Is Air Canada a Good Airline?

Air Canada flies to 200+ destinations and offers good fares and redeemable Aeroplan points for loyal travelers.
Lee Huffman
By Lee Huffman 
Published
Edited by Meg Lee

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When booking an international trip, travelers can choose from a lot of different airlines. While many Americans focus on U.S.-based airlines, there can be significant value in considering international competitors like Air Canada.

As Canada’s largest airline, Air Canada flew more than 37 million passengers around the globe in 2022. To give you an idea for whether Air Canada is a good match for your trip, let’s go over the experience of flying with the airline, the benefits of its loyalty program and other considerations that could help you make your decision.

What is Air Canada like?

Air Canada is good for international flights, going to 189 destinations in 58 countries. Whether you're flying on an Air Canada plane or with a Star Alliance partner, you're connected to every continent.

The airline also operates Air Canada Rouge, its low-cost subsidiary.

Here's what flyers can expect:

  • Making reservations. Travelers can book Air Canada flights online or through its mobile app 24 hours a day. Reservations can also be made at any time by calling 888-247-2262.

  • Check-in. Check-in is available online or through the airline's mobile app starting 24 hours before departure. Passengers can also check in at the airport through self-service kiosks or with airport agents.

  • Boarding. Air Canada boards passengers according to five zones, plus pre-boarding for those needing assistance. Boarding for families and those traveling with musical instruments happens between zones two and three. Your boarding zone is based on elite status, fare class and if you hold a co-branded credit card.

  • In-flight experience. The airline offers three classes of service on most of its flights — economy, premium economy and business class. Your in-flight experience, including meals and beverages, will depend on your class of service. However, all passengers can access movies, TV and music options in over 15 languages. Wi-Fi is available on limited flights for a fee.

Air Canada fees

Passengers can expect to pay various fees depending on which Air Canada services they choose. Fees can also be influenced by ticket type and elite status. Here is a sample of the fees you may be charged when flying Air Canada.

  • Checked baggage fees. Starting at $30 for the first bag and $50 for the second bag (this is waived for Air Canada's credit cardholders).

  • Additional or oversized bag. Starting at $100.

  • Seat selection fees. Starting at $14 for basic and standard fares within Canada or the U.S.

  • Change fees. Varies based on ticket class and time before departure. Passengers can change their flights up to two hours before departure, and fees typically range from $26 to $115.

  • Cancellation fees. Not all tickets are refundable, and some provide a credit instead of a refund. For international travel outside Canada and the U.S., cancellation fees can be as high as $590.

  • Wi-Fi. In-flight internet access is available on limited flights between Los Angeles and Toronto or Los Angeles and Montreal; it costs roughly $6-$8, depending on whether you're connecting to a single mobile device or want full internet access.

Air Canada’s loyalty program

Air Canada’s loyalty program is called Aeroplan. Members can earn points by flying, using Aeroplan's co-branded credit card or spending with Aeroplan's 50+ travel partners (via the Star Alliance and others). Points can be redeemed for flights, upgrades, vacation packages and more.

  • Aegean Airlines.

  • Air China.

  • Air India.

  • Air New Zealand.

  • All Nippon Airways.

  • Asiana Airlines.

  • Austrian Airlines.

  • Avianca.

  • Brussels Airlines.

  • Copa Airlines.

  • Croatia Airlines.

  • EgyptAir.

  • Ethiopian Airlines.

  • EVA Air.

  • LOT Polish Airlines.

  • Lufthansa.

  • Scandinavian Airlines.

  • Shenzhen Airlines.

  • Singapore Airlines.

  • South African Airways.

  • Swiss.

  • TAP Air Portugal.

  • Thai Airways.

  • Turkish Airlines.

  • United Airlines.

There are five levels of elite status in Air Canada’s loyalty program: Aeroplan 25K, 35K, 50K, 75K and Super Elite. You can earn elite status based on how much you spend and either the number of segments or distance flown.

The Aeroplan® Credit Card makes qualifying for elite status easier.

Aeroplan Credit Card

Aeroplan® Credit Card

NerdWallet Rating
5.0
Annual fee

$95

Beyond its travel partner brands, Air Canada is a transfer partner of four flexible points programs. Members can transfer points to Air Canada from the following programs at a 1:1 ratio:

The number of Aeroplan points required for an award flight depends on the zone to which you’re traveling, the flight distance and ticket class. Additionally, prices on the Aeroplan award chart vary whether you’re flying with Air Canada or a partner airline.

Unique Aeroplan perks

Travelers wondering if Air Canada is a good airline should also take note of the unique perks its loyalty program offers.

Aeroplan’s best benefits may vary depending on what's most important to you. However, some unique offerings stand out when compared to other airlines.

  • Parental leave elite status extension. Members can request an extension of their elite status when expecting a baby or welcoming a new child into their family. This benefit allows you to keep your status during a time when you may not be flying as frequently.

  • Lifetime elite status. When you fly more than one million Lifetime Qualifying Miles (LQMs), you'll receive lifetime 50K elite status.

  • Aeroplan status for a friend. If you hold 75K or Super Elite status, you can grant 35K or 50K elite status, respectively, to a friend through Dec. 31 of the benefit year.

  • Status Pass. Those who hold 50K elite status or higher receive Status Passes, which they can use to share elite benefits with another person (and up to nine travel companions) for the duration of their trip.

Other things to consider

Safety ratings

Another way to determine if Air Canada is a good airline is to review its independent safety ratings. AirlineRatings.com evaluates and compares airline safety records. It’s given Air Canada its top rating, seven out of seven stars, based on incident data from the International Civil Aviation Organization and International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Reliability

Air Canada was ranked 10th by IATA for on-time performance among the 10 largest North American airlines based on 2022 performance. The airline completed on-time arrivals only 51% of the time in July 2023, which is much lower than the average on-time performance of 66%.

Customer satisfaction

In addition to official ratings, customer satisfaction scores can also indicate if Air Canada is a good airline. For example, TripAdvisor has almost 30,000 reviews from travelers sharing their thoughts on whether Air Canada is good. Although it has an average score of 3.0 out of 5.0 stars, the airline was a Travelers' Choice Winner in 2018 and 2019.

Additional customer feedback is available from Flight-Report.com. On that site, Air Canada has an average score of 7.5 out of 10 stars. However, its rating has been trending downward over the last 12 months.

General cost

Air Canada typically has competitive fares on the routes it operates. The airline offers flights to Canada from the U.S. starting at under $100 — for example, we found a $96 one-way fare from Miami to Toronto in April 2024. You can also find deals for award flights starting at less than 5,000 Aeroplan points.

Who should avoid Air Canada?

While Air Canada is good for international flights and trips within Canada, it isn't the best choice for every traveler. Here are some types of travelers who may want to select another airline for their trip.

  • Those who exclusively travel within the U.S. The airline does service U.S. cities, but domestic airlines tend to offer more robust flight schedules between American cities.

  • Those who desire first class tickets. Air Canada does not offer a first class cabin on any of its aircraft.

  • Those who are worried about arriving on time. According to data comparing the 10 largest airlines in North America's 2022 on-time performance, Air Canada's reliability ratings are poor (last place).

If you're considering flying Air Canada ...

Air Canada is a good airline for travelers in Canada and the U.S. The airline serves close to 200 destinations, and its Star Alliance partner network can get you to even more cities around the world. It offers competitive fares and charges reasonable fees for the common services passengers use.

Its Aeroplan loyalty program offers many benefits, is a transfer partner of flexible points programs and offers a co-branded airline credit card. If you fly the airline regularly, its credit card is worth the annual fee.

Aeroplan members can redeem points for Air Canada flights, and sometimes flights can be found for even fewer points when booking with Star Alliance partners.

(Top photo courtesy of Air Canada)


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