There are changes to the Air Canada travel voucher that have a negative impact for everyone. Air Canada has changed the way they process their travel vouchers, which I am going to refer to as a devaluation.
Air Canada Travel Voucher (Prior to June 2023)
Since COVID-19, many airlines have imposed a flexible change and cancellation policy, despite most tickets being non-refundable. Most airlines offer the ability to cancel a reservation and receive a travel voucher for a future booking. This allowed many customers to re-book existing flights at a lower price if prices were to drop. Air Canada made it slightly difficult, by processing vouchers within six weeks of the cancellation. If you were looking to cancel and re-book because you found a lower fare, you could not use the same voucher for the new reservation. Instead, you had to spend more money and use the Air Canada travel voucher for another future reservation.
Despite the limitation, I personally leveraged this travel voucher on multiple occasions throughout the pandemic. I was able to book tentative flights knowing I could cancel for a voucher. In addition to that, I could book discounted fares with change fees, knowing that I would rather cancel for a full voucher than change my flight. However, I can imagine, a policy like this was detrimental to Air Canada. I’m sure Air Canada found their frequent flyers paying for tickets with change fees, knowing, that they will not pay a change fee if they cancel their reservation.
Fare Classes on Air Canada
When you typically book a flight within North America, you are often presented with the following fare classes:
- Basic (Economy)
- Standard (Economy)
- Flex (Economy)
- Comfort (Economy)
- Latitude (Economy)
- Lowest (Premium Economy)
- Flexible (Premium Economy)
- Lowest (Business Class)
- Flexible (Business Class)
The most restrictive fare category has always been the Basic Economy Class fare. The Basic Economy Class fare did not allow any voluntary changes. If Air Canada made a voluntary change, that could often work in your favor. The changes to the Air Canada travel voucher have no impact to the Basic Economy Class fare hack. I will continue to book Basic Economy Class fares when my travel is in the future. I am very confident that Air Canada will make a schedule change that will allow me to refund the reservation if necessary.
The following fare classes have a change fee of $100, which impacts the travel voucher changes the most:
- Standard (Economy),
- Lowest (Premium Economy),
- Lowest (Business Class)
In the future, if you book those fare classes, and want to change your flight, you will have to pay the $100 change fee as shown below.
Air Canada Travel Voucher (Ongoing)
In the picture below, I had paid $647.62 for my flight reservation. I booked Standard (Economy) and Lowest (Business Class) thinking I could obtain a voucher if my travel plans were to change. When I go to cancel the ticket, I see the following options:
You might be fooled into believing that you should take the future travel credit. After all, the future travel credit was for the full amount. However, the last bullet point explicitly states
Any cancellation fees and fare difference will be applied to the new booking: if the value of new booking is lower, the difference will be forfeited
Previously, you could use the future travel credit across multiple reservations. Now it has to be used in one single reservation and cannot be used by anyone else other than the originally ticketed passenger. That is a massive change that will influence how you purchase revenue tickets going forward.
To receive a full voucher in the event of a cancellation, you have to purchase Flex (Economy) or Flexible (Premium Economy, or Flexible (Business Class). Purchasing a flexible ticket in Premium Economy and Business Class is redundant; you can always do a full refund back to your credit card for flexible tickets.
Let’s be honest, this policy change helps Air Canada. Air Canada on the other hand are hoping for a behavior change. Personally, Air Canada has succeeded in a behavior change. Going forward, I will only be booking flex for myself or the basic fare if I am booking in advance for others.
What’s the worst part of these changes?
The changes are retro-active. This means even if you purchased tickets in the past, expecting a very generous Air Canada travel voucher, you will now have the same restrictive policies applied.
I think it is safe to say; this is the end of Air Canada’s COVID-19 flexible travel policy. Going forward, with rising demand of travel, we are back to pre-COVID policies.
Air Canada, thank you. It was great while it lasted.