Aeroplan Basics – Stopovers, Open-Jaws & One-Ways

Thursday 07th, February 2013 / 23:21 Written by
Aeroplan Basics – Stopovers, Open-Jaws & One-Ways
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This is a post in a series on the basics of the Aeroplan frequent flier program.

Related Posts:

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.

The Skinny

  • 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?

A roundtrip with an open jaw

A roundtrip with an open jaw

A roundtrip (A to C) with a stopover (in B)

A roundtrip (A to C) with a stopover (in B)

Aeroplan’s Definition From Diagrams
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

Open-Jaw 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

One-Way

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.

From Aeroplan.com

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 Itineraries

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

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)

One-Way Award Roundtrip Award Difference
Route YYZ-YVR YYZ-YVR
YYC-YYZ
YYC-YYZ
Price 17K Miles 25K Miles 8K Miles

Example 2:

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

One-Way Award Roundtrip Award Difference
Route YYZ-YHZ YYZ-YHZ
YHZ-BUF
YHZ-BUF
Price 17K Miles 17K Miles 0 Miles

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

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Backtracking
    • 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)
    • YHZ-YYZ-YVR
  • 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

Example 1:

Vancouver / YVR, Toronto / YYZ & Halifax / YHZ
Routing: YVR-YYZ//YYZ-YHZ//YHZ-YVR

Option 1
YVR-YHZ as main trip
YYZ as a stopover
Option 2
YVR-YYZ as main trip
YHZ as a stopover
Outbound YVR-YHZ via YYZ
Legal
YVR-YYZ
Legal
Inbound YHZ-YVR
Legal
YYZ-YVR via YHZ
Illegal (distance)

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.

Example 2:

Vancouver / YVR, Montreal / YUL & New York / JFK
Routing: YVR-YUL//YUL-JFK//JFK-YVR

Option 1
YVR-JFK as main trip
YUL as a stopover
Option 2
YVR-YUL as main trip
JFK as a stopover
Outbound YVR-JFK via YUL
Legal
YVR-YUL
Legal
Inbound JFK-YVR
Legal
YUL-YVR via JFK
Illegal (Cross-Border)

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.

Example 3:

Montreal / YUL, Calgary / YYC & Miami / MIA
Routing: YUL-YYC// YYC-MIA // MIA-YUL

Option 1
YVR-JFK as main trip
YUL as a stopover
Option 2
YVR-YUL as main trip
JFK as a stopover
Outbound YUL-MIA via YYC
Illegal (Distance)
YUL-YYC
Legal
Inbound MIA-YUL
Legal
YYC-YUL via MIA
Illegal (Cross-Border)

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.

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20 comments on “Aeroplan Basics – Stopovers, Open-Jaws & One-Ways”

  1. Seabird says:

    Hello, Thanks for the informative article. I’m planning Seattle – Yangon, Myanmar – Narita(stopover) – Seattle trip in December. I understand that I can do this by transferring 90k amex points to aeroplan. Is this a valid routing and stopover using aeroplan? Do they charge fuel surcharge on international flights? Thank You

  2. Matt says:

    Hey there,

    Great article and I certainly learned something. But I thought you are allowed two stop overs?

    According to this:
    http://www4.aeroplan.com/help.do?tab=Answers&answerID=825&currentLanguage=en

    But I’m unable to book that with their online system, so does that mean I have to call in for that?

    I’m planning for a YYZ – BKK, BKK- HKG, HKG-CDG, CDG-YYZ, that sounds valid?

    • thepointster says:

      In terms of your question, there is a new allowance for 2 stopovers soy you can do that, but you have to call that in.

      Good luck.

  3. leannetreu@gmail.com says:

    Hello – I am wanting to book travel using Amex points/aeroplan points from Toronto with a stop in Houston and then onto kona, HI – with an open jaw leaving from another HI island. Do you have any recommendations for making this happen? I understand only one open jaw or stop over is allowed per round trip. I am interested in flying with United to keep the surcharges and additional fees lower. Having said that you indicate that with United you can get one open jaw and one stop over per round trip. Can you expand on this? Thank you so very much for your time.

    • thepointster says:

      Hi,

      This a bit of an issue. What you are looking to do is:
      YYZ-IAH
      IAH-KOA
      KOA-OGG (flown as a separate ticket)
      OGG-YYZ

      Unfortunately, Aeroplan will not allow this routing as it appears to be 2 stopovers + destination. What you will want to do is close out the separate ticket KOA-OGG, by adding an OGG-KOA to pick up your KOA-YYZ flight. Unfortunately that is one of the frustrations of this.

      Now, for international awards, you are allowed 2 stopovers including the point of turnaround. So if instead of being in Hawaii, you were in Europe, this would be allowed. Those trips all have to be called in.

      What I would suggest for you to do would be to call in to Aeroplan and have a bit of a sob story and claim that Hawaii is not North America because the zone is different.

      Finally, if you are struggling to find a routing, please email me an award travel booking request and I’ll be happy to investigate it in further detail for you for the fee. I am sure there is something that can be done to make this work out to get you waht you need.

  4. Rose says:

    Hi
    I am redeeming an award seat for europe for 90k in business- europe 1
    On my way back i d like to do FCO IST IAD
    Is the lay over in Istanbul legal?

    • thepointster says:

      Hi,

      Unfortunately, that is not going to work. You can do FCO-IST-IAD as your return, but since you are stopping in IST, they are going to say that your “destination” is IST, and you stopped on FCO on the way to IST.

      You will be priced as if you did:

      IAD-FCO-IST (turn)
      IST-IAD

      You are trying to make them see:
      IAD-FCO (turn)
      FCO-IST-IAD

      but they will charge you for Europe 2.

      Sorry about that.

      You might be better of using United miles or US Airways miles as they call all of Europe the same price. You will also likely save on taxes / fees but that depends on the specific carriers. What other miles have you got?

  5. RWD says:

    This is a great site! I am trying to figure out how to utilize my Aeroplan points to fly to and within Europe this Summer.

    1) I am flying out of and eventually back to YYC (Calgary)
    2) I need to be in PRG (Prague) for June 27 (3 days)
    3) I need to fly from PRG (Prague) to FLR (Florence) during the afternoon/evening of June 30
    4) I would not mind visiting Rome and/or Paris
    4) I need to be in DBV (Dubrovnik) during July 5-12

    Otherwise, I was hoping to visit Berlin after Dubrovnik for a few days before flying back to Calgary.

    • thepointster says:

      Hi RWD,

      You are going to want to try to piece your trip together leg by leg to get yourself from Calgary over to Europe.
      There is information here:
      http://www.creditwalk.ca/aeroplan-hacking-when-you-cant-find-award-availability/

      There is actually a new rule that states you can take 2 stopovers en route for the international trip, although you should be aware that I have really struggled with getting the stopover rules to be consistently enforced.
      I would suggest you look at routing your trip as a A-B//B-C//C-D// D-A.
      Build your overseas portion of your itinerary first since that is going to have tougher availability. Once you have that, then find your internal flights. Put it together, then call it in to Aeroplan. The multi-city tool on Aeroplan.com may or may not work for your itinerary and often doesn’t give you every option available.

      First off, target your overseas flight, then look at where you can get internal flights that work for you. Using Aeroplan miles, you are going to want to avoid certain carriers, including Air Canada and pretty much all of the European ones. These ones charge fuel surcharges which can be very high. Unless you are married to flying the direct flight YYC-LHR on Air Canada, you are going to have to take a connection en route. You would save significant money (in fuel surcharges / taxes) by routing through the US on United planes.

      For your internal Europe flights, you will want to avoid Lufthansa and Austrian. I suggest targeting the use of Swiss Air or Turkish Air, Croatia Air, SAS and Brussels Air as they don’t charge the surcharge.

      Finally, if you are really struggling to figure this out, please send feel free to partake in my award booking service.
      http://www.creditwalk.ca/award-travel-booking/

  6. Hussain alavi says:

    Hi
    I have about 150k I wants to mini RTW on F class out YYZ, should include CPT AND SYD
    WHAT IS THE BEST OPTIONS

    • thepointster says:

      Hi Hussain,

      150K is going to be enough for a roundtrip North America to South Africa in business, according to the award chart.
      160K will get you enough for a roundtrip North America to Australia in business.

      That means that 150K wont be enough to get you to Australia in business. Assume you have 160k, then you can route this however it makes sense for you.

      You would get [2 stopovers] or [1 open jaw and 1 stopover] with any routing. That would essentially mean 4 cities that you can as destinations.

      Toronto, Capetown, Sydney are spoken for. You can add something in Europe if you like.

      I would do something like this:

      Toronto – Sydney
      Sydney – Capetown
      Capetown – (City A in Europe)
      (City A in Europe) – Toronto

      Now, all of this information is in line with the letter of the law of Aeroplan’s written rules. You will have to call this in and you may have a tough time getting an agent to ticket it for you. I have often needed several attempts to get a valid routing ticketed. Excluding the City A in Europe might help you out.

  7. Wilson says:

    Great article – any idea on valid stopovers on a trip to Australia? I can’t seem to get a valid.

    One of the ideas was to hit Bali or Fiji as a stopover, using either Melbourne or Sydney as the Australian destinations. are these destinations a valid combination??

    • thepointster says:

      Hey,

      All of those should be valid combinations, but booking things through the Aeroplan website will be tricky. One of my biggest frustrations with Aeroplan awards is that the rules are written but sometimes you can’t get anyone to book it even when the award is valid.

      I would say try calling it in and they should let you book it.

      I hope that helps.

      Thanks.

  8. Jack says:

    It seems like Aeroplan now allows United flights to have stopover in a domestic itinerary. Just did a dummy booking for YYZ-ORD(SO)-DFW-YYZ without a problem.

  9. Tim says:

    Hi thepointster,

    Sorry to resurrect an old thread but I’m having issues getting a routing put together, hopefully you can help. I am leaving from YYC and want to visit ORD, BOS, PHL – the order doesn’t matter. I was thinking of doing this (but the site came back with a not valid itineary):
    YYC – ORD
    stopover
    ORD – BOS
    travel BOS – PHL, own transportation
    PHL – YYC (via whatever connecting city is available)

    Is that routing feasible at all? Or is it something that I’ll have to call in?

    Thanks alot!

    • thepointster says:

      Hi Tim,

      Unfortunatley, you cant do that.

      You have to maintain A-B-C-A routing or A-B//C-A routing.

      In this case, there are too many.

      You should do

      YYC-ORD
      ORD-BOS
      BOS-YYC

      then do BOS-PHL as a side trip on your own.

      Have a great time in Boston and Philadelphia. Those are my 2 favorite cities in the US. I really miss those Philly Cheesesteaks.

      • Tim says:

        Thank you so much! I really appreciate this – this will be my first time redeeming an Aeroplan flight so the terms and conditions are a bit overwhelming for me.

  10. David says:

    Can I use my aeroplan points to fly one way to Toronto and two hours later use my points to fly from Toronto to Shanghai? This is to avoid a 13 hour connection time if I book it as a one way from Montreal to Shanghai. By the way Aeroplan has the worst customer service of any business I have ever dealt with. There is no point in trying to get them on the phone, no way to email them and Air Canada does not have the information I need. Thanks.

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