Back in August, Air Canada revealed the full details of its new Aeroplan frequent flyer program. Well, the new program has just gone live as of today.
In this post I wanted to recap all the changes, because there’s a lot to love about the program. I’ll be focusing specifically on Aeroplan’s radically new approach to award pricing, which is unlike any other program out there.
Among other changes, Aeroplan is switching to both a zone and distance-based chart, eliminating fuel surcharges, and introducing stopovers on one-way awards (at a cost).
Why you should care about Aeroplan awards
As mentioned above, in this post I’ll be talking specifically about how award ticket redemptions work with the new Aeroplan program. If you’re an Air Canada frequent flyer you’ll care about this for obvious reasons.
The Aeroplan program has long been great for booking Star Alliance awards. On top of that, Aeroplan has been expanding its list of non-alliance partners, and has recently added Azul, Etihad, Vistara, and Air Serbia, with more on the horizon.
Redeeming miles with the new Aeroplan program
Aeroplan’s approach to award pricing is unlike anything being offered by another frequent flyer program. Some airlines have distance based award charts, while other airlines have zone based award charts. Aeroplan, on the other hand, has created award charts that integrate both zones and distance. Let’s talk more about how that works.
Let me note upfront that the number of miles required for award tickets is increasing an average of 12.7%, but there are several positive changes that help offset that.
Aeroplan breaks the world into four zones
With Aeroplan’s new award pricing, the world is broken up into four zones:
- North America
- South America
Here’s a map showing which countries belong to which regions:
Aeroplan has 10 distance based award charts
With the new program, Aeroplan has 10 different award charts, including:
- Award charts for travel entirely within each region
- Award charts for travel between each of the four regions
Once you’ve determined which regions you’re traveling between (or within), award pricing is distance based.
Aeroplan has pricing for travel on Air Canada, and pricing for travel on partner airlines. Partner awards can include travel on any combination of Air Canada, Star Alliance partners, and non-Star Alliance partners. I’d recommend focusing on the partner award pricing, because that’s where there’s the most value to be had.
Here’s the new award chart for travel within North America:
Here’s the new award chart for travel between North America and the Atlantic region:
Here’s the new award chart for travel between North America and the Pacific region:
Here’s the new award chart for travel between North America and South America:
Here’s the new award chart for travel within the Atlantic region:
Here’s the new award chart for travel within the Pacific region:
Here’s the new award chart for travel within South America:
Here’s the new award chart for travel between the Atlantic and Pacific regions:
Here’s the new award chart for travel between the Atlantic region and South America:
Here’s the new award chart for travel between the Pacific region and South America:
For context, here’s Aeroplan’s old award chart for travel originating in North America (which is no longer valid):
Aeroplan eliminates fuel surcharges
This will no doubt be welcome news for just about everyone — Aeroplan has eliminated fuel surcharges on award tickets. Period. Previously Aeroplan imposed fuel surcharges for travel on Air Canada and select partner airlines, including Lufthansa.
For example, the cost of a one-way Lufthansa first class award ticket from Chicago to Frankfurt will increase in cost from 70,000 miles to 100,000 miles one-way, but you’ll save about ~820USD in fuel surcharges. I’ll take it!
Aeroplan allows stopovers on one-ways for 5,000 miles each
With the new Aeroplan program, you’re permitted stopovers on one-way awards at the cost of 5,000 miles each. To me this is a ridiculously exciting development.
Alaska Mileage Plan is one of the only programs to allow stopovers on one-ways, so to be able to have stopovers on one-way awards for travel on dozens of airlines is great. These are even allowed on awards wholly within a region, with the exception of within North America.
For what it’s worth, in the process Aeroplan no longer allows a free stopover on a roundtrip, but instead you could pay 5,000 miles for a stopover in each direction. While I liked how Aeroplan allowed free stopovers on roundtrips, personally I prefer the new system.
Note that for the time being these can only be booked through the Aeroplan contact center, but at some point in 2021 they should be bookable online.
Aeroplan now allows stopovers for 5,000 miles
Aeroplan change & cancelation fees
Previously Aeroplan charged 100CAD to change an award ticket, and 125CAD to cancel an award ticket online (it cost 150CAD if done by phone).
With the new program, Aeroplan uses a tiered change and cancelation fee structure, as follows (all prices are in CAD):
As you can see, for premium cabin awards:
- Changes now cost 75-100CAD
- Cancelations now cost 150CAD
Cancelation fees have gone up slightly, while the change fees have stayed the same or been lowered. Aeroplan continues to have very reasonable change and cancelation fees compared to other airlines, so I’d consider these changes to be a wash.
Aeroplan’s 39CAD partner booking fee
Aeroplan has added a 39CAD per passenger partner award booking fee. This applies for every partner award booked, whether online or by phone.
Obviously this is a negative development, though if fuel surcharges are being eliminated in the process, this is something I’m okay with.
All partner award bookings now incur a 39CAD fee
Aeroplan’s generous award routing rules
Aeroplan is taking a very liberal approach to award routing rules, which is awesome. With few exceptions, you’re able to build your own awards as long as you don’t backtrack, even if you’re traveling double the distance between two city pairs. Want to fly from Bangkok to Los Angeles via Sydney, with a stopover in Australia? No problem!
In terms of transiting third regions, this is allowed if there’s no backtracking involved, like being able to travel from North America to the Pacific via the Atlantic.
More complex itineraries will only be bookable online starting in 2021, but these are immediately bookable via the Aeroplan contact center.
Aeroplan’s website is becoming a lot more functional
Aeroplan has redesigned its award search with the launch of the new program, though the current offering is really just an interim solution. By 2021 Aeroplan is promising an industry-leading award search tool offering the following:
- The ability to book stopovers online
- The ability to book complex routings online
- A robust award calendar
- The ability to rebook your reservation online
If the finished product is half as good as it sounds, it will be in a league of its own. For the time being you’ll have to call the Aeroplan contact center for stopovers and complex routings.
Still, I really like the new Aeroplan search tool, as it’s responsive and easy to use.
Unlike before, you no longer have to log into your Aeroplan account to search for award availability. Instead you can search directly on the homepage of aircanada.com by toggling the little red bar to “points.”
When you get to the search page all the results will show, and I particularly love how clearly mixed cabin options are shown.
If you mouse over a mixed cabin itinerary, it will even show you what percent of an itinerary is in the cabin you requested, which is transparency that I really appreciate.
There are also so many options you can filter by, ranging from connecting airport, to aircraft type, to airline.
Aeroplan now offers Points + Cash
Aeroplan has introduced Points + Cash, whereby members can redeem part miles and part cash towards the cost of an award ticket. Members are able to pay cash to reduce the number of miles needed to redeem for an award by up to 40%.
What’s the value proposition of that like? Let’s use a flight that costs 70,000 miles plus ~47CAD in taxes as an example. Your options are to:
- Pay 74,633 miles (you’re paying an additional 4,633 miles to save 47CAD, which is getting you a value of only 0.01CAD per mile)
- Pay 56,000 miles plus 298.33CAD (you’re paying an additional 252CAD to save 14,000 miles)
- Pay 42,000 miles plus 550.33CAD (you’re paying an additional 504CAD to save 28,000 miles)
In other words, for either of the Points + Cash options that save you miles you’re essentially acquiring Aeroplan miles at a rate of 0.018CAD per mile, which is a rate of 0.014USD per mile. Essentially being able to buy Aeroplan miles for 1.4 cents each at the time of booking is solid, and I’m finding that rate pretty consistently across redemptions.
However, I don’t recommend redeeming Aeroplan miles towards taxes & fees, as that gets you a significantly lower valuation per point.
Aeroplan Family Sharing
Aeroplan has also introduced family sharing, whereby you can pool miles with family members at no cost. Initially Aeroplan is taking an open approach to this:
- You’re able to have up to eight people on a family account
- The company isn’t dictating who is part of your family, recognizing that everyone defines that differently; you will be asked what your connection is to the other person, but again, it’ll be open-ended
- If this is abused, this may be adjusted over time
- Only redeemable miles can be pooled, and not elite qualifying miles
The ability to pool miles across multiple accounts is a great way for families to build up enough miles for an award ticket faster than they’d otherwise be able to.
Air Canada has introduced family points sharing
Why I love the new Aeroplan program
I had high expectations of the new Aeroplan program, and I wasn’t disappointed. This is a frequent flyer program run by airline nerds, and this new approach to award pricing really reflects that.
Aeroplan’s new award pricing is unlike any other — Aeroplan has mixed distance and zone based awards, while creating the opportunity to book stopovers on one-ways for a reasonable mileage premium, all while letting people book some really creative routings.
Let me acknowledge that not everything about the new program is positive:
- Award pricing has increased for many types of awards
- Free stopovers have been eliminated on roundtrip awards
- There’s a new 39CAD partner award fee
But my gosh, we’ve gained so much as well:
- Fuel surcharges have been eliminated (for premium cabin Lufthansa transatlantic awards these sometimes cost $800+ one-way)
- Aeroplan is allowing the coolest one-way award routings of any frequent flyer program out there
- Paying just 5,000 miles for a stopover on a one-way award is a bargain
- Family accounts are possible
The program will be even better when the new award search tool launches in 2021.
Book Lufthansa first class without paying fuel surcharges
As someone who constantly books awards through the Aeroplan program, I like these changes. Personally I almost always book one-way awards, simply because of the way I travel, and that’s why I’m so excited about the new stopover policy.
Based on my own redemption patterns, I’ll certainly come out ahead with any Lufthansa redemptions (due to fuel surcharges), as well as with any redemptions that involve stopovers. Meanwhile some of the creative one-way transatlantic awards I’ve booked on partners without fuel surcharges will likely cost me more.
In many ways this also creates a complementary Star Alliance program to Avianca LifeMiles. LifeMiles is still a great program for simple one-way awards without fuel surcharges, and will sometimes have lower award pricing. However, LifeMiles doesn’t allow stopovers or creative routings, and that’s where Aeroplan will excel.
Examples of awards that can be booked with the new Aeroplan
Let me give some examples of awards that should be bookable with the new program with stopovers, just off the top of my head (the price includes the stopover, and without a stopover you’d pay 5,000 fewer miles):
- Newark to London to Frankfurt in business class with a stopover in London for 65,000 miles
- Los Angeles to the Cook Islands to Auckland in business class with a stopover in the Cook Islands for 80,000 miles
- Miami to Frankfurt to Bangkok in business class with a stopover in Frankfurt for 90,000 miles
- New York to Frankfurt to Dubai in first class with a stopover in Frankfurt for 115,000 miles
- New York to Abu Dhabi to Seoul Incheon in first class with a stopover in Abu Dhabi for 145,000 miles
Those are just a few examples, but I’m sure as we play around with the new chart, all kinds of cool sweet spots will emerge. Again, for stopovers you’ll have to call for now, and some more complicated routings are also only bookable by phone for now, until the enhanced award search launches in 2021.
Redeem Aeroplan miles on Etihad with a stopover
Major changes have just gone live for the Air Canada Aeroplan program, which now has both zone and distance based award pricing.
While the number of miles required for some awards has increased, Aeroplan has eliminated fuel surcharges and is now allowing stopovers on one-ways for a very reasonable 5,000 miles each. Personally I’m also excited to have a Star Alliance program that’s unlike any other.
What do you make of the changes to Air Canada Aeroplan award redemptions?