The Secret Sweet Spots of Aeroplan Stopovers and Open Jaws

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Last year, Aeroplan revamped its entire loyalty program and swapped its previous zone-based award charts for zone-and-distance ones. Luckily, Aeroplan’s generous policy on stopovers remained a part of the program. Adding stopovers for just 5,000 extra Aeroplan points allows travelers to build highly customized itineraries for their travels–all as part of the same award. While a seemingly unlimited number of options exist, below I outline just a few examples of how to make the most of Aeroplan stopovers and open jaw awards.

Stopover Awards

Before jumping straight into itinerary examples, it is important to highlight a number of key items regarding rules for Aeroplan stopovers:

  • Aeroplan awards are priced by each one-way journey.
  • Stopovers are only permitted for Aeroplan award travel outside of Canada and the United States.
  • Stopovers are distinct from layovers, which themselves can last up to 24 hours without needing to pay for a stopover (except in the U.S. and Canada, where most “maximum layover” times are 4 hours, unless there is no option for a shorter connection).
  • The points charge for any and all stopovers is 5,000 Aeroplan points each.
  • Stopovers cannot last more than 45 days.

The fact that adding a stopover to a trip costs just 5,000 points, regardless of trip length, represents incredible value on its own. And, as I’ll demonstrate, sometimes adding a stopover can even save points!

Saunter Through South America

The first secret stopover sweet spot worth highlighting stays entirely in South America. Aeroplan’s award chart prices all travel entirely confined to South America into a single set of prices:

No matter how short — or, more importantly, how long — your journey may be, expect to pay 15,000 Aeroplan points for economy class or 30,000 for business class. Adding a stopover to such a trip pushes those figures to 20,000 and 35,000 points, respectively.

For example, the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador are a wildlife lover’s dream destination. But, South America offers much more than the diverse species of the Galápagos. Utilizing the rules for Aeroplan stopovers, travelers could fly between the Galápagos and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, stopping in Bogotá along the way to experience a third country–Colombia.

In total, this journey spans over 4,000 miles. Cash costs for one way travel between these two locations can be $700 or more, and adding a stopover would only increase the cost. Spending 20,000 Aeroplan points instead (and factoring in the taxes and fees on the award ticket) leads to a redemption upwards of 2.5 cents per point!

Additionally, when researching examples for South America, we ran into a quirk you should know about. Copa Airlines is based in Panama, which is in the North America region. However, it flies to numerous places in South America. Multiple itineraries offered flights from one South America region to another using Copa Airlines (ex: Ecuador to Venezuela or northern Brazil). However, this involves transiting outside of one region to then return to this region in the end. Pricing followed what we expect for “within South America” awards.

However, Aeroplan will not allow a stopover with this itinerary and honor standard pricing. Why? You would be adding a stopover in North America when flying from South America to South America. In this example, we couldn't get a stopover on one itinerary with standard pricing. Watch out for transiting Panama if you want a stopover on your South America itinerary.

Adventure Across the Atlantic

A second secret stopover sweet spot of Aeroplan's updated award chart spans three continents instead of just one. Under the new region definitions, the entirety of Europe and Africa falls under the “Atlantic” region. That means that travelers starting in North America will use the same set of award costs whether a final destination is in Europe or in Africa. And, thanks to an award chart quirk, visiting two locations across the Atlantic with a stopover can wind up cheaper than booking each flight separately.

For instance, let's examine an itinerary taking travelers from Chicago to Addis Ababa via Frankfurt. Such a journey spans 7,662 miles – 4,344 miles from Chicago to Frankfurt and another 3,318 from Frankfurt to Addis Ababa.

The Secret Sweet Spots of Aeroplan Stopovers and Open Jaws

Aeroplan prices this kind of trip at 55,000 points in economy class or 85,000 points in business class. Note that the total points cost is comparable whether traveling direct between Chicago and Addis Ababa or transiting through Frankfurt. The stop in Frankfurt adds just 85 miles to the total travel distance. Making the layover into a stopover would add 5,000 miles regardless of class of cabin–turning the total points requirement into 60,000 for economy or 90,000 for business.

Meanwhile, booking the two flight segments separately increases the total points cost of the trip.

The Secret Sweet Spots of Aeroplan Stopovers and Open Jaws

The Secret Sweet Spots of Aeroplan Stopovers and Open Jaws

By booking separately, instead of booking together with a stopover, the total trip cost would be 65,000 points in economy class or 115,000 points in business class. In this case, the stopover saves travelers as much as 25,000 points per passenger!

Fly More to Spend Less

Aeroplan notoriously allows for flexible (and sometimes illogical) award trip routings. Particularly, when flying from North America to Southeast Asia, eastbound or westbound travel is permitted. Savvy travelers can take advantage of this program quirk on long trips between these regions.

For instance, take a sample journey from Chicago to Bangalore, India. This trip between North America and Atlantic regions (yes, the Atlantic region includes the Indian Subcontinent) clocks in at 8,968 miles. Corresponding award costs are 70,000 points in economy and 100,000 points in business for one-way travel.

Now for the fun part: instead of ending the journey in Bangalore, adding an extra segment to the trip and making time spent in Bangalore simply a stopover could actually decrease the overall trip cost. THAI Airways service between Bangalore and Bangkok resumes in January 2022.

Such a segment spans 1,550 miles and would take the total trip distance up to 10,518 miles. At the same time, Bangkok belongs to the Pacific region, where a one-way journey from North America between 8,001 – 11,000 miles costs just 60,000 points in economy or 85,000 in business.

The stopover in Bangalore adds another 5,000 points to these amounts, but the net points cost still decreases as a result of adding the Bangalore to Bangkok segment. By using the rules for stopovers, economy class travelers save Aeroplan 5,000 points in this scenario. Business class travelers save 10,000. Plus, you get to visit a second destination!

Open Jaw Awards

Open jaw awards are nothing new to Aeroplan. For those unfamiliar, an open jaw is when a round-trip itinerary flies to one destination on the outbound but returns from a separate city. Think of flying from your home to London and then flying home from Paris. What has changed is the way in which open jaws can be utilized within the Aeroplan program. This is due to Aeroplan’s adoption of distance-based award costs in conjunction with award regions.

Again, there will be countless examples of how open jaws can benefit travelers. I think the example below paints a clear picture of how this open jaw sweet spot works. Imagine a trip beginning in Seattle with planned stops in Taipei, Tokyo, and Seoul. All three cities enjoy direct service to/from Seattle, although not all direct flights are equal. The order of these cities ends up mattering, as well as the way in which things are booked.

Let’s start with an outbound journey from Seattle to Seoul with a stopover in Tokyo, coupled with a return journey from Seoul to Seattle with a stopover in Taipei.

The Secret Sweet Spots of Aeroplan Stopovers and Open Jaws

Without Open Jaw

This itinerary does not utilize any open jaw, and as a result the total trip points cost would be as follows:

  • Seattle – Tokyo – Seoul
    • 50,000 points for economy class
    • 75,000 points for business class
    • Add 5,000 points for the stopover in Tokyo
  • Seoul – Taipei – Seattle
    • 50,000 points for economy class
    • 75,000 points for business class
    • Add 5,000 points for the stopover in Taipei
  • Overall trip cost: 110,000 in economy or 160,000 in business

Now, let’s look at the exact same trip but with an open jaw between Tokyo and Seoul.

The Secret Sweet Spots of Aeroplan Stopovers and Open Jaws

With Open Jaw

This itinerary does make use of an open jaw. In doing so, it saves on points:

  • Seattle – Tokyo
    • 35,000 points for economy class
    • 50,000 points for business class
  • Seoul – Taipei – Seattle
    • 50,000 points for economy class
    • 75,000 points for business class
    • Extra 5,000 points for the stopover in Taipei
  • Overall trip cost: 90,000 in economy or 130,000 in business

In total, skipping the 750-mile flight between Tokyo and Seoul saves travelers anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 Aeroplan points, depending on the class of service. Getting between Tokyo and Seoul separately is quite easy. There are relatively inexpensive cash fares available, plus a litany of points and miles options.

Best Ways to Earn Aeroplan Points

Aeroplan points can be earned by flying any Star Alliance airline (Air Canada is a Star Alliance member), as well as a large number of non-alliance partners. Fortunately, many options exist for transferring points to Aeroplan, as well.

Since Aeroplan is based in Canada, the program offers fantastic co-branded cards for Canadian flyers:

There's also a credit card earning Aeroplan points newly available in the U.S.:

Our Take

Aeroplan preserved its generous policy on stopovers when it refreshed its award program last year. That policy can be very award traveler-friendly. Just 5,000 points per stopover allows Aeroplan members to see more destinations for less. Additionally, strategic open jaws offer travelers another opportunity to save points when traveling. While this article provides just a flavor of the possibilities with stopovers and open jaws, it provides all of the ideas necessary to cook up a personalized trip with Aeroplan. Remember, tools such as gcmap.com are incredible resources for calculating total trip distances!

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Comments

  • Spirit Airline Baggage Detail says:

    excellent work you did

  • This is really interesting Article. I really appreciate your efforts.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • Thank you!

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

  • Great comprehensive analysis and great read!

  • 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 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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).

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

  • 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…

  • Interesting article!

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

  • Adam Parsons says:

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

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

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

  • Jacqueline parsons says:

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

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

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.