Learning to redeem Aeroplan miles for award flights could result in a significant return value from your travel rewards points. But, trying to understand airline award charts and figure out the best ways to use your miles and points can be so frustrating!
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- the basics of the Aeroplan Loyalty Program,
- how to earn Aeroplan miles,
- how to use Aeroplan miles for the best value,
- Aeroplan stopover and open jaw award flight itinerary examples, and,
- how to avoid paying Aeroplan’s fees on award tickets.
A Beginner’s Guide to Redeem
Aeroplan Miles for Award Flights
With legacy carriers like Delta and United ditching their award charts in favor of a dynamic award pricing model, flexible currencies and their transfer partners will become even more important than ever.
Of course, you want to get the most out of your miles and points. Taking the time to learn about other airline programs can mean better pricing and more options to book the award flight best suited for your travel plans.
Aeroplan Loyalty Program Basics
Aeroplan is the current loyalty program for Air Canada. After some back and forth, Air Canada will ultimately take over the program in 2020. Will it be a complete change to the program or just a rebrand, only time will tell. In the meanwhile, there’s still value to be had and plenty of time to book award flights with Aeroplan.
Aeroplan Air Canada is a member of the Star Alliance along with airlines like United, Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, and ANA. In addition, there are non-alliance partnerships with several other airlines, some of which can even help you get to remote areas of the Canadian wilderness.
So, while you can’t transfer or convert Aeroplan miles to United or ANA or any other partner, you can redeem your Aeroplan miles for award flights through Aeroplan on these partner airlines and more.
Unlike British Airways, Aeroplan publishes a Fixed Mileage Rate award chart based on award flights flown between set geographic regions. This means you can fly for a set number of miles no matter where you are leaving from or going to in a given region.
For example, you’d need 40k Aeroplan miles for an award ticket from anywhere in the Continental U.S. & Canada to anywhere in the Caribbean.
Here’s a snippet of the Aeroplan Award Chart, as well as the complete version here.
Aeroplan’s award calendar is open 356 days in advance for bookings. In general, it’s best to book award flights as far in advance as possible so as not to lose the seats you need. Remember, though, not all partners release availability at the same time. As an example, United doesn’t open up their calendar until 337 days in advance.
The takeaway here is to book in advance but to keep in mind that any partner space you see at the far reaches of the calendar may not show everything that’ll ultimately be available.
One big highlight of Aeroplan’s program is it allows up to 2 stopovers or 1 stopover and 1 open jaw on award itineraries when you go between 2 continents, i.e. North America and Asia. This allows for added value routings and even mini round-the-world itineraries. You’ll see several more examples below to show some of the possibilities.
The downside comes in the way of fees imposed by Aeroplan for award flights operated by some of their partners, even for flights on Air Canada. You’ll see the specifics below so you can get the most value from your miles without having to pay insanely high fees.
How to Earn Aeroplan Miles
As a U.S.-based miles and points enthusiast, earning Aeroplan miles is easy if you have flexible currency with Amex Membership Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy, and/or Capital One. If you don’t, American Express, Chase, and Capital One all offer travel rewards credit cards that earn these currencies.
Aeroplan Air Canada is a 1:1 Amex transfer partner and has been known to offer an occasional transfer bonus. Marriott Bonvoy points can be transferred at a 3:1 ratio in 60k point increments and come with a 5k bonus. So, 60k Marriott points are equal to 25k Aeroplan miles.
Capital One points transfer at a 2:1.5 ratio. While 1:1 is always preferred, it’s nice to see Capital One expand from its cashback rewards program to include transfer partners like Aeroplan. A 1.5 cent per point valuation isn’t aspirational as much as it’s functional.
Of course, it’s possible to earn Aeroplan miles by flying on Air Canada or another Star Alliance carrier with a cash ticket and crediting the miles earned to your Aeroplan account.
You can also look for promotions with Aeroplan’s travel partners on rental cars and hotels, shop at the Aeroplan eStore, as well as convert points from Aeroplan hotel partners. Keep in mind, this last option isn’t a terrific value. The conversion is far from 1:1 and you lose cents per Aeroplan mile gained.
Lastly, keep yourself organized so your miles and points don’t expire! Aeroplan miles expire after 12 straight months where no miles have been earned or redeemed. Use the eStore, redeem for a flight, credit a cash flight to your Aeroplan account, or transfer points into your account to reset the expiration date.
How do you search for Aeroplan award flights?
In order to get started with Aeroplan, you’ll need a loyalty account. It’s free to join and is necessary to search for award flights. Of course, you’ll also need a place to transfer points from Amex, Marriott, and Capital One!
Head over to Aeroplan and click on “Become a Member” on the top right of the screen. Then, follow the prompts to create an account.
When you’re finished, remember to add your new loyalty member number and password to whatever tool you use to stay organized. I started with and still use a spreadsheet which you can get by signing up for my free Travel Hacking Basics course.
Once you’ve joined Aeroplan, you’ll be able to search for award flights. Log in to your Aeroplan account. Click on Book, then flights.
For a basic round trip search, simply enter your departure and arrival airports. Once you do this, continue by entering your dates, number of passengers, and the seat class you’re searching.
Once your search results are displayed, you’re able to click on the details for each itinerary and even change the seat class from Economy/Premium to Business/First.
If you’ve searched for a Business or First Class ticket, check the details to know if it’s a mixed class award itinerary. You don’t want to pay more miles for a “Business Class” seat if the longest segment of your itinerary is actually in Economy.
99.9% of the time, you’ll want to choose the Fixed Mileage Rate. Market Fare Flight Rewards fluctuate based on the cash price of the ticket and will almost always be more expensive.
One thing to watch for on Aeroplan is any dreaded phantom award space. The website has had its fair share of glitches and unfortunately, this is part of it. There’s nothing like the panicky, sick-to-your-stomach feeling when you transfer your precious flexible currency into an airline account only to discover the award you want doesn’t actually exist.
It’s always a smart idea to compare the awards you’re seeing on Aeroplan with what’s showing on United’s website and even what’s visible with ANA’s search tool. Here’s also where a paid tool like Expert Flyer can come in handy, too.
The teacher in me just can’t resist…check and recheck your “work” for the best possible outcome!
Which Aeroplan partners are bookable online?
All Star Alliance partners and Juneyao Airlines can be booked Aeroplan’s website with Aeroplan miles. All other non-alliance partners like Cathay Pacific or Canadian North are bookable by calling. There is a $30 phone fee to book. But, it’s always worth asking the agent nicely if they’ll waive the fee because the award wasn’t bookable online. Maybe you’ll get lucky! 😉
There have been issues in the past with some airlines being blocked from results. It’s happened with Swiss, SAS, and LOT in the past so it’s something to keep in mind if you’re not seeing results you think should be there.
Best Ways to Redeem Aeroplan Miles for Award Flights
Aeroplan’s award program doesn’t wow you with irresistible sweet spots. One of the most known awards is from the U.S. to Europe 1 (Western Europe) in business class for 110k miles roundtrip. Destinations in Europe 2 (Eastern Europe) are just 5k miles more. While not the lowest cost premium seat to Europe, the pricing is certainly respectable.
However, the program’s value truly comes into focus when you take advantage of its stopover and open jaw rules like in the above example.
Aeroplan’s award routing terms and conditions discuss several varying rules depending on where your flight originates and your destination(s). To help you make sense of them, here’s what you need to know.
- No stopovers on one-way award tickets.
- Flights solely within Canada or between Canada and the Continental USA can have 1 stopover OR 1 open jaw.
- Travel itineraries from Canada or the Continental USA on Air Canada flights only to Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Central America, or the Caribbean are allowed 2 stopovers OR 1 stopover and 1 open jaw. If a Star Alliance partner operates a segment of this award ticket, only 1 stopover and 1 open jaw are allowed.
- Award itineraries between 2 continents can have 2 stopovers OR 1 stopover and 1 open jaw.
- With the exception of rules #2 & #3 listed above, stopovers are not allowed on award tickets within a single continent. For example, this would apply to an itinerary that’s entirely in Asia or Europe. However, these routings can include an open jaw.
Without question, #4 is where most travelers get maximum value from their miles.
Above, you saw how to search and book a basic round trip Aeroplan award flight. Aeroplan’s search tool lets you build an award itinerary with 1 stopover or 1 open jaw. However, for more complex routings that include 2 stopovers or 1 stopover and 1 open jaw, you’ll need to call Aeroplan to book.
For itineraries with a single stopover, though, choose the multi-city booking option on the website. Then, enter your search details one segment at a time. Award tickets with 1 open jaw can also be pieced together online.
Use tools like the airport Wikipedia pages to see which airlines fly to and from your home airport and destination(s) in order to build your itinerary.
In the example above, you’re looking at an itinerary from the U.S. to Athens with a stopover in Brussels. Athens is part of Aeroplan’s Europe 2 region which costs 75k miles in Economy roundtrip. The best part is the itinerary includes a second destination, Brussels, for no extra Aeroplan miles.
For 90k Aeroplan miles, you could fly from the U.S, plan a stopover in Brussels, before continuing on to your final destination, Bangkok. The mileage cost would be the same if you simply booked a roundtrip from the U.S. to Bangkok.
Roundtrip Business class tickets to Africa are also considered a sweet spot on the Aeroplan award chart. In the example above, the stopover in Tanzania before flying to South Africa means you can do an Eastern Africa and a Southern Africa safari for the same 150k Aeroplan miles roundtrip!
Open jaw itineraries are popular in Asia because it’s so cheap to fly between cities on budget airlines like Air Asia and Scoot. You could even nest an Asian itinerary with United miles using their Excursionist Perk in between flying into Singapore and out of Beijing to add more value to your trip.
Speaking of which, with United ditching their award charts, Aeroplan’s fixed prices could be a way to bypass the wonky dynamic pricing moving forward on United-operated flights. Specifically, if you’re someone looking for a domestic Saver ticket on United and can’t find the typical 12.5k one-way or 25k roundtrip pricing on United’s website, it’s worth a look on Aeroplan since they charge the same for these domestic United flights and have fixed pricing.
How to Avoid High Aeroplan Fees
Confession! There’s 1 thing I didn’t tell you in the last few examples. I chose specific Star Alliance partners to avoid paying the high fees for which Aeroplan is known. Unfortunately, the loyalty program passes on airline-imposed surcharges and fees. The key is to know which airlines charge these fees and which airlines don’t.
The difference can mean a reasonable out-of-pocket cash amount to book your award ticket or hundreds and hundreds of dollars in fees which negate the value of the overall award flight.
When booking with Aeroplan miles, avoid award flights operated by:
- Adria Airways
- Air Canada (as counterintuitive as this seems!!)
TAP Portugal used to be included on this list. However, it appears as if this has changed. The rule to remember when searching for award flights on Aeroplan is to comparison shop for the lowest fees.
Yikes, look! Those Lufthansa fees on the Economy award ticket above are painful, not to mention negate the value of the award ticket! So, if you select an itinerary and there are hundreds of dollars in fees, choose flights for the same route operated by different airline partners. With all other partners than the ones above imposing no or low fees, you’re likely to find a much better deal.
Here’s the exact same route on the exact same dates as the above example. Yet, the taxes and fees will convert to less than $100 USD!
How about this Business class itinerary with just the outbound flown by Air Canada and over $1k CAD in fees! For the exact same route and dates, you could fly Swiss Business Class for the same amount of miles and a whole lot less out of pocket!
Aeroplan miles are easy to earn given their access via American Express, Marriott, and Capital One. And, savvy travel hackers know airline alliance partner redemptions are the key to maximizing their miles and points.
Aeroplan and its airline partnerships combined with their stopover and open jaw rules offer travelers the opportunity to redeem Aeroplan miles for a great value.
So, how would you like to use Aeroplan miles for your travel goals?
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