It has been well-documented that people have trouble redeeming their Aeroplan points and getting a fair value. I wrote a post about how to maximize your Aeroplan points. In terms of Aeroplan, the bottom line is that you need to redeem your points on Star Alliance partners to get more value out of your points. If you do not fly internationally often enough or you do not fly to the destinations of any of the partnered airlines, then maybe Air Canada is not your best bet.
If not Aeroplan, then what? Below are a few general rules of thumb.
If you do not care for loyalty points
1) If you are not picky about sitting in economy seats, then just pick the airline with the cheapest price. The cash savings on an airline ticket usually outweigh any points you earn with airlines. Be sure to shop around the prices between the different airlines and always look for promotions and discounts on airfare.
If you want to bank all your points into one airline
2) I understand that a lot of people do not travel frequently enough, so they rather just bank all their points into one airline. The problem with this approach is that it can get costly. That means you have no opportunity to take advantage of cheaper fares. In which case, you’re better off going with Option 1 above.
3) This is my choice. I rather just diversify between the various airlines, because you never know which airline is going to be hit with a massive devaluation, go bankrupt or get bought out. By having diversity, you can also take advantage of the various promotions and discounts offered by all airlines. You just need to find a way to keep your accounts active while you’re flying on another airline. For example, if you are a fan of WestJet, but have some Aeroplan points, then just go to Esso or Home Hardware once a year to keep your Aeroplan account active until you are ready to redeem those points. There is not reason to let your points expire if you are willing to put in the effort to keep track. Read more about the AwardWallet program.
A few other strategies
4) One tip is if you can identify your travelling habits, then it will be easier for you to figure out which airline works best for you. For instance, if you know that you only travel within Canada, then maybe WestJet will work better for you. The reason is because their reward program is much more straight up. Air Canada has expensive tax and fuel chargers if you redeem the points within Canada. Air Canada only makes sense if you fly internationally.
If you only fly internationally, then maybe you are better of only joining international frequent flyer programs that suit your travelling needs better. You are not only bound by Canadian airlines. A little research can go a long way. Remember, the more work you put in on the points game, the more you will be rewarded.