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
Many frequent flyer programs have their own award charts and there are some great gems in each award chart where you can get great value and there are some where you will get very poor value.
In this post, I’ll talk about the best uses of your Aeroplan miles based on the award charts. I will focus on the flights that people based in Canada and US will be using most frequently.
The biggest issue with the redemption of Aeroplan miles is the “taxes” and fees that you have to pay when you book an Aeroplan award ticket. These “taxes” are extremely high for flights operated by Air Canada because they include a fuel surcharge that is only applicable to flights operated by Air Canada. Some partner flights do not carry a fuel surcharge. As a result, using Aeroplan miles for flights operated by Air Canada is often not the best value.
Something to be aware of is that if you value flying in business class, using miles will get you a much better return. Revenue tickets in business class are significantly more expensive than revenue tickets in economy class. Award tickets in business class are usually in the range of 1.5 times the price of an award ticket in economy class.
Valuing Your Miles Redemption
Whenever you are considering redeeming your miles, you have you figure out what value you are getting for those miles. Remember, if you are spending 100,000 miles to save only $5, you are not getting a very good redemption.
Milevalue has a great calculator of the value of your mile.
The formula you should use is:
- RevTicPrice- The most you would pay for this ticket
- AwardTax- The taxes and fees you are being charged to book the award ticket
- MilesRedeemed – The number of miles required
- MilesForgone – The number of miles you would receive on a revenue ticket
Best Uses of Aeroplan Miles
Aeroplan award tickets can be of great value and can save you significant money. I find that the best use of award flights is:
- Last minute flying
- There are no penalties for booking closer to the flight date
- Flying into underserved markets
- If you can find a route that is underserved and cash fares are very high, using an award flight can save you a lot of money
- Stopovers (natural or creative use)
- Every award ticket allows you to make a stopover. If you require a stopover, this can be very expensive on a revenue ticket. If you don’t need a stopover, there are creative ways to make good use of this feature.
Best Parts of the Award Chart
|Flight||Round-trip vs 1-way||Price (in Aeroplan Miles)||When to Use||Notes|
|Business Class Tickets||Roundtrip||Varies by route||If you would be willing to pay more than 1.5x the price of an economy ticket to fly in business|
|Canada / US Short Haul||Roundtrip||15K||Last minute flightsFlights using some small market airports||All flights must be operated by Air Canada|
|Canada / US Long Haul||Roundtrip (with or without stopovers)||25K||Last minute flightsBuilding in stopovers and open-jawsFlights using some small market airports|
|Mini Round The World||Roundtrip with a Stopover||75K – 90K (economy)||Multi-stop journey through Asia AND Europe|
Business Class Tickets
Personally, I don’t value business class tickets at significantly more than economy tickets. However, there are some people who really love flying business class. Revenue fares for business class tickets are usually many multiples of the economy fare. Looking at the award chart, Aeroplan usually charges only about 1.5 – 2 times the economy ticket price. For those who would actually pay a significant premium for business travel get very good value for their miles.
A place where the Aeroplan award chart has particularly good value is the business fare to Western Europe (Europe 1). The industry standard seems to be 100K for this fare. Aeroplan charges 90K + taxes and fees for this fare.
Hefty taxes and fuel surcharges
Something to consider on this route is that your taxes and fees can be very high. As mentioned earlier, flights operated by Air Canada carry hefty fuel surcharges and taxes / fees. As you increase the distance flown, the fuel surcharges increase as well. Where possible, I would definitely fly on carriers such as Austrian, and Swiss as opposed to Air Canada, where possible.
Something else to note is that there are large taxes levied on flights departing from the UK. The tax is also based on the distance flown out of the UK. If you are interested in going to London, for example, you can save significant money on your taxes by booking this flight to connect in another European city as a STOPOVER. If your outbound flight is to North America from the UK, you will pay the higher exit tax. If your outbound flight is to the EU, then the UK departure tax is significantly less.
Short Haul Flights for Canada and US
The first place where I have found great value for my Aeroplan miles is in the Canada / US short haul. For 15K Aeroplan miles + (sometimes exorbitant) booking fees and taxes, you can fly roundtrip on a short haul flight in Economy.
Short haul flights do allow stopovers, as long as all of the flights are covered under the short haul definition. Also, to be eligible, every flight on this route has to be operated by Air Canada. As I mentioned before, award flights on Air Canada carry high fuel surcharges so that is something to be aware of.
The trick is to find routes where revenue tickets are regularly very high.
Short Haul Examples
Here are some examples where it may and may not make sense to redeem your miles. I’ll spare the calculations.
Good Use: YWG – YTS
The route between Winnipeg/YWG and Timmins/YTS would be considered a short haul flight and would cost 15K miles + $150 in fees. A revenue ticket on this route would cost about $800 and you would earn 2564 miles for the flight. This yields a return of almost $0.04 for each Aeroplan mile, assuming you needed to buy this ticket.
Poor Use: YYZ – BOS
The Toronto-Boston route is well served by Air Canada, Delta and Porter (out of Toronto City Centre Airport). Given the level of competition, roundtrip flights are often priced in the range of $300 (often less) and you would receive 886 miles. If using Aeroplan miles for this route, it would cost 15K Aeroplan miles + ~$170. This would yield a return of $0.0082 / mile, which is well below my valuation of $0.0125 / Aeroplan mile.
The definition of short haul for each region is displayed here:
|Between||And (Province or State)|
|New Brunswick||NB, NS, NL, PEI, QC(via YHZ or YUL) CT, MA, NJ, NJ, NY, VA, DC|
|Nova Scotia||NB, NS, NL, PEI, QC(via YHZ or YUL) CT, MA, NJ, NJ, NY, VA, DC|
|Newfoundland||NB, NS, NL, PEI, QC|
|Prince Edward Island||NB, NS, NL, PEI, QC(via YHZ or YUL) CT, MA, NJ, NJ, NY, VA, DC|
|Quebec||NB, NS, NL, ON, PEI, QCCT, DC, GA, IL, IN, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, NJ, NH, NY, NC, OH, PA, RI, TN, VA, WI|
|Ontario||MB, ON, QCCT, DC, GA, IL, IN, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, NJ, NH, NY, NC, OH, PA, RI, TN, CA, WI|
|Manitoba||MB, ON, QC|
|Saskatchewan||AV, MB, SK|
|Alberta||AB, BC, SK, NT OR, WA|
|British Columbia||AB, BC, YT OR, WA|
Long Haul Flights for Canada and US
I have also found there can be good value in using your Aeroplan miles for Long Haul flights within Canada and the US. It costs 25K miles + booking fees and taxes to fly on a roundtrip (with stopovers) award flight. The industry standard is 25K miles for a domestic long haul flight in Economy, which is Aeroplan’s rate as well. For flights that would normally cost over $600 roundtrip, as is the case with many cross country flights within Canada, this would be a good use of 25K miles.
As mentioned above, creative use of stopovers, flying routes where there is little competition or flying last minute are all good uses of miles.
As mentioned before, the best way to reduce your costs is to avoid flying on Air Canada operated planes where possible. If you are flying domestically within Canada, this is not possible. (You should use the US Airways trick if it makes sense) However, if you are flying to US destinations, you will save significantly on your award booking fee / taxes by flying on the US partners of United Airlines and US Airways. The reason for this is because a large portion of the Air Canada’s ticket charge is a fuel surcharge. United and US Airways do not charge the fuel surcharge on award tickets, while Air Canada does. As a result, if you are able to redeem award tickets on partner airlines, you will save the fuel surcharge.
Mini Round the World Tickets
Aeroplan award tickets have quite lax routing rules. One of the ways to game this to your advantage is by buying an award ticket to Asia if you are interested in doing a round the world ticket. Aeroplan allows award tickets from North America to Asia to fly one flight over the Pacific and the other over the Atlantic. This is a great value and one of the best redemptions of Aeroplan miles.
Let’s say you are interested in doing a round the world trip from North America to Asia to Europe and back. What you can do is book your ticket as a ticket to Asia, with a single stopover in a European city. If you are interested in exploring Asia, you can book internal flights in Asia separately. If you are interested in exploring Europe, you can book internal flights in Europe separately as well.
Aeroplan’s Round The World (RTW)
Aeroplan has a Round-The-World redemption that allows you 5 stopovers. Using the Mini Round-The-World trick, you can recreate a very similar itinerary for significantly less miles.
Remember, any award ticket comes with 1 stopover, so you can generate some more “stopovers” by buying internal Asia flights / internal Europe flights.
|Class of Service||Aeroplan RTW||Aeroplan Asia 1||Aeroplan Asia 2|
There are some great redemptions of Aeroplan miles. The best time to use Aeroplan miles are:
- last minute flying
- flying where revenue tickets are very costly
- making use of stopovers
My favorite few points on the award chart are:
- Business class tickets to Europe
- Canada / US Short Haul
- Mini Round-The-World