Miles Redemption with Air Canada Aeroplan, a Step-By-Step Guide
Aeroplan is the frequent flyer program of Air Canada, a member of Star Alliance. Aeroplan is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards and Capital One Rewards, and has consistently been ranked as one of the best frequent flyer programs in North America.
Star Alliance is the largest airline alliance in the world and with 26 member airlines and over 1,200 destinations, making it a popular choice for customers who would like to redeem their Amex points for award travel.
In this deep dive, we’ll go over:
How to find availability on the route you are looking for.
How to work out the cost of an Aeroplan award ticket.
How to make best use of routing rules.
Open jaw and round-trip tickets.
Credit card points transfers.
Keep on reading below.
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On November 9th, 2020 Air Canada launched a complete overhaul of the Aeroplan program, with a new pricing structure as well as a reduction in carrier-imposed fees (also known as fuel surcharges).
Many airlines including Delta, United, Air France KLM are moving towards dynamic award pricing, as opposed to fixed award charts. Aeroplan however, have introduced an innovative hybrid pricing structure.
The award chart is divided up into four zones:
The chart is further divided into the pricing within and between the zones, which is comprised of four tiers. The price is determined by the total distance traveled, as illustrated in the example below.
Travel between North America and the Atlantic zone:
0-4,000 miles – 60k points one-way in business class
4,001-6,000 miles – 70k points one-way in business class
6,001-8,000 miles – 85k points one-way in business class
8,001+ miles – 100k points one-way in business class
Calculating the cost of round-trip tickets and open-jaws
In order to calculate the cost in points of an award ticket we first need to determine the distance flown. This can be done via the Aeroplan search engine which displays the cost in points, though for complex routings you’ll need to calculate the distance yourself.
Use the Great Circle Mapper and enter the route in the search bar (expressed in three-letter IATA airport codes with hyphens in between), that will give you the distance flown in miles.
New York to Venice in business class.
The quickest routing goes with Lufthansa via Frankfurt.
NYC-FRA-VCE gives us a flown distance of 4,215 miles which puts us in the second pricing tier at 70k points for a one-way ticket in business class.
For a return via the same route, the round-trip cost would be 2x70=140k points in business class. However, say you wanted to calculate the cost of the trip with a return from Paris, you would need to calculate the new distance for the return portion as well.
CDG-NYC on United’s nonstop flight gives us a distance of 3,649 miles.
This puts us in the first tier at 60k points one way.
Total cost for an open jaw from New York to Venice and back from Paris is thus 130k points.
Calculating the cost of multi-city itineraries
Aeroplan offers customers the option to add a stopover on award tickets, excluding itineraries within the North America zone. Stopovers can be added for an additional 5,000 points per stop and you’re also allowed to add stopovers on one-way itineraries.
Let’s go back to the previous example of our round-trip ticket from New York to Venice. Let’s say you want to book a stopover in Zürich on the way back from Venice. Multiple stopovers can be added to a single ticket at an additional 5k points per stop. A stopover is defined as a layover exceeding 24 hours, and if you wanted to visit a city but stay less than 24 hours the stopover supplement will not be added to the total cost.
So the total itinerary will be as follows:
Flown distance of 4,215 miles.
Equals 70k points one way in in business class.
VCE-ZRH (stopover) ZRH-NYC.
Flown distance of 4,157 miles
Equals 70k points in business.
Plus 5k points for the stopover.
Equals 75k points one way in business class.
Total cost for the ticket is 145k points in business class.
Airline-imposed surcharges are no longer imposed
With the launch of the new Aeroplan program, airline-imposed surcharges (also known as fuel surcharges) are no longer imposed. Previously, these surcharges could amount to upwards of $1,000 per ticket on airlines such as Lufthansa. In addition to the miles, airport taxes are charged and these vary depending on the country of origin and destination but a general rule of thumb is around $100-$250 per person round trip on long haul itineraries.
Other fees and rules:
Aeroplan charges a $39 CAD Star Alliance booking fee per person and booking.
Bookings made through the call center are subject to a $30 CAD service fee.
Free cancellations are allowed for bookings made within 24 hours.
Cancellations made outside of 24 hours are subject to a $150 CAD cancellation fee per person if made online or $175 CAD per person if made via the call center.
Changes can be made on award tickets up until two hours before departure. A change fee of $75 CAD per person applies for changes made 60 days or more before departure, and for changes made less than 60 days before departure, the fee is $100 CAD per person.
Detailed information regarding Aeroplan’s ticket rules can be found here.
Routing rules - high levels of flexibility
Aeroplan has historically been known for their generous routing rules which in some instances made it possible to fly around the world on itineraries between North America and Asia. With the launch of the new program these rules have been tightened somewhat, though there is still a high amount of flexibility with the catch that you have to pay a higher price for the longer distance flown.
Under the new program, the maximum flown distance can be twice as long as the direct distance between the origin and destination point. For instance, a flight from New York to Bangkok has a direct distance of 8,670 miles. This means that the highest allowable distance is 17,340 miles so you would for example be allowed to route your one-way New York to Bangkok flight via Vancouver and Sydney which has a flown distance of 14,854 miles.
It’s also worth noting that while Aeroplan are generous with the distance flown, backtracking is generally not allowed despite being within the allowed distance. Ultimately the most logical routing applies and whether or not your itinerary is accepted is at the discretion of the booking agent.
Points transfers and booking procedures
Aeroplan is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, with a transfer ratio of 1:1. Transfers are instant and final, meaning that once the transfer has gone through, it is irreversible. It’s therefore important to make the transfer at the very last minute to ensure that the award seats are available and bookable. Aeroplan doesn’t allow members to hold award tickets while waiting for the transfer to clear but the good news is that Amex transfers tend not to take more than 30 minutes.
Finding award availability
Air Canada or United
Air Canada is a member of Star Alliance, the largest of the three major airline alliances consisting of 26 member airlines. In addition to its Star Alliance partners, Aeroplan also partners with a number of airlines outside of Star Alliance, most notably Etihad Airways who many consider to offer some of the best redemption options.
Star Alliance award availability can be searched either directly via the Aeroplan search engine or via United Airlines search engine. The inventory shown on United’s search engine is bookable through Aeroplan and the biggest advantage of searching via United is the calendar view as well as more options being displayed.
When using the United Airlines search engine, you need to look for award availability in the saver category:
Booking class X for Economy Class.
I for Business Class.
O for First Class.
Etihad Airways, who aren’t a member of Star Alliance, can be searched via the Aeroplan search engine. Again, the search results may be limited, so the best option is to search directly on the Etihad Airways website which displays the correct availability.
Look for “Guest Seat” which is the same inventory that’s bookable through partner airlines. Note down the flight numbers and dates, and book via the Air Canada call center. Etihad and Star Alliance carriers can be combined on the same booking, though you’ll need to book via the Air Canada call center.