This is a post in a series on the basics of the Aeroplan frequent flier program.
- The Star Alliance
- The Award Chart
- Stopovers, Open Jaws & One-Ways (part 1)
- Stopovers, Open Jaws & One-Ways (part 2)
- Classes of Service
- Taxes and Fees
- Finding Award Availability
We have been accustomed to the idea that when we fly, it should be in a roundtrip. We fly from our home location to a destination and then return home. This doesn’t necessarily work for everyone and it also limits the ability to be flexible with your plans and visit multiple destinations on a single trip.
When using Aeroplan award flights, there are 3 routing constructs that allow that shift away from the traditional roundtrip flight.
- Aeroplan tickets allows 1 stopover OR 1 open-jaw on any award ticket
- Stopovers allow you to stop in a city on the way to or from a specific destination
- Split your flight into distinct 1-way flights and see if your stopover point would be legal on that 1-way
- Consider legality of a flight with a stopover with respect to distance, cross-border rules and backtracking
- Open-Jaw on roundtrip tickets allow you to make up part of your itinerary “on the ground”
- If you are considering booking a one-way award, understand that you can add on an extra flight for a discount
- Aeroplan award flights within North America that include a stopover can’t use flights operated by United Airlines
What is a Stopover or Open-Jaw?
|Roundtrip with a Stopover
|A stopover is an intentional stop “to” or “from” a specific destinationA roundtrip with a stopover is a round trip which has an intentional stop “to” or “from” the final destination
All 3 of:
A-B, B-C, C-A
|A round trip itinerary with an open jaw allows you to do a portion of your trip by non-air travel, such as the train, car, bus or ship
The longer 2 of:
A-B, B-C, C-A
Any 1 of:
A-B, B-C, C-A
Each Aeroplan award can have 1 open-jaw OR 1 stopover. The best way to understand this rule is the picture above. There must be a closed circle made up of 3 (or 2) one-way journeys. It must be a concept of A-B//B-C//C-A. In future posts I’ll talk about how other programs such as United MileagePlus, Delta Skymiles and American AAdvantage allow 1 open-jaw AND 1 stopover and how we can really exploit these for free one-way tickets.
What’s a stopover?
A stopover is an intentional stop “to” or “from” a specific destination. In general, a stopover city is between your origin and destination. The stopover city must be allowable within the fare rules for the origin and destination. For example, on a trip from Montreal to Vancouver, you could include a stopover in Winnipeg but not a stopover in New York.
What is a connection?
A connection is when you arrive at an airport and depart from the same airport on the next scheduled flight, or within a few hours of arriving.
For domestic or trans-border travel, any stop within 4 hours is considered a connection. For international itineraries, a stop within 24 hours is considered a connection. If there are no connecting flights within 4 or 24 hours respectively, you must be booked on the next scheduled flight for it to be considered a connection.
How is a stopover different from a connection?
A connection is when you arrive at an airport and depart from the same airport on the next scheduled flight, or within a few hours of arriving. A stopover is when you don’t leave on the next flight, or choose to spend additional time in that city. In general, additional fees apply for stopovers.
One-way flights are really the building block of all the roundtrip flights. On the Aeroplan award chart, the 1-way flight is more than ½ the price of the roundtrip. This incentivizes us to try to make our trips round-trip where possible.
When I talk about one-way flights, this does not necessarily mean direct flights. One-way flights refer to a single origin and a single destination, with no point of turnaround. I can buy a one-way flight from Halifax to Vancouver. There are no direct flights that operate on that route, so I would have to connect (for example in Toronto or Montreal). There are 2 distinct flights (Halifax to Toronto followed by Toronto to Vancouver), but it is still considered a one-way. In this situation Toronto would be considered your connection airport.
As noted above, you can have a connection on a one-way itinerary but you can not have a stopover on a one-way.
Open-Jaws are basically there to allow you to make up a portion of your travel by a means other than air travel. This often boils down to 2 different situations:
- Depart 1 origin location and arrive to a different final destination
- Make up part of your journey by means other than air
There are very few restrictions around what constitutes a valid open jaw as long as you maintain the same concept of going in 1 direction then turning back. You can make up part of that trip “on the ground” if you want, but the integrity of the roundtrip concept must be maintained.
Usefulness of the Open-Jaw
The open-jaw can be useful for the following 2 situations:
- You want to make up part of your itinerary “on the ground”
- A leg of the award itinerary is simply unavailable and you are forced to make it up “on the ground”
Knowing that you are allowed 1 open-jaw on an award itinerary allows you to look at alternate airports for ongoing travel when your ideal flights are not available for award redemptions.
Why the limit on Open-Jaw?
The reason that Aeroplan imposes a limit of 1 open-jaw OR 1 stopover on any given round trip itinerary is to prevent people from adding unrelated 1-way flights to their itineraries.
Other airline programs, such as United Mileageplus, American AAdvantage and Delta Skymiles allow at least 1 open-jaw AND a stopover on the same award, which can be exploited to get free one-ways. I will discuss these in future posts.
How to exploit the Open-Jaw using Aeroplan
As I mentioned earlier, Aeroplan allows one stopover OR one open-jaw on any redemption. This limits our ability to really exploit this for unnatural usage. The real way to take advantage of the open-jaw rule is when you are considering buying a 1-way award flight. This is because one way flights cost more than 1/2 the price of a roundtrip.If you are buying a long haul 1-way then you can add an extra 1-way for only 8K Aeroplan miles.
A little known glitch in Aeroplan’s booking systems prices some awards incorrectly. Sometimes roundtrips consisting of 1 long haul and 1 short haul are pricing out at the same price as a long haul one-way. If you are buying a long haul 1-way, then you can essentially add a free (only pay additional taxes) short haul 1-way to make your open jaw.
Example 1: Adding a long haul
You live in Toronto, and go to Calgary regularly. You are traveling one time Toronto to Vancouver and are going to book that flight for 17K Aeroplan miles.
One way award: Toronto / YYZ (home) to Vancouver / YVR
Regular travel: Toronto / YYZ and Calgary / YYC (long haul)
This example will take advantage of the glitch in the Aeroplan system that sometimes works.
You live in Toronto and are going to Halifax for the weekend. You have found space on the Toronto-Halifax route, but there is no availability on Halifax-Toronto. You are indifferent between Buffalo and Toronto airports for this trip.
One way award (long haul): Toronto / YYZ (home) to Halifax / YHZ
Return (short haul): Halifax / YHZ – Buffalo /BUF
This routing takes advantage of the fact that Buffalo is in New York State. Flights between Nova Scotia and New York State are considered short haul. Flights between Nova Scotia and Ontario are considered long haul. This is a way to exploit that difference when Ontario and New York State are so close.
Stopovers basically allow you to stop in a city on your way to or from a specific destination. This means if you are traveling across the country from Vancouver to Halifax, you can stop in Toronto for free.
The things to keep in mind when wondering if a stopover is a valid stopover is whether or not your “stopover” point might be a natural and legal stop for someone. I would say, it makes sense to cut up the trip into a 2 distinct 1-ways and see if a stopover would make sense given the rules of each of the 1-ways. Choose your final destination as your “turnaround” point and then see if your stopover point is “on the way”.
Illegal and Legal Routings
There are 3 main things that will make a routing illegal:
- Exceeding Maximum Permitted Mileage (MPM)
- Each route has a maximum distance that can be travelled while the route is legal. The Maximum Permitted Mileage (MPM) for a route usually can be exceeded by 5% for Aeroplan award flights but beyond that, a routing will be illegal. There are some paid services, such as the KVS tool or the Expert Flyer that will tell you what the MPM is for any routing. Also, you can check the Star Alliance website. In general, the MPM is pretty liberal. If an 8-year old looking at a map could tell you your stopover point is in the wrong direction, your routing is probably illegal.
- Crossing borders on domestic flights
- This is probably the biggest issue for Canadians. All flights that are domestic to Canada, must remain in Canada. This means that you can’t stopover in a US city if your route is between 2 Canadian cities.If you were to look at a map, Minneapolis / MSP is on the way from Toronto / YYZ to Vancouver / YVR, but doing YYZ-YVR via MSP is illegal.Toronto / YYZ is probably the most geographically natural stop between Boston / BOS and Seattle / SEA, but stopping in YYZ on a BOS-SEA flight is also illegal.
- Backtracking is the act of going backwards in your journey. Basically, this means that on each 1-way, you have to move in a general direction. This is mostly a problem when picking a stopover city that is not a hub city.
- An example would be if you choose London / YXU as your stopover on the way from Vancouver / YVR to Halifax / YHZ. You might have to do the following:
- YVR-YYZ-YXU (stopover)
- YXU-YYZ-YHZ (turnaround point)
- The YYZ-YXU, followed by a YXU-YYZ would be backtracking since you have already done a journey between YXU and YYZ.
Examples of Legal and Illegal Routings
In the next few examples, I will show you how your perspective on various routings will change their validity. The exact same itinerary can be legal or illegal, depending on how you look at it. If you understand what makes an itinerary legal and illegal, you can do the same analysis with your own preferred routing. You can also convince an Aeroplan agent that your itinerary is valid if they ever tell you it isn’t. Remember that roundtrip flights allow for ONE stopover in one of the directions, provided it is within the routing rules.
In these examples, I will write up the routings as AAA-BBB//BBB-CCC//CCC-AAA, where XXX is an airport code for my origin or destination. This example would imply the following 3 one-way tickets, each of which may be direct or using connections:
Flight 1: AAA-BBB
Flight 2: BBB-CCC
Flight 3: CCC-AAA
Vancouver / YVR, Toronto / YYZ & Halifax / YHZ
YVR-YHZ as main trip
YYZ as a stopover
YVR-YYZ as main trip
YHZ as a stopover
|YVR-YHZ via YYZ
|YYZ-YVR via YHZ
In the perspective of Option 1, where the main award is a Vancouver – Halifax trip, we are allowed to stop in Toronto.
In the perspective of Option 2, we get an illegal routing since Toronto – Vancouver can’t be done via Halifax. This would be beyond the maximum permitted mileage (MPM) for a Toronto-Vancouver flight.
Vancouver / YVR, Montreal / YUL & New York / JFK
YVR-JFK as main trip
YUL as a stopover
YVR-YUL as main trip
JFK as a stopover
|YVR-JFK via YUL
|YUL-YVR via JFK
From the perspective of Option 2, we have a connection in the US on a domestic Canada flight, which makes that illegal. From the perspective of Option 1, however, this same itinerary is valid.
This is an example that Aeroplan uses to explain as an illegal routing.
“For example, on a trip from Montreal to Vancouver, you could include a stopover in Winnipeg but not a stopover in New York.”
Their explanation is correct, but the exact routing is actually legal with a slightly different perspective. If you simply call Montreal your stopover point on the way to New York, then the same itinerary is valid.
Montreal / YUL, Calgary / YYC & Miami / MIA
Routing: YUL-YYC// YYC-MIA // MIA-YUL
YVR-JFK as main trip
YUL as a stopover
YVR-YUL as main trip
JFK as a stopover
|YUL-MIA via YYC
|YYC-YUL via MIA
In this case, we see the disadvantage of living in the hub city. Since the 2 destinations are in opposite directions from each other, and our original city would be the natural connection or stopover, we have no way to make a valid itinerary starting in Montreal.
If you had started in Calgary, stopped in Montreal on the way to Miami, you would have had a legal routing.Aeroplan, Frequent Flier