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Many people like WestJet's reward program because there’s no flight rewards chart or dynamic pricing to worry about.JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

When it comes to air travel in Canada, most travellers prefer either Air Canada or WestJet. But if you asked them about the carriers’ two respective loyalty programs – Aeroplan and WestJet Rewards – they might not be able to tell you the exact differences.

One of the programs is about to create a new distinction.

As of May 15, Aeroplan members will be able to send and receive text messages free on all WiFi-equipped Air Canada planes, the loyalty program announced Wednesday. It’s an industry first in Canada. Although this may not immediately shift frequent flyer loyalties, it does give Aeroplan members another perk.

Here’s how the two programs compare:


With Aeroplan, you can redeem your points on any available seat, including premium and business class, on an Air Canada-operated plane. In addition, Aeroplan has 45-plus airline partners where you can use your points. While partner airlines have limited reward space, there is an opportunity to try out some amazing products, such as first class on Emirates, where you can take a shower in the sky.

Aeroplan uses a flight rewards chart showing that the number of points required for a redemption is based on where you’re flying from, where you’re flying to, the miles flown and seat class. A points predictor is available online, so you can quickly estimate how many points you’ll need for a flight. Taxes and other charges apply to Aeroplan redemptions, but you can use your points to offset those fees.

Aeroplan partners with Bell to offer more perks to travellers

While the rewards chart is mostly straightforward, Aeroplan uses dynamic pricing for Air Canada flights. That means more popular routes and times will cost more points compared with the less desirable ones. When airfares are higher, and flights are fuller, it’s not uncommon to see premium and business class seats far exceed what’s listed in the chart. There’s still a lot of value in the program though since there are so many seats available and partner airlines have a fixed rate. You can also use your points on Air Canada Vacations packages.

With Aeroplan Family Sharing, up to eight family members can share their Aeroplan points. Each account would remain separate, but you’re able to pool your points for redemptions. This makes it easier for families to redeem their points.

The newest bonus is outlined in Aeroplan’s announcement Wednesday: Members will be able to send and receive text messages free through iMessage, Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber and Messages by Google on all WiFi-equipped Air Canada planes.

Retail partners: You can earn Aeroplan points at Liquor Control Board of Ontario outlets, Starbucks, Uber and Uber Eats (grocery and retail). Aeroplan also plans to partner with Parkland (Ultramar, Chevron, Pioneer, On the Run and more) in the fall. In addition, Aeroplan eStore has hundreds of partners where you can earn points when shopping online.

Earning status: Aeroplan has a two-step process to earn status. You need to fly a qualifying number of miles or segments and spend a minimum amount. Once you’ve earned status, you’ll get access to benefits such as eUpgrade credits, which can be used to upgrade to a higher cabin class, airport lounge passes and more.

Credit card perks: Aeroplan has more than a dozen co-branded credit cards available. Premium cards give you your first checked bag free, Maple Leaf Lounge access, priority check-in, priority boarding, priority baggage handling and more.

WestJet Rewards

Instead of earning points or miles, you earn WestJet dollars with WestJet Rewards. When making a redemption, one WestJet dollar is worth $1. Many people like WestJet Rewards because there’s no flight rewards chart or dynamic pricing to worry about.

When redeeming your WestJet dollars, they can only be applied to the base fare. That means any additional transportation charges, taxes and fees must be paid out of your own pocket. These extra fees can sometimes exceed the base fare.

As a WestJet Rewards member, you also get access to member-exclusive fares. This variable discount is available to those who have earned enough WestJet dollars to pay the entire base fare.

Where WestJet flies should also determine how loyal you are. They’ve recently decided to focus on its core users in Alberta and British Columbia. Although they still have a presence in Ontario, they don’t have much of a footprint in other parts of the country. That means if you live in a city that isn’t serviced well by WestJet, you’ll have a hard time spending your WestJet dollars.

To further complicate things, they only have a handful of partners where you can use your WestJet dollars, such as Delta, Aeromexico, Air Transat, Air France and Qantas. But you can use your WestJet dollars on WestJet Vacations packages, which will appeal to many people.

While there’s no denying the simplicity of WestJet Rewards – since it’s like a cashback program – it’s almost too basic. There are limited opportunities to take an aspirational flight, such as a business class seat on a specific route.

Retail partners: WestJet Rewards has no retail or grocery partners.

Earning status: With WestJet Rewards, your status tier is based strictly on your qualifying spend. Once you hit Silver Tier ($3,000 spent), you’ll get benefits such as an increased earn rate on WestJet flights, free checked bags, priority boarding and check-in, seat selection vouchers, airport lounge vouchers and more.

Credit card perks: There are only two co-branded WestJet credit cards. The WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard gives you your first checked bag free and an annual round-trip companion voucher. This voucher allows the second guest on the same itinerary as the primary cardholder to purchase a round-trip ticket starting at $119, plus any fees, taxes and airport transportation charges.

A lower fare class may trump loyalty

While there’s no denying that loyalty points and perks you earn could make travelling more enjoyable, they typically benefit frequent travellers the most. But Aeroplan has introduced perks that benefit all members, regardless of status. If your goal is to keep your costs down, then consider other carriers such as Porter, Lynx Air, Swoop and Flair, as they may offer the lowest price to get you to your final destination.

Barry Choi is a personal finance and travel expert at He was previously affiliated with Aeroplan, WestJet Rewards and Royal Bank of Canada, but currently has no relationship with any of the brands.

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