But at least I knew they were open 7 days a week so I wouldn’t waste my weekends trying to call them when they were actually closed.

The problem with calling on weekdays was that I didn’t want to be on hold for an hour at work. And by the time I get off from work, I bet the office in Eastern Canada is already closed >_<. I guess I would have to wake up early. Or that was my thought. I should have Googled Aeroplan’s hours earlier (though it would make sense to have it more obvious on their recorded message that plays when they are closed.) Apparently, they are open till midnight Eastern time, 9pm Pacific Time.That gives me a few hours after work to call in and waste my evening.

April 1 10:25AM – virtual queuing
The automated machine offered virtual queuing. Yes! At least I wont have to be on the line the entire time! I punched in my phone number and was told the wait was 1 hour and 3 minutes. However, after that, the machine told me to wait for the next available agent and the music and ads began to play. Huh? I thought I opted for the virtual queuing? I hung up the phone, in hopes that I would get a call back. I waited. 1 hour passes by, and I get excited. Another 30 minutes pass by – there’s still a chance. After 2.5 hours I gave up. Maybe I had done the queuing incorrectly…

With only less than 3 weeks left to the vacation, I began to worry that by the time I actually talk to a person and book, they will tell me that no more flights are available for the dates I need. The weekend being Easter holiday, I imagined that many people were going to be flying out and about.

I also found out that this toll free number was being used not only by Canadians, but with the United States and the Caribbean (* Antigua, the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, and Trinidad). This explains the long wait time.

April 2 6pm
With 3 hours to closing, I decided I would get through tonight no matter what. I listened to the same music they played over and over and over while I cooked – so at least I wasn’t JUST waiting. However, after  45 minutes of waiting, the call suddenly dropped. AHHHHHHHHH. So I lost my place again T_T. With my dinner ready, I wanted to enjoy it at least before attempting to call again.

April 2 7:25pm – busy signal
April2 7:26pm – busy signal

Ok, so I guess I have to wait even more.

April 2 7:40pm
With a full belly, working all day and listening to the same music which repeated every 45 seconds (yes I counted), I began to dose off…suddenly after 25 minutes, I was talking to a real live person!
Unfortunately, the flights I wanted were all gone. The rep said that if it’s not available anymore on the calendar where you redeem your points, you can’t get it. Thank you Aeroplan for not making that obvious! There could have been more explanation regarding to this promo. Now I have just wasted my time.

At first, I felt terrible that it was my fault. I thought “I should have book a lot earlier, like several months ahead!”

Ok, gotta think positive. Ok, so the flights are good for one year. When else could we go? I started looking at other dates, and it seemed like they only had shitty flight schedules. Why would I want to travel to Las Vegas for 9-14 hours (meaning stop-overs) when it’s a 2.5 hour flight? Even if it’s free!? Sheepie has tight schedules and I hate flying, so connecting flights everywhere is a nightmare for both of us. I found one direct flight coming back, but that was about it.

Even bookings for 6 months into the future was like this. Ridiculous.

Ok, what if we went elsewhere? Same.

Conclusion: even though the flights for the dates were no longer available, it wouldn’t have made the trip any more desirable because they would have only offered me flights that took most of the day to travel to Las Vegas.

I will definitely be canceling my credit card with Aeroplan at the end of the year, as there is a fee of $120 annually after the first year’s fee is waived. Yes, ok, so the flights are free, but if it’s not worth it, then there is no incentive. With the time I spent since signing up for this card (as there were other issues), I could have worked on some freelance project that could have ended up paying for the trip.

But wait, what about the extra 15,000 points that could fly me out to Calgary? Yes, that is great. But trying to find a direct flight (yes! a direct flight) from Vancouver to Calgary is limited.  11 hours? (a direct flight is 90 minutes) Uh… you better not be in a hurry. In fact, you’ll arrive around the same time as someone who drives there.

I found out that the cheapest deal with hotel at Luxor, flight, fees and taxes included was $871 per person, which is higher than the $560 I calculated last Oct to go with a friend (but was canceled due to her schedule). Sheepie refused to pay $900. I guess that’s a different issue. So I guess my trip to Las Vegas is still on hold…far…far…into the future… :(