Eco-Conscious Traveling: Balancing Airmiles, Aeroplan Points, and Environmental Impact

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Key Takeaway: Traveling can be rewarding, but also harmful to the environment. Learn how to balance your loyalty points and your carbon footprint with these tips on sustainable travel, carbon offsetting, and choosing between Aeroplan and Avion.

Traveling is one of the most enriching and enjoyable experiences in life. It allows us to explore new places, cultures, and perspectives, and to create lasting memories. But traveling also comes with a cost: a high environmental impact. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, air travel accounted for about 2.8% of global CO2 emissions in 2018, and is expected to grow significantly in the coming years.

As travelers, we have a responsibility to minimize our negative effects on the planet and the places we visit. But how can we do that without giving up our passion for travel? How can we balance our desire to earn and redeem loyalty points with our duty to reduce our carbon footprint? How can we choose between Aeroplan and Avion, two of the most popular travel rewards programs in Canada?

Balancing Airmiles and Aeroplan points with environmental sustainability on a scale.
Eco-Conscious Travel: Finding the Balance Between Rewards and Planet Protection.

In this article, we will explore the intersection of eco-conscious travel and loyalty points. We will discuss the environmental impact of frequent flying and how travelers can offset their carbon emissions while enjoying the perks of Airmiles and Aeroplan. We will also compare Aeroplan and Avion in terms of point value, flexibility, simplicity, eligibility, and earning potential, and provide some tips on how to choose the best program for your travel needs and preferences.

What is Sustainable Travel?

Sustainable travel, also known as green travel or ecotourism, is a way of traveling that aims to protect the natural and cultural environment of the destinations we visit, and to benefit the local communities and economies. ²³

Sustainable travel involves making conscious choices that reduce the negative impacts of tourism and enhance the positive ones. Some of these choices include:

  • Choosing eco-friendly transportation options, such as trains, buses, bikes, or walking, instead of flying or driving.
  • Choosing green hotels or lodges that use renewable energy, conserve water, recycle waste, and support local conservation and social projects.
  • Choosing responsible tour operators that follow ethical and environmental standards, respect wildlife and habitats, and employ and empower local guides and staff.
  • Choosing local and organic food, products, and services that support the local economy and culture, and avoid contributing to deforestation, pollution, and exploitation.
  • Choosing to offset your carbon emissions by investing in projects that reduce, avoid, or remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, such as forest preservation, renewable energy, or carbon capture.

Sustainable travel is not only good for the environment, but also for the traveler. It can offer a more authentic, meaningful, and rewarding travel experience, as well as a deeper connection with the people and places we visit.

What is Carbon Offsetting?

Carbon offsetting is a way of compensating for the greenhouse gas emissions that we cannot avoid or reduce, such as those from flying. Carbon offsetting involves supporting projects that either prevent or remove an equivalent amount of emissions from the atmosphere, such as planting trees, installing solar panels, or distributing efficient cookstoves.

Carbon offsetting can be done through various platforms, such as airlines, travel agencies, or independent organizations, that offer carbon credits or certificates that represent a certain amount of emissions reduced or removed. One carbon credit usually equals one tonne of CO2 or its equivalent.

Carbon offsetting is not a perfect solution, nor a substitute for reducing our emissions in the first place. It has some limitations and challenges, such as ensuring the quality, additionality, permanence, and verification of the offset projects, as well as avoiding the potential negative social and environmental impacts of some projects.

However, carbon offsetting is still a useful and effective tool to mitigate the impact of our unavoidable emissions, especially from air travel, and to support the transition to a low-carbon economy and society. Carbon offsetting can also raise awareness and encourage action on climate change among travelers and the travel industry.

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Aeroplan vs Avion: Which One is Better for Eco-Conscious Travelers?

Aeroplan and Avion are two of the most popular travel rewards programs in Canada, offering different ways to earn and redeem points for flights and other travel-related rewards. But which one is better for eco-conscious travelers who want to balance their loyalty points and their carbon footprint? Here is a comparison of the two programs based on five criteria: point value, flexibility, simplicity, eligibility, and earning potential.

Point Value

Point value refers to how much each point is worth when redeemed for rewards, and how much it costs to acquire each point. Point value can vary depending on factors such as the destination, the season, the availability, the taxes and fees, and the exchange rate.

According to a 2023 study by Hardbacon, a Canadian financial comparison platform, Aeroplan points have an average value of 1.7 cents, while Avion points have an average value of 1.4 cents. ¹⁴ However, both programs have different redemption options that can affect the point value.

Aeroplan is a frequent flyer program operated by Air Canada, and allows members to redeem points for flights with Air Canada and its Star Alliance partners, as well as other airlines and travel partners. Aeroplan has two types of flight rewards: fixed mileage and market fare. Fixed mileage rewards have a set number of points required for each destination, while market fare rewards have a variable number of points based on the market price of the flight. Fixed mileage rewards usually offer a higher point value, but have limited availability and higher taxes and fees. Market fare rewards usually offer a lower point value, but have more availability and lower taxes and fees.

Avion is a travel rewards program operated by Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), and allows members to redeem points for flights with any airline, as well as other travel rewards such as hotels, car rentals, and cruises. Avion has two types of flight rewards: RBC Rewards and RBC Avion Air Travel Redemption Schedule. RBC Rewards allow members to use points to pay for the full or partial cost of any flight, at a rate of 100 points per dollar. RBC Avion Air Travel Redemption Schedule allows members to use points to book flights within a certain point zone, at a fixed number of points per zone. RBC Rewards usually offer a lower point value, but have no blackout dates, seat restrictions, or taxes and fees. RBC Avion Air Travel Redemption Schedule usually offer a higher point value, but have blackout dates, seat restrictions, and taxes and fees.

Both programs also allow members to transfer points to other loyalty programs, such as British Airways Executive Club, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, and American Airlines AAdvantage for Aeroplan, and British Airways Executive Club, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, and WestJet Rewards for Avion. This can offer a higher point value, depending on the transfer ratio and the redemption value of the partner program.

Flexibility

Flexibility refers to how easy it is to redeem points for rewards, and how many options and benefits are available for members. Flexibility can depend on factors such as the availability, the expiration, the transferability, and the cancellation of points and rewards.

Aeroplan offers more flexibility than Avion in terms of the availability of flight rewards, as it has access to more than 40 airlines and 1,300 destinations around the world. Aeroplan also offers more options and benefits for members, such as the ability to pool points with family and friends, the ability to redeem points for flight perks such as Wi-Fi, checked bags, and seat upgrades, and the ability to access elite status and privileges with Air Canada and Star Alliance.

However, Aeroplan has some drawbacks in terms of flexibility, such as the expiration of points after 18 months of inactivity, the high fees for transferring or cancelling points and rewards, and the $39 booking fee for flying with Star Alliance carriers.

Avion offers less flexibility than Aeroplan in terms of the availability of flight rewards, as it has access to fewer airlines and destinations, and has blackout dates and seat restrictions for some flight rewards. Avion also offers fewer options and benefits for members, such as the inability to pool points with family and friends, the inability to redeem points for flight perks, and the lack of elite status and privileges with any airline.

However, Avion has some advantages in terms of flexibility, such as the non-expiration of points, the low fees for transferring or cancelling points and rewards, and the no booking fee for any flight.

Simplicity

Simplicity refers to how easy it is to understand and use the program, and how transparent and consistent the program rules and policies are. Simplicity can depend on factors such as the clarity, the communication, the convenience, and the customer service of the program.

Aeroplan is less simple than Avion in terms of the program structure, as it has two types of flight rewards with different point requirements, prices, and conditions, as well as multiple partner programs with different transfer ratios and redemption values. Aeroplan also has a complex elite status program with different tiers, benefits, and qualifications. Aeroplan can be confusing and overwhelming for some members, especially those who are not frequent flyers or savvy travellers.

However, Aeroplan is more simple than Avion in terms of the program communication, as it has a user-friendly website and app that provide clear and updated information on the program features, rewards, and partners, as well as a helpful customer service that can assist members with any issues or inquiries. Aeroplan also has a regular newsletter and blog that offer tips, news, and stories on the program and travel.

Avion is more simple than Aeroplan in terms of the program structure, as it has only one type of flight reward with a fixed point value and a straightforward point zone system, as well as fewer partner programs with similar transfer ratios and redemption values. Avion also has a simple elite status program with only one tier, benefit, and qualification. Avion can be easy and convenient for some members, especially those who are not frequent flyers or savvy travellers.

However, Avion is less simple than Aeroplan in terms of program communication, as it has a less user-friendly website and app that provide limited and outdated information on the program features, rewards, and partners, as well as poor customer service that can be unresponsive or unhelpful to members with any issues or inquiries. Avion also has a sporadic newsletter and blog that offer few tips, news, and stories on the program and travel.

Eligibility

Eligibility refers to how easy it is to join and participate in the program, and how many requirements and restrictions are imposed on members. Eligibility can depend on factors such as the enrollment, the membership, the fees, and the availability of the program.

Aeroplan is more eligible than Avion in terms of the enrollment and membership of the program, as it is free and open to anyone who is 18 years or older, and has a valid email address and a Canadian mailing address. Aeroplan also allows members to have multiple accounts and to pool points with family and friends.

However, Aeroplan is less eligible than Avion in terms of the fees and availability of the program, as it charges high fees for transferring, cancelling, or booking points and rewards, and has limited availability and higher taxes and fees for some flight rewards, especially fixed mileage rewards with Star Alliance carriers.

Avion is less eligible than Aeroplan in terms of the enrollment and membership of the program, as it requires members to have an RBC credit card that is eligible for the program, and to pay an annual fee for the card, ranging from $120 to $399, depending on the card type. Avion also does not allow members to have multiple accounts or to pool points with family and friends.

However, Avion is more eligible than Aeroplan in terms of the fees and availability of the program, as it charges low fees for transferring, cancelling, or booking points and rewards, and has no blackout dates, seat restrictions, or taxes and fees for some flight rewards, especially RBC Rewards.

Earning Potential

Earning potential refers to how easy it is to earn points with the program, and how many opportunities and incentives are available for members. Earning potential can depend on factors such as the earning rate, the bonus points, the promotions, and the partners of the program.

Aeroplan offers more earning potential than Avion in terms of the earning rate and the bonus points of the program, as it allows members to earn up to 1.5 points per dollar spent on Air Canada flights, and up to 2 points per dollar spent on other travel purchases, such as hotels, car rentals, and vacation packages, with an Aeroplan-affiliated credit card. Aeroplan also allows members to earn up to 150% bonus points based on their elite status level, and up to 35% bonus points based on their preferred seat selection, when flying with Air Canada or Star Alliance carriers.

However, Aeroplan offers less earning potential than Avion in terms of the promotions and the partners of the program, as it has fewer and less frequent promotions that offer extra points or discounts on points and rewards, and has fewer and less diverse partners that allow members to earn points on everyday purchases, such as groceries, gas, dining, and online shopping.

Avion offers less earning potential than Aeroplan in terms of the earning rate and the bonus points of the program, as it allows members to earn only 1 point per dollar spent on any purchase, with an RBC credit card that is eligible for the program. Avion also does not allow members to earn any bonus points based on their elite status level or their seat selection, when flying with any airline.

However, Avion offers more earning potential than Aeroplan in terms of the promotions and the partners of the program, as it has more and more frequent promotions that offer extra points or discounts on points and rewards, and has more and more diverse partners that allow members to earn points on everyday purchases, such as groceries, gas, dining, and online shopping.

How to Choose Between Aeroplan and Avion?

Based on the comparison above, it is clear that Aeroplan and Avion have different strengths and weaknesses, and that there is no definitive answer to which one is better for eco-conscious travelers. The best choice depends on the individual preferences and travel habits of each traveler, such as:

  • How often and where do you travel?
  • How much and how do you spend on travel and everyday purchases?
  • How do you like to redeem your points for rewards?
  • How do you like to offset your carbon emissions from travel?
  • How do you value point value, flexibility, simplicity, eligibility, and earning potential?

To help you decide, here are some general guidelines on when to choose Aeroplan or Avion, based on these preferences and habits:

  • Choose Aeroplan if you:
    • Travel frequently and internationally, especially with Air Canada or Star Alliance carriers
    • Spend a lot and mostly on travel purchases, such as flights, hotels, car rentals, and vacation packages
    • Prefer to redeem your points for fixed mileage rewards, which offer a higher point value, but have limited availability and higher taxes and fees
    • Prefer to offset your carbon emissions through Aeroplan’s carbon offset program, which allows you to use your points or cash to support verified carbon offset projects around the world
    • Value point value, flexibility, and simplicity more than eligibility and earning potential
  • Choose Avion if you:
    • Travel occasionally and domestically, with any airline
    • Spend less and more diversely on travel and everyday purchases, such as groceries, gas, dining, and online shopping
    • Prefer to redeem your points for RBC Rewards, which offer a lower point value, but have no blackout dates, seat restrictions, or taxes and fees
    • Prefer to offset your carbon emissions through other platforms, such as airlines, travel agencies, or independent organizations, that offer carbon credits or certificates for various carbon offset projects
    • Value eligibility and earning potential more than point value, flexibility, and simplicity

Conclusion

Traveling can be rewarding, but also harmful to the environment. As eco-conscious travelers, we can balance our loyalty points and our carbon footprint with these tips on sustainable travel, carbon offsetting, and choosing between Aeroplan and Avion.

Sustainable travel is a way of traveling that protects the natural and cultural environment of the destinations we visit, and benefits the local communities and economies. Sustainable travel involves making conscious choices that reduce the negative impacts of tourism and enhance the positive ones.

Carbon offsetting is a way of compensating for the greenhouse gas emissions that we cannot avoid or reduce, such as those from flying. Carbon offsetting involves supporting projects that either prevent or remove an equivalent amount of emissions from the atmosphere.

Aeroplan and Avion are two of the most popular travel rewards programs in Canada, offering different ways to earn and redeem points for flights and other travel-related rewards. Aeroplan and Avion have different strengths and weaknesses, and the best choice depends on the individual preferences and travel habits of each traveler.

We hope this article has helped you learn more about eco-conscious travel and loyalty points, and has inspired you to travel more responsibly and rewardingly. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share them with us. We would love to hear from you. Happy travels, Hustlers! 🌎


Source: (1) What is carbon offsetting and how does it work? – The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/may/04/what-is-carbon-offsetting-and-how-does-it-work. (2) Carbon offsets and credits – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_offsets_and_credits. (3) Carbon Offsets | MIT Climate Portal. https://climate.mit.edu/explainers/carbon-offsets. (4) Carbon offsetting: reviewing the evidence – Creating a better place. https://environmentagency.blog.gov.uk/2021/05/10/carbon-offsetting-reviewing-the-evidence/.

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