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One thing I enjoy doing when I have time is researching the ins-and-outs of different frequent flyer programs. I’ve a good knowledge of the potential of U.S. airline programs as well as those of a handful of foreign carriers. Recently, I’ve been researching the best uses of Aeroplan miles.
If you’re not familiar with Aeroplan, it is the frequent flyer program of Air Canada and a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards. Air Canada plans to launch their own frequent flyer program in a couple years, so things may change drastically in the future. But for now, Aeroplan offers some great award redemption opportunities.
Because Air Canada is a member of the StarAlliance, Aeroplan miles are redeemable for a huge number of destinations and on many carrier (SEE: 5 reasons I prefer collecting miles with StarAlliance airline programs). However, fuel surcharges are assessed on many Aeroplan awards (including Air Canada flights!). But you can both avoid these and get great value out of the program. Here are some of the best uses of Aeroplan miles:
Europe in business or first class
Aeroplan is one of the better options for booking business class flights between the U.S. and Europe. Europe is divided into two different regions in their program, but both are a decent deal.
Europe 1 includes Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain (incl. Balearic Islands; excl. Canary Islands), Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom. One-way business class awards to Europe 1 cost 55,000 Aeroplan miles.
Europe 2 includes Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Greenland, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia (Western), Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, Ukraine. One-way business class awards to Europe 2 cost 57,500 Aeroplan miles.
There is an additional nuance to Aeroplan awards. Say you book an award from Washington D.C. to Paris on Turkish Airlines with a connection in Istanbul. Since Turkey is in Europe 2, you would think that this award would price out at 57,500 miles. In practice, it prices at 55,000 miles, showing that it is based on your final destination in this case. Granted, it’s not much of a savings, but it’s still something to note.
Finally, make sure you know the airlines for which Aeroplan does not assess fuel surcharges. For North America-Europe routes, these are United, SAS, SWISS, Turkish, and Brussels. Also Ethiopian if you want to fly the LAX-DUB fifth freedom route (SEE: 5 fifth freedom routes I’m highly interested in flying).
The ability to book one-way awards at good prices, mixed with a few European partners (and United) on which there are no fuel surcharges, allows U.S.-Europe business class awards to top the list of best uses of Aeroplan miles.
Visiting the Arctic
Air Canada has some unique partners, including Canadian North, First Air, Calm Air, and Bearskin Airlines. All of these are regional airlines that serve remote destinations in the far north reaches of Canada. As far as I am aware a partnership with these airlines is completely unique to Air Canada.
If you have an interest in visiting Nunavut, or maybe Churchill and Wapusk National Park, Aeroplan miles are undeniably your best option. For example, a nonstop flight between Winnipeg and Churchill, Manitoba normally runs over $1,000 round trip. Same goes for nonstop Ottawa-Iqaluit. However, you can use a mere 15,000 miles (short haul award) and ~$50 CAD in taxes and fees (quoted to me by an Aeroplan phone agent) for either of these routes! This is a steal.
From most other North American locations, you’ll be paying 25,000 Aeroplan miles round-trip (plus additional fuel surcharges on Air Canada flights). Even with YQ of ~$100, this is still a phenomenal deal.
The only drawback to these partners is that they can only be combined with Air Canada flights. You cannot combine any flights on Canadian regional partners with any Star Alliance partner flights, or combine multiple Canadian regional airlines. This is a bit of a bummer since Air Canada has a limited number of U.S. destinations.
Domestic U.S. on United
You may be thinking, “why would I waste miles on that?” But hear me out as to why I think this is one of the best uses of Aeroplan miles. I’ll give you one huge reason: free stopover.
While United miles allow for a free stopover within a region as an “excursionist perk”, this doesn’t apply to U.S. flights. To get a domestic stopover, you have to fork over an additional 10,000 miles. Those thieves.
This is where Aeroplan miles come in handy. Under their routing rules, you are allowed either one stopover or one open jaw on round-trip awards within the domestic U.S. and Canada. Stopovers are not allowed on one-way awards. See this example itinerary below where I can visit family in both Denver and San Diego for 25,000 miles, all on United.
Also, Aeroplan doesn’t charge a close-in fee like United (but there are ways of circumventing United’s close-in fee anyway – SEE: How to book United or American without the close-in booking fee).
Indian subcontinent in premium cabin
While Aeroplan may not be *the* best currency for flights to the Indian subcontinent (including the Maldives and Sri Lanka), they are soon to be one of the better options for StarAlliance flights. United’s prices are about to get a small hike [SEE: 5 (bad) changes to United MileagePlus awards (and 2 good ones)].
Business class awards between the U.S. and the Indian subcontinent cost 75,000 Aeroplan miles. To fly first, you’ll have to fork over 105,000 miles. Both are generally a good deal. Routing can be both directly between regions (via Air India or United), or via either Europe or Asia. Again, make sure you look for carriers for which Aeroplan does not assess fuel surcharges.
Other best uses of Aeroplan miles?
There are even more uses of Aeroplan miles that are on par with other programs, which makes them a versatile option overall. The fact that Aeroplan has partners for which they don’t collect fuel surcharges is definite plus of the program (although it would be better if they didn’t collect them at all).
My final thought: if you haven’t explored the frequent flyer programs of many foreign airlines, you should rectify that. There is *great* value to be found in not only Aeroplan, but also ANA Mileage Club, Etihad Guest, Asia Miles, Korean, JAL, and others. There are definitely some loser programs out there, but these are fairly few. Research and learn how to maximize your points and miles!
Featured image courtesy of the BLM under CC 2.0 license.