Air Canada customers won't lose their Aeroplan points when the airline changes its loyalty program in 2020, but they won't be able to transfer them over either.

Air Canada's deal with Aeroplan's operator, Aimia, is slated to expire on June 29, 2020, after which the airline will launch its own loyalty program. Air Canada announced the plan in a news release on Thursday, touting it as a way to "strengthen its customer relationships and deliver a more consistent end-to-end customer experience."

The airline says it will continue to honour members of its Altitude program "based on their annual flight activities," and that it will continue counting flights toward its Million Mile recognition program. However, frequent flyers may be in for a bit of a rough ride with the transition, as they will not be able to transfer their Aeroplan points over to the new loyalty program.

Members of Air Canada’s new program will start with a balance of zero points on June 30, 2020.

"Aeroplan miles earned up to June 2020 will stay in Aeroplan members' accounts, and will continue to be subject to the conditions of their program," Air Canada said.

The airline says customers will still be allowed to purchase seats on Air Canada with their Aeroplan points after the change, but at prices that are "competitive with other third-party rewards programs."

"The new program, launching in 2020, will offer additional earning and redemption opportunities, more personalized service and a better digital experience for Air Canada customers," Benjamin Smith, President, Passenger Airlines, said in the news release.

Air Canada is expected to offer more details on the new program at its annual investors' meeting on Sept. 19.

Aeroplan was originally launched as Air Canada's in-house loyalty program in 1984, before it was spun off into a separate company and sold a decade-and-a-half ago.

Jonathan Bishop, a research analyst with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, expects Canada’s largest carrier will strive to be as attentive and transparent as possible in telegraphing the changes to its customers as the 2020 deadline approaches, having learned from the fierce consumer backlash against Air Miles Canada last year.

Air Miles’ parent company LoyaltyOne was pressured into backing away from an unpopular five-year expiration policy, even though card holders were informed of the change years in advance. LoyaltyOne was threatened with a class action lawsuit, and the Ontario government introduced legislation banning the expiration of loyalty program points as a result of the debacle.

“I think the recent experiences with other loyalty programs will be key reminders to both Aeroplan and Air Canada to be fair to their customers, provide that transparency, give plenty of notice so those potential public relations challenges can be avoided,” Bishop told CTV News Channel.

Personal data play

Business strategist Tony Chapman says the loyalty program landscape is different these days, because in-house programs can be a "Trojan horse" for companies to access users' valuable personal data.

"I can see why Air Canada's made this move," Chapman told "The only asset you have these days is your frequent customers," he said.

Chapman says the days of a catch-all loyalty program are gone, as most major brands would rather run those programs in-house in order to keep control of that personal data. "It's a control play," he said.

Chapman added that Aeroplan may have to scramble to find a new strategy, as its offerings become more fractured without Air Canada as a major partner.