The Secret Sweet Spots of Aeroplan Stopovers and Open Jaws

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Aeroplan once held some of the best value redemptions available to flyers in North America. However, 2011 and consecutive years saw the powers that be take the scalpel to a number of our favorite awards, and a lot of the value in the program was stripped.

A casual glance at Aeroplan's award chart does nothing to ease that assumption. Awards are competitive, but not overly attractive. Particularly when factoring in the high fuel surcharges on Air Canada and several partners.

Aeroplan_Logo

But, take a look at the T&C's of Aeroplan awards, and the rules tell a much better story. Aeroplan allows up to two stopovers or one stopover and one open jaw for any long-haul award that flies between two continents, opening the door for multi-city itineraries on a single award as we'll show below!

The Best Ways to Earn Aeroplan Miles

One benefit of Aeroplan detaching from Air Canada is the number of partners that have come on board. Members can earn Aeroplan miles via co-branded credit cards from three different providers. Aeroplan also has over 200 partners, including airlines outside of Star Alliance like Cathay Pacific, which is a member of oneworld®.

Although you can’t purchase miles from Aeroplan, you can ‘top-up’ your account with up to 50% of the miles required for the award at 3¢ per mile. For example, if your award is 50K, you can purchase up to 25K miles at the time of ticketing.

buy-aeroplan-miles-popup

As Aeroplan is based in Canada, it is one program that offers great co-branded cards for Canadian flyers from the likes of Amex, CIBC, and TD Bank, which you’ll find on the Aeroplan partners page, a few of which we’ve listed below:

Aeroplan is also a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Rewards, which opens a host of transfer options on both sides of the border. While the Membership Rewards programs in the U.S. and Canada are separate programs, they both transfer into Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio. This also applies to Marriott and SPG co-brand cards.

The best option for U.S. based frequent flyers is point transfers from Membership Rewards and Marriott Rewards. Amex points transfer points at a 1:1 ratio, with Marriott transferring at 3:1 but also throwing an additional 5,000 miles in for every 60,000 points transferred. That means you can transfer points earned with some of the best rewards earning cards available.

  • Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card – Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. (Terms Apply)
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express – Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. (Terms Apply)
  • The Business Platinum® Card from American Express – Welcome Offer: Earn up to 100,000 Membership Rewards® points. Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 50,000 points after you spend an additional $15,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership. (Terms Apply)
  • American Express® Business Gold Card – Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Gold Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership. (Terms Apply)

Aeroplan also runs regular bonuses on points transferred from both programs. For example, this bonus offers a 30% bonus on points transferred from hotel programs, which proves particularly lucrative in the case of Marriott.

If you factor in that Marriott provides an additional 5,000 miles for every 60,000 you transfer to Aeroplan, if you transfer 1200,000 Marriott points, add the 10,000 bonus miles from Marriott, then add the extra 30% bonus miles, you’d receive 65,000 Aeroplan miles for the original 120K Marriott points transferred!

Aeroplan Award Chart

Only the North American portion of the chart is showing in this screenshot as that is where our focus is in this post, but for readers in other parts of the world, check out the full chart at Aeroplan’s website.

Aeroplan Award Chart

Following several devaluations, a lot of the value has disappeared from the Aeroplan chart. The good news, however, is that due to Aeroplan’s generous routing rules, you can still extract top value for your points, particularly on long-haul flights in both economy and business class.

Best Value Aeroplan Redemptions & Program Sweet Spots

Flying the right airline with your Aeroplan miles could potentially save you $1,000’s per round trip. For a full list of airlines that do and don't pass on fuel surcharges on Aeroplan awards, see our post breaking down the award booking process for Aeroplan.

The U.S. to Europe Round-Trip Business Awards for 110K

While it’s not the 80,000 miles you’ll pay with Korean Air SKYPASS, Aeroplan’s 110,000-mile (or 115,000-mile) redemptions for business class travel are still competitive IF you fly airlines the don’t impose fuel surcharges, and much better value than legacy partner United MileagePlus, which comes in at minimum 140K round-trip to fly on partner airlines. In the example below, the only fees passed on are mandatory fees and government taxes due to the chosen airlines.

Booking the right airlines for Aeroplan awards can save you thousands of dollars
Booking the right airlines for Aeroplan awards can save you thousands of dollars

The difference in price when we switch to Boston as our departure city and select Lufthansa is sizable. Tack on the YQ/YR fees and the fares are substantially higher, and this is only for one person. Book for your family vacation and you could be in for an unwelcome surprise when you hit checkout for your ‘free’ airfare.

The fuel surcharges on Lufthansa flights are high in comparison to the previous award, between the same regions
The fuel surcharges on Lufthansa flights are high in comparison to the previous award, between the same regions

Where these awards really start to come into their own, is when you take into account Aeroplan’s routing T&C’s. One of the big frustrations with many frequent flyer programs is the lack of flexibility on award flights. Rules that state no stopovers or one-way flights, no option to fly open jaw itineraries or mix and match cities on an award. Aeroplan’s routing rules are the standout feature of the program.

Maximizing Aeroplan Stopover & Open Jaw Awards

Aeroplan’s rules for stopovers and open jaw awards change depending on which airline you fly, and the destination. Check out our post on how to book Aeroplan awards for the T&C’s.

Article 28.3 is where the value hides in Aeroplan’s frequent flyer program.

“28.3. Intercontinental travel (travel between two continents): Two stopovers permitted in addition to the point of turnaround. One open jaw is permitted in lieu of one of the two stopovers.”

Essentially, travel between two continents and you're entitled to either two stopovers or one stopover and one open jaw at the country of origin or destination. This includes flights between North America and Europe, but also those further afield, in essence giving you the options for a mini around the world award itinerary for the cost of a single round-trip award.

The example below shows the potential of these awards, although not the full potential, as awards containing more than one stopover, require a call to the Aeroplan Contact Center on 1-800-361-5373, which will also cost you $30 for the pleasure of booking with a rep. We dig into more detail on how to put together these multi-city awards in another post so won’t double up here.

“For all itineraries involving more than one (1) stopover, in addition to your destination for either Fixed Mileage Flight Rewards or Market Fare Flight Rewards, please call the Aeroplan Contact Centre, where one of our highly-qualified agents will be happy to assist you. Please note that a $30 booking fee per passenger plus applicable taxes will apply.”

Just adding one stopover can make for fantastic business class redemptions.

Aeroplan multi-city business class awards over fantastic value
Aeroplan multi-city business class awards offer a fantastic value

Flying business class from New York to Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam, on to Paris, and back to JFK (a 3-stop around the world award) would set you back 155,000 miles plus only CAD$197.10 in fees and taxes, as we’ve chosen three airlines that don’t impose fuel surcharges.

Technically, just adding on another set of fees and taxes (dependent on destination and airline), we could add another stopover into this itinerary in say Istanbul, Zurich, or Taipei, and still maintain the same award rate of 155,000, and that is an exceptional value.

In the examples below, you can see how changing airlines on the same itinerary adds a significant cash cost to the price of award tickets, which compounds every time you select a carrier that imposes fuel surcharges. Again, you could potentially add another stop to this itinerary, or even an open jaw at either end of the trip.

Booking multi-city Aeroplan awards with low fuel surcharges
Booking multi-city Aeroplan awards with low fuel surcharges
The cost of fuel surcharges rise when you select different airlines on the same Aeroplan itinerary
The cost of fuel surcharges rise when you select different airlines on the same Aeroplan itinerary

The moral of this post is:

While the round-trip award fare itself is not always (or even very often…) the best value when compared to other programs. When you factor in an open jaw's and one or two stopovers, the value in Aeroplan becomes more pronounced.

If you pushed it to the limit, you could select a flight with a 23-hour layover to explore a city, and still have your destination and two stopovers to look forward to.

Final Thoughts

For a frequent flyer program that has undergone some radical devaluations in the last 6-7 years, there is still some valuable sweet spots if you understand the routing rules and your goal is long-haul international travel.

Transferring points from Marriott Rewards and Membership Rewards opens up opportunities for flying Aeroplan awards using easy to earn miles and getting exponentially higher returns on your points when combined with regular transfer bonuses.

What are your experiences with Aeroplan? We'd love to hear your Aeroplan stories in the comments, and also any value spots we may have missed!

The Secret Sweet Spots of Aeroplan Stopovers and Open Jaws
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Comments

  • When you look at the SPG option currently available, it’s pretty nice if there’s a route that works for you and your family.

  • Great comprehensive article, thanks! These article about how to maximize redemptions are super useful, as this is an under-covered topic in the travel hacking world.

  • Interesting read. Aeroplan is a program I often overlook, but with so many options for transferring points, I’m definitely going to keep this higher on my radar going forward.

  • This is very useful! Thank you so much for posting.

  • Since I just received the SPG Amex card this blog post will be in heart forever!

  • Jacqueline parsons says:

    Thanks, another informative article. I agree that the spg route is my chosen one.

  • The question to me is: how do i get points in the first Place?

  • Excellent information. I am looking how I can best take advantage of the stopovers on a long haul. Any ideas?

  • Adam Parsons says:

    Got to love this article, discovered another way now on how to max out my benefits from this carrier.

  • Very nice info! Need to figure out my next trip!

  • Interesting article!

  • Great article, thanks. Aeroplan is a bit risky due to all of the surcharges and the somewhat obscure way that it is able to access Star Alliance inventory (since it is independent of Air Canada). But there is some value hidden in there as you mention…

  • This kind of analysis is why I read this blog! Thanks!

  • Absolutely agree there is great value in this. Only problem can be finding award space on all three components of your journey simultaneously in a single program. (Compared to potentially booking separate one ways either at different points in time or different alliances).

  • Thanks for the reminder, and the math, for the SPG transfer to Aeroplan.

    I appreciate this easy to read tutorial– it can be hard to remember all the ins and outs of the programs that aren’t so mainstream. I plan on reading your Aeroplan series for a nice brush-up.

  • one caveat on the stop-overs which 28.3 seems to omit, they are only available on return tickets, which is one sad weakness of the offering.

  • I find that the stopovers are the best value for this program if you’re prepared to book well in advance. Otherwise, it’s a bit of a “Meh” program.

  • The two stopovers are very generous even though the number of miles required for a reward flight is slightly more expensive than its competitors.
    Anyway, for some routings it could be a valid alternative to other solutions.

  • It’s very tricky with Aeroplan’s fuel surcharge as they impose on some select carriers only. But given their radical changes in recent years I prefer to avoid this program entirely now.

  • Great to see these articles about how to circumnavigate aeroplan’s website, get the most out of your miles, and avoid the high costs of their taxes and fees. Great post!

  • Be careful holding onto your Aeroplan miles, come 2020 Air Canada and Aeroplan are breaking up, Air Canada will have their own loyalty program, no news as to what will happen to your Aeroplan miles

  • Great comprehensive analysis and great read!

  • Can you make a stopover with 1 way on an award with aeroplan? Thanks!

  • Thank you!

  • Thank your in-depth explanation. My hubby and I redeemed 155,000 Aeroplan points last November, stop over 8 days in Japan, flew to Singapore for a 10-day cruise then flew home. 5 flights all in Business Class. Approx $250 each in taxes. Try pricing out the cost of these flights. Planning now round the world trip for 2020 using only 155,000 points in Business.
    I purchase absolutely everything on a TD Visa Infinite Aeroplan Card, does not take long before points add up.

  • Thanks for the in-depth explanation of the highlights of earning, and redeeming Aeroplan points. I will be keeping this in mind if I plan on booking a stop over anytime soon!

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