How to Upgrade to Business/First Class on Air Canada Flights [2021]

Air Canada business class seat

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Air Canada’s frequent flyer program is called Aeroplan. Air Canada’s old elite status program used to be called Air Canada Altitude, and this was separate from the redeemable mileage program called Aeroplan.

Now, Air Canada has brought everything under the Aeroplan program.

In this article, we will be discussing how to use Aeroplan get upgrades on Air Canada flights.

We’ve got quite a bit of ground to cover, so let’s get started.

Types of Upgrades

There are a few types of Aeroplan upgrades you need to be aware of:

  • eUpgrades: Upgrade using credits issued by Air Canada. These can be used for any Air Canada, Air Canada Express, and Air Canada Rouge itinerary.
  • Star Alliance Upgrade Awards: With participating partners, you can use currencies from other airlines to upgrade your Air Canada and Air Canada Express flights.
  • AC Bid Upgrade: Upgrade any economy or premium economy ticket by bidding cash. Applicable for Air Canada, Air Canada Express, and Air Canada Rouge. 
  • Last Minute Upgrade Purchase: Upgrade using cash at check-in or at a self-service check-in kiosk. This program is intended to sell seats that would otherwise be empty right before departure. 

How to Find Out if Upgrade Space Is Available

One of the only ways to access the specific number of upgrades available is by using ExpertFlyer — we talk about this more in our guide on the best ways to upgrade to business or first class.

ExpertFlyer is a paid subscription website that charges $99.99 per year billed annually (or more if you pay monthly). However, it is an extremely useful tool for savvy award travelers to have in their arsenal.

Using ExpertFlyer, follow these steps to find upgrade inventory on Air Canada:

  1. Visit ExpertFlyer
  2. Log in to your account with your email and password
  3. Click Flight Availability on the left side of the page
  4. Type in your route and travel dates and select Air Canada as the airline
  5. Under Only Show Class(es), type:
    • R for Business – E-Upgrades to see eUpgrade-eligible flights
    • P for International business upgrades from O/Y/B classes using Star Alliance partner currencies such as Singapore KrisFlyer (not for flights wholly within North America)
    • Z for North American Business class upgrades from O/Y/B classes using Star Alliance partner currencies
  6. Click Search
  7. The number of upgrade seats is displayed on the right side
eUpgrade ExpertFlyer
ExpertFlyer shows Air Canada’s upgrade availability. Image Credit: ExpertFlyer

Upgrading using miles is only possible with specific fare classes. And to make things even more confusing, the number of miles necessary and eligible fare classes will vary depending on which miles you’re using.

For example, the mileage cost of an upgrade with Singapore KrisFlyer will be different from the cost using United MileagePlus, which is a major source of confusion we’ll address below.

Air Canada also labels its fare classes with names instead of referring to them with the 1-letter fare code we are all used to:

Air Canada Accrual Chart for Air Canada Flights
Fare NameAccrual Structure Based on Miles Flown
Premium Economy125%
Standard (International)50%
Standard (Domestic Canada)25%
Basic (International)25%
Basic (International between Canada and the U.S.)25% (No SQMs accrued)
Basic (Domestic Canada)10% (No SQMs accrued)

Hot Tip: Upgrades for each flight and ticket will have different availability depending on the booking class, route, and dates. It’s a best practice to check every flight individually.

Upgrade Priority: Who Gets the Upgrade First?

The Importance of Elite Status

Getting upgraded from economy to any premium cabin seat will depend heavily on your level of elite status with Air Canada Aeroplan. Just like how United uses elite status to automatically establish your position on a waitlist, this is similarly the case with Air Canada Aeroplan.

The higher your Aeroplan elite status, the higher priority you will be in line to have your eUpgrades clear.

Aeroplan calls this your eUpgrade clearance window. Unlike frequent flyer programs like American AAdvantage where your upgrade can clear outside of the confirmation window if there is confirmed upgrade space available, your eUpgrades will not begin clearing until the clearance window.

Here is the chart of eUpgrade clearance windows:

Air Canada Aeroplan eUpgrade Clearance Windows
Aeroplan Elite StatusPremium Economy (Flexible) and LatitudePremium Economy (Lowest), Comfort, Flex, and StandardPremium Economy (Lowest), Comfort, Flex, and Standard
All FlightsNorth America and Sun Destinations (Mexico and the Caribbean)International
Aeroplan Super Elite14 days7 days
Aeroplan 75K12 days6 days
Aeroplan 50KAnytime10 days5 days
Aeroplan 35K8 days4 days
Aeroplan 25K4 days3 days
Aeroplan Member7 days

For example, if you’re an Aeroplan 50K member and you’re looking to apply an eUpgrade to a flight between Vancouver (YVR) and Seoul-Incheon (ICN) booked in the Standard fare class, your eUpgrade will clear starting from 5 days before departure.

As you can see, Aeroplan 75K and Aeroplan Super Elite members can have eUpgrades clear within 6 and 7 days, respectively. Therefore, members with higher status will typically always have higher priority.

Hot Tip: The number of eUpgrades will vary wildly depending on your route, your booking class, your elite status, and much more. Click here to learn about eUpgrade requirements in detail.

The only way to have eUpgrades clear further out than the clearance window is apply eUpgrades on the most flexible tickets, which are Premium Economy (Flexible) and Latitude tickets. Typically, these are also the most expensive.

Furthermore, Air Canada has a program called Early Recognition, which gives you benefits for qualifying for elite status faster than usual.

When you reach a higher status before the end of the year, you’ll have the chance to choose your Select Privileges. This means that you can pick 1 item from a list of perks (similar to “choice benefits” offered with some top-tier hotel statuses).

If you make Early Recognition and qualify for the higher status before December 31, you get to receive up to 10 eUpgrade credits before the new year — essentially an advance of eUpgrades (the exact number of eUpgrade credits will vary depending on your exact qualifying tier).

Here are the amounts of eUpgrade credits you could receive for each status, including the number available in advance with Early Recognition’s Select Privileges:

Aeroplan Status LevelNumber of eUpgrade CreditsNumber of eUpgrade Credits From Early Recognition
Super Elite7010

Say you qualified for Elite 75K on October 15, 2020. When you meet the qualification requirements, you will receive 10 eUpgrade credits. Next year, you will still receive your regular 55 eUpgrade credits as well.

Bottom Line: Elite status is very useful because you’ll get more eUpgrade credits depending on which tier you’re in. More eUpgrade credits means you can upgrade more flights! Plus, higher elite status means higher upgrade priority!

Details of Using eUpgrades

Your eUpgrade credits typically expire in late February of the year after your elite status period, giving you about 14 months to use them.

That said, there are different numbers of eUpgrade credits required for each route — luckily, Air Canada has a guide to help you figure out how many eUpgrades you’ll need.

If you want to upgrade a companion, Air Canada offers an avenue to do so: the eUpgrade Travel Companion. If you hold any Aeroplan status, you can use eUpgrade credits to request an upgrade for both yourself and a traveling companion on the same reservation.

Hot Tip: You can also upgrade a companion on a different reservation, but these requests can only be performed on the day of departure at the airport.

If you’re a top-tier Super Elite member, you can also use the eUpgrade Nominees benefit. You can essentially give upgrades to anybody for any purpose if they are an Aeroplan member. Keep in mind that a nominee can only receive upgrades from a single Super Elite member.

The main difference between eUpgrade Nominees and eUpgrade Travel Companions is that you must be on the same flight with Travel Companions, while eUpgrade Nominees do not need to be traveling with the Super Elite member at all.

If you end up running out of eUpgrades or needing more, you can also complete “Flight Pass activities” to get more eUpgrade credits. You’ll also earn Status Qualifying Miles for purchasing Flight Passes.

Aeroplan Status Level Benefits

Aeroplan elite status cards
Image Credit: Air Canada

Let’s move away from eUpgrades for a moment. Different Aeroplan status levels also provide benefits when it comes to selecting preferred seats, which includes exit row seats.

Aeroplan Status LevelSeat Upgrade Benefit
  • 50% off preferred seats on Flex fares in all markets
  • 50% off preferred seats on Flex fares in all markets
  • 50% off preferred seats on Flex fares in international markets
  • Choose complimentary preferred seat (North American markets only)
  • Choose complimentary preferred seat on Flex fares in all markets
Super Elite
  • Choose complimentary preferred seat on all fares in all markets

If you’re interested also in priority seat selection, which is simply at the front of economy, you’ll be able to choose those with any Aeroplan status, starting from Prestige 25K.

Priority and preferred seats are technically not upgrades, though they are an enhancement over regular economy seats.

Bottom Line: The best way to upgrade on Air Canada is by using eUpgrade credits — these have the most award availability and are attainable by qualifying for certain tiers of Aeroplan elite status. Having Aeroplan elite status can also provide you with priority or preferred seating, which aren’t upgrades, but can help you secure a better economy seat on flights.

The Value of a TD Aeroplan™ Visa Signature® Credit Card

The recently discontinued TD Aeroplan card allowed you to earn Aeroplan points that you could use to upgrade your flights. However, there are generally much better ways to earn points and transfer them to Aeroplan that will deliver the same result.

For example, the cards below have better rewards structures and get you more points faster. Remember, there aren’t any cards that increase your upgrade chances/priority on Air Canada, so you might as well get one that has the best rewards.

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Upgrading With Miles

There are 2 main avenues to upgrade with miles:

  • You can use Aeroplan points to bid for an upgraded Air Canada flight
  • You can use any other Star Alliance airline’s miles to upgrade your Air Canada flights

Which currency you end up using will depend on your exact situation. This is because airlines have different transfer partners and ratios, which can change the equation depending on what upgrades you’re trying to make.

First, we’ll talk about upgrading Air Canada flights using Aeroplan points. Then, we’ll move on to discuss the method for using other airline miles to upgrade Air Canada flights.

Aeroplan Mileage Upgrades on Existing Reservations

Using Aeroplan points to upgrade your flights is very easy:

  1. Book an economy ticket
  2. Go to the Aeroplan website and enter your booking reference and last name to see if your flight is eligible for an AC Bid Upgrade

Sounds pretty easy, right? It is, but you’ll find that the cost to use miles is very expensive because AC Big Upgrades using Aeroplan points has a very low cent-per-point value.

Bottom Line: Overall, this process is very easy. Since you’re upgrading with miles, you do not need any form of elite status, eUpgrade certificates, or anything else pertaining to Air Canada Aeroplan. You simply need to bid using Aeroplan points, and you’re good to go.

Star Alliance Mileage Upgrades

Star Alliance is unique in that you can use any airline partner’s miles to upgrade on any other Star Alliance flight. This means you can spend KrisFlyer miles to upgrade Air Canada flights, or Aeroplan points to upgrade KrisFlyer flights, for example — the partnership goes both ways.

However, there are some restrictions:

  • You can only upgrade 1 class, either from economy to business or business to first
  • You must upgrade specific fare types
    • This means that you’ll likely need to have an expensive/flexible economy ticket; some airlines will allow cheaper fare classes to be upgraded but ultimately it will vary from airline to airline

Different airlines charge different prices for upgrades, and you’ll want to follow these steps to find out how much upgrading your flight will cost:

  1. Visit the Star Alliance redemptions website
  2. Click Book Your Upgrade
  3. Choose the airline whose miles you want to use
  4. Click Visit Website
  5. Complete the process for Star Alliance upgrades on the website you’re redirected to

Bottom Line: You’ll need to abide by individual frequent flyer program upgrade rules, but once you’ve done that, you’ll find you can achieve some great value by using any Star Alliance airline’s miles to upgrade your Air Canada flights. 

How to Secure an Upgrade or Increase Your Chances of an Upgrade With Air Canada

With Air Canada Aeroplan Elite Status

  • Earn eUpgrade credits by achieving Air Canada Aeroplan elite status and purchasing a ticket with eligible fare classes. The eUpgrade cost will vary depending on the fare class, route, status, desired cabin upgrade, and your Aeroplan status.
  • Purchase a higher fare ticket that will require fewer eUpgrade credits.
  • Use Aeroplan points to book an award flight outright, without worrying about upgrade availability.
  • Search for upgrade availability as soon as you have an idea of what dates and flights you’re taking.
  • Choose priority and preferred seating by leveraging Aeroplan status. This isn’t an upgrade per se, but it can make a short-haul flight more spacious by giving you better economy or economy plus seats.
  • Take advantage of eUpgrade Travel Companions to upgrade your companions on a flight you’re taking.
  • Take advantage of eUpgrade Nominees to upgrade someone else on any flight they’re taking.

Without Air Canada Aeroplan Elite Status

  • Purchase an upgrade-eligible ticket and bid for an upgrade with Aeroplan points on Air Canada, Air Canada Express, and Air Canada Rouge tickets.
  • Purchase an upgrade-eligible ticket and upgrade with any Star Alliance carrier’s miles.
  • Consider heavily discounted premium fares to save your miles.
  • Use last-minute upgrades to purchase a low-cost upgraded ticket when you’re at the airport.

Final Thoughts

Air Canada’s various processes and systems for getting upgrades are convoluted, though they align with other airlines’ upgrade procedures for the most part. Getting that treasured upgrade is a complicated process — but it can be rewarding for those who take the time to understand it.

There are several main ways to get upgrades:

  1. eUpgrade credits
  2. Mileage upgrade bids using Aeroplan points
  3. Mileage upgrades using Star Alliance miles
  4. Paid upgrades via bids
  5. Paid last-minute upgrades at the airport

Each of these methods has its own pros and cons, and there are ways to get upgraded without elite status. Elite status is super useful in providing upgrades with Aeroplan, and the eUpgrades you acquire by achieving elite status levels or completing certain Flight Pass activities can be instrumental in confirming your upgrades.

eUpgrades have the best availability, but they’re generally only accessible for Air Canada Aeroplan elites. If you don’t have eUpgrades, you can also be an eUpgrade Travel Companion or eUpgrade Nominee of someone who does.

The bottom line is that Air Canada has many ways of upgrading to business or first class, and this guide focused on using miles and eUpgrade credits. However, we touched on pretty much every method, so now you have the information you need to upgrade to business or first class with Air Canada. 

Frequently asked questions

How do I know if my upgraded Air Canada ticket allows a free checked bag?

When you upgrade a flight on Air Canada, you are entitled to the same luggage allowance as if you had purchased the ticket with cash.

Check the information here regarding checked baggage.

How can I get upgraded on an international ticket if I don't have status with Aeroplan?

You don’t need to hold elite status to upgrade with Air Canada.

You can upgrade solely with a certain fare ticket and enough miles. You can use Aeroplan points or any other Star Alliance carrier’s miles to upgrade your ticket.

Keep in mind, however, that eUpgrade credits (which are attainable with Air Canada Aeroplan elite status) have better award availability than mileage upgrades.

Can I upgrade an Air Canada award ticket I purchased with miles?

Yes, you can now upgrade an award ticket!

Check how much it’ll cost here.

When will the Aeroplan points be deducted and any extra fees charged for an upgrade request?

As soon as your upgrade is requested and processed, the miles/fees will be deducted from your Aeroplan frequent flyer account. Also, your credit card on file will be charged if you’re upgrading from a deeply discounted ticket using eUpgrade credits.

Which fare class should I buy to make sure I get an upgrade on Air Canada?

To upgrade with miles, you’ll need to submit the highest bid using Aeroplan points. If you’re upgrading with another Star Alliance airline’s miles, you’ll need to follow their rules and have specific fare classes to upgrade.

If you’re using eUpgrade credits, you can pretty much upgrade on any fare class. However, a cheaper fare class will cost more eUpgrades than a more flexible/expensive fare class.

Lastly, you can bid for an upgrade or pay for a last-minute upgrade with cash.

What is the difference between economy and economy plus seats on Air Canada?

Economy plus seats have more legroom compared to economy seats. Furthermore, they will be located in either an exit row or at the front of the aircraft.

If you have the right Air Canada Aeroplan status, you will have a complimentary selection of priority and preferred seats. Priority seats are at the front of the aircraft and will allow you to deplane faster when you land. Preferred seats have more legroom.

Lower level elites with Air Canada Aeroplan may not get complimentary seat selection, but they may get discounted seat selection.

Stephen Au

About Stephen Au

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Stephen has been privileged to enjoy many premium cabin products and 5-star hotels. A petroleum engineer by trade, Stephen caught the travel bug in college when he traveled to Asia several times. After 2 years of continual promotions, Stephen quit his safe and secure career path in favor of entrepreneurship.

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  1. Kingston mom August 8, 2019

    Hi, I have Altitude 25K status and 20 E upgrade credits. I’m wondering how many credits it would be to upgrade from premium economy to business one way on an international flight (LHR to YYZ). Can you kindly advise? The chart doesn’t make a lot of sense to me 🙂 Thanks!


    • Good question! LHR to YYZ clocks in at 3540 miles one-way. According to the eUpgrade chart, an upgrade from the lowest premium economy fare to business costs 21 certificates + $500 for this flight. Flexible premium economy tickets can be upgraded for 11 certificates and no fee on this route. Thanks!


  2. Corine Petrochuk September 7, 2019

    We are flying business first class from Toronto to Vancouver
    What is maximum pieces of luggage allowed and what is maximum weight of those pieces of luggage


    • Hi Corine,

      For your flight, you may bring 1 personal item, 1 carry-on bag, and two checked bags weighing no more than 32kg (70lb) per person.

      Thanks for reading!


  3. Andrea Tawfik September 10, 2019

    Hi! If I pay to upgrade an Air Canada flight from economy to premium economy, will I receive Altitude points for an economy fare or the 125% of premium?


    • Hi Andrea,

      Unfortunately, the accrual of mileage and elite qualifying mileage is applicable to the original ticket’s fare class and conditions, so you will receive it for the economy fare. Thanks for reading!


  4. KELLY WEINSTEIN December 10, 2019

    Hi. What if I want to cancel my bid for an upgrade, can I?


    • Hi Kelly,

      Yes, Air Canada should allow you to cancel your bid for an upgrade. If it’s not giving you the option in your account setting, a customer service rep should be able to take care of it for you!


  5. If I get a business class ticket via eUpgrade, will I still get the 150% AQM or will i get the 100% per my original fare?


  6. Hi,

    My Altitude Status Level with AC is Prestige 25K along with 20 eUpgrade credits, and it will expire in February 2021. What would be the best way to use them before then ? My wife and I travel frequently and would like to go to Europe in September by way of business or first class. We would be flying out of YYZ. We also fly 2-3 times yearly to LAX with AC in business using Aeroplan points. Any other tips to use up my 20 credits before they expire would be greatly appreciated.


    • Bill,

      Upgrading on Air Canada is a great goal to have when using eUpgrade credits. The best way to do this is to find availability first and then plan your travel around that. Upgrade availability is hard to come by, so you MUST be very flexible if you want any chance of using these eUpgrades. Look towards routes like YYZ-LHR or similar routes.


  7. I tried to research this information but couldn’t find a clear answer:

    How many e-credits (and early recognition) I’ll get upon qualification of super-elite from scratch?
    Do I get them when I qualify for each threshold, or it summarizes based on the whole amount I flew per year?
    For example when I qualify for 25K I get 20 e-upgrades. Do I get them right away or this “early recognition” option replaces it?
    Then if I move to the next level – do I get another 30 or they credit me only additional 10? Will I get another 30 credits for Elite 35k? And 50,75 and 100K statuses respectively?

    I’ve always been PLAT or 1K with UAL, and since they assign new status right after you get qualified, you get perks immediately. So, you have 40 points for PLAT + 280 for 1K. Which means you actually get 320 points, and not 280.
    Is it different here?

    Please, explain. I am considering to shift to AC and will be thankful if someone can clarify it.


    • Vicant,

      Let’s take an example. If you qualify for Super Elite 100K from scratch on October 15, 2020 and therefore qualify for early recognition, you’ll get:

      10 eUpgrade credits before the end of the year and 70 eUpgrade credits starting next year (Jan 1, 2021). The total, therefore is 80 eUpgrade credits if you also get Early Recognition.

      You do not get eUpgrades instantly. You must wait for the beginning of the year after qualifying.


  8. Thank you Stephen!
    So, it also means that if I’ll take enough flights to qualify for SE 100K by the beginning of May, I still won’t have any status until Oct 15th, correct?


    • Hi Vicant,

      This should be a correct statement. However, please confirm with Air Canada and let us know if you get any different information. it’s a great problem to have if you’re qualifying for Super Elite 100K by early May!


  9. Tammy Lorenowich January 16, 2021

    Hi Stephen,
    I am just trying to learn what the Aeroplan changes were. We haven’t traveled in 10 months and have not needed to look for flights but hopeful we will someday. I have Aeroplan 25k Silver status and a TD Infinite Aeroplan credit card. When I log into my Aeroplan account it is asking me to choose different benefits so I am trying to learn exactly what eUpgrade credits are and how they work. The main question I would have is how many would you have to use for example between Thunder Bay, ON, and Las Vegas. I don’t know if would always have 25K Silver or if we would move up… hard to say as we do use other airlines. On another note what would be the most economical way to hope for an upgrade to Business Class? I need to pick between 2 free Lounge passes, 25% additional air miles, and extra eUpgrade credits with the new Aeroplan program. When we book we often purchase seats right away. We get free baggage and 2 free airport lounge passes already with our credit card. Thanks in advance for any information.


Any thoughts or questions? Comment below!

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