Air Canada Flight Passes are pre-booked bundles of credits that can be redeemed toward flights between particular regions.
Flight Passes aren’t necessarily good deals for all travellers, but there are specific situations in which they can be valuable, and it’s worth understanding how they work to see if they’re something you wish to pursue.
Air Canada Flight Passes: The Basics
Flight Passes are pre-booked packages of one-way flights that may be redeemed for travel between specific geographical areas during a specific time period.
In other words, rather than buying separate flights between two areas, either as round-trip or one-way bookings, you prepay for a bundle of one-way credits that may be redeemed at your leisure when you decide to fly.
Air Canada is among the many airlines that offer Flight Pass products. Air Canada Flight Passes fall under two broad categories: Unlimited Flight Passes and or Fixed-Credit Flight Passes.
Unlimited Flight Passes
Unlimited Flight Passes are exactly what they sound like: you can travel as often as you’d like within a geographical area and during a specific time period. If there’s a time in your life when you need to go back and forth many times within a short timeframe, then these passes may be of use to you.
For example, if you were to purchase a three-month Across Canada Flex Unlimited Flight Pass, you’d be afforded the pleasure of flying across Canada to your heart’s content for three months.
As long as there are tickets available for purchase in the Economy (Flex) “M” fare category, you have up until one hour prior to departure to book your seat.
Doing so would cost you $4,508 per month, though, so you’d need to make sure that you’re flying often enough to make this pass worthwhile.
If you think this might be a savvy way to rack up a bunch of Status Qualifying Miles (SQM) or Status Qualifying Segments (SQS) to reach a higher tier of Aeroplan Elite Status, you’ll be sad to know that it doesn’t quite work this way.
Rather, with Unlimited Flight Passes, you’re awarded a fixed amount of SQM each month your credit card is charged, and the amount of SQM you get depends on the fare purchased.
In the above example, as per the terms and conditions, 10,000 SQM would be deposited to your Aeroplan Elite Status account for each month your credit card is charged for the pass. Higher fares, such as Economy (Latitude), would result in more SQM per month, while lower fare buckets, such as Economy (Standard), would result in fewer SQM.
The amount of Status Qualifying Dollars (SQD) awarded for Unlimited Flight Passes is the total monthly charge, minus any applicable sales taxes.
Importantly, SQDs for Unlimited Flight Passes are awarded after each monthly charge, and not after travel.
Fixed-Credit Flight Passes
The other (and more popular) type of Flight Passes are fixed-credit passes. These passes take a variety of shapes and forms for individuals, couples, families, and businesses.
Fixed-Credit Flight Passes are prepaid credits for flights. Each time you book a flight, one flight credit is redeemed from your allotment.
For example, a 10-credit East West Connector Flight Pass for one traveller permits 1o one-way trips between larger hubs in British Columbia and Alberta and major hubs in Ontario and Quebec.
Each one-way segment will redeem one flight credit from your balance, resulting in a total of 10 one-way segments across Canada.
Therefore, the cost of each segment is simply calculated by dividing the cost by 10:
- A Standard East West Connector Flight Pass is equal to paying $371.70 per one-way segment
- A Flex East West Connector Flight Pass is equal to paying $595.50 per one-way segment
- A Latitude East West Connector Flight Pass is equal to paying $932.20 per one-way segment
- A Business Class East West Connector Flight Pass is equal to paying $2,005.70 per one-way segment
There’s a wide range of available Flight Passes. Options span from regional passes for short distances, such as between Toronto and New York, to popular warm-weather destinations, to international destinations in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and South America.
At the time of publication, Air Canada offers 58 different Flight Passes.
Unlike Unlimited Flight Passes, which give you a fixed amount of SQM each month, you earn SQM as per the actual distance flown with fixed-credit Flight Passes. The SQM are deposited to your account after your flight is completed, and not when the pass is purchased.
You’ll also accumulate Aeroplan points as per your fare rules and distance flown.
With fixed-credit Flight Passes, the amount of SQD awarded will be the average value per segment, minus any government-imposed taxes and fees, such as airport improvement fees, security fees, immigration fees, etc. These will vary depending on your origin and destination each time you use a pass.
Some Flight Passes come with additional fees during peak travel periods. Therefore, before purchasing a Flight Pass, be sure to read the terms and conditions to make sure you understand the entire scope of what you’re buying.
Depending on the Flight Pass you purchase, you can generally change or cancel your flights for a fee. Again, the terms and conditions will clearly state these rules, so make sure you’re comfortable with them before you buy your Flight Pass.
Lastly, as of January 2024, you’ll earn both eUpgrades and Status Qualifying Miles for eligible Flight Pass activity as part of your Core Benefits. This means that each time you complete an eligible Flight Pass activity, you’ll get a boost of eUpgrades and SQM.
Previously, you’d have to choose one or the other as part of your Select Benefits, so anyone who uses Flight Passes will benefit from both going forward.
Using eUpgrades with Flight Passes
An important consideration with Flight Passes is that eUpgrades can be used with all Flight Pass bookings. The amount of eUpgrades required to upgrade to a higher class of service depends on the fare class of the Flight Pass you purchase.
In the above chart for eUpgrades required for travel to North America and Sun destinations, note that the amount of eUpgrades needed to upgrade to business class varies widely both between and within booking classes.
For example, a flight over 1,501 miles booked in most Economy (Flex) fare categories would cost 10 eUpgrades, while a similar flight booked in Economy (Flex) “M” would cost only 2 eUpgrade credits. Indeed, this is one of the benefits of Flight Passes, as you could be able to ration your eUpgrades more effectively, assuming they clear.
Most Flex Flight Passes for travel across Canada are booked in Flex “M” class, which means that they’re booked at the highest tier within the Economy (Flex) fare bucket. While this would require the fewest amount of eUpgrades within this fare, you’re still subject to the eUpgrade clearance window that depends on your Aeroplan Elite Status level.
Recall that Economy (Latitude) fares aren’t subject to an eUpgrade clearance window. This means that as long as there’s eUpgrade availability on your desired flight and you have eUpgrades that are valid for the date of travel, you can use a Latitude Flight Pass to secure business class seats well in advance at a fixed price.
And since Economy (Latitude) fares are fully refundable, there’s no penalty if you need to cancel, even at the last minute.
Another benefit to Latitude Flight Passes is that you’re eligible for complimentary upgrades to business class. Upgrades are based on business class availability, and can only be requested and confirmed online between two days and one hour prior to departure.
Seasonal Flight Passes
Air Canada often sells promotional or seasonal flight passes, catering to specific audiences. For example, Air Canada has previously offered the Ski Flight Pass.
This pass was valid for two or more travellers between popular ski destinations in Canada and the United States. The cost of the pass with eight flight credits was exactly double that of the pass with four flight credits, but you can have up to four passengers on the former and only two on the latter.
Let’s say you and your significant other want to go on a ski trip to British Columbia, and you live in Quebec. If you were to buy the Flex Flight Pass for $2,427, it works out to a cost of $606.75 per segment, or $1,213.50 round-trip per person.
Whether or not this is a great deal depends on the cash fare you’d otherwise pay when you book your flights. If you fly at the last minute, it could be a great deal, but if you were to book separate flights during a sale, then the Flight Pass is probably a more expensive option.
It’s imperative to read the terms and conditions in detail prior to purchasing a Flight Pass, since they vary so widely. It’s also good to compare the cost per credit with the retail cost per flight to ensure you’re comfortable with the price.
Are Air Canada Flight Passes a Good Deal?
The value of Air Canada Flight Passes is entirely subjective to how you travel and how you tend to book flights.
Some travellers may consider Flight Passes to be a fantastic deal, while others might balk at the idea of paying a premium for convenience and flexibility.
If you’re looking to buy a Flight Pass, your best bet might be to audit your flight bookings for the past year, and compare it with what you’d pay with a Flight Pass for the next year.
You’ll also want to weigh up the incremental benefits of Flight Passes, such as booking into higher fare categories, being able to cancel or change for a nominal fee, and having predictable costs for your travel.
Or, since the cost of a Flight Pass is fixed, while the cost of booking standalone flights fluctuates, you could also sit down and weigh the cost of each credit of a Flight Pass against the cost of purchasing each one-way or round-trip booking with cash.
For example, suppose you’re based in Edmonton, and fly to Los Angeles at least five times per year. You might consider buying a Western USA Plus Flight Pass at the following prices:
The cost per segment works out as follows for the different fares:
- Flex: $497.20 per segment
- Latitude: $717.50 per segment
- Business Class: $1,106.20 per segment
If you consider the Flex Flight Pass as your best option, the next step would be to see how much an Economy (Flex) ticket costs if booked alone. If you book in advance and can take advantage of a sale, then the cost per segment is likely going to be higher with a Flight Pass than booking in advance.
For example, you might find an Economy (Flex) fare between Edmonton and Los Angeles for $318. In this case, you’d be paying more per segment with a Flight Pass, and booking standalone flights would be a better deal.
However, if you tend to book at the last minute or during busy travel periods, then the Flight Pass might actually wind up saving you money. For example, an Economy (Flex) ticket might cost $732, in which case the $497.20 per-segment cost of the Flex Flight Pass is a better deal.
Again, Flight Passes depending on the availability of specific fares in order to redeem them, and are sometimes subject to additional fees during peak travel periods.
If you’re a bargain hunter, it’s unlikely that you’ll find particular value with buying a Flight Pass. But if you’re someone who travels often between two places, it may be beneficial to consider buying an Air Canada Flight Pass for the flexibility, fixed pricing, and other incremental benefits.
Air Canada Flight Passes offer travellers the convenience of paying a fixed price for flights between two regions. As we’ve shown, passes tend to be more valuable for people who travel during peak travel periods and at the last minute, than for those who look to travel for the lowest price.
If you’re looking at an Air Canada Flight Pass, be sure to sit down and compare the costs and benefits of a pass versus paying for flights on a case-by-case basis. You’ll also want to give the terms and conditions for the Flight Pass a thorough read before completing the purchase.