There’s not a single, perfect frequent flyer program. Savvy consumers should generally collect transferable points currencies for their credit card spending, and then you have the flexibility to transfer your points to a variety of programs, based on your exact travel needs.
Nonetheless I think once in a while it’s fun to think about what the most useful and valuable individual frequent flyer programs are. For example, Alaska Mileage Plan used to be my single favorite frequent flyer program, but I can’t make sense of the program’s direction anymore.
That caused me to think about what my favorite frequent flyer program actually is in terms of the value and process of redeeming points, and to me there’s one obvious answer.
9 reasons to love Air Canada Aeroplan points
We sometimes criticize frequent flyer programs for negative changes, but often don’t give enough credit to the programs that are trying hard and doing good things. In the interest of positive reinforcement, in this post I wanted to share nine reasons I consider Air Canada Aeroplan to currently be the single most valuable airline frequent flyer program when it comes to points redemptions.
There are many factors at play here — transparency, redemption value, partners, the ease of earning and redeeming points, and much more. The Aeroplan program was refreshed in late 2020, and over a year later, I still consider these changes to be positive. The best thing is that Aeroplan is useful even if you don’t plan on stepping foot on an Air Canada plane.
With that out of the way, below are some of the things I like most about Aeroplan.
Aeroplan points are easy to earn
Aeroplan points are easy to come by. Air Canada Aeroplan is 1:1 transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One, and Chase Ultimate Rewards. Transfers from all of these partners are generally instant, which matters because often there might be award availability but then you find that a transfer takes multiple days, which can quickly ruin your plans.
Consistent, published award costs
Transparency at frequent flyer programs is becoming increasingly rare, and that’s an area where Aeroplan excels. The program publishes award charts for all “saver” redemptions, and the costs are the same regardless of which airline you redeem on (which I think we can all appreciate after Alaska Mileage Plan’s recent new partner award charts, where Malaysia Airlines business class costs 2.5x as much as much as Cathay Pacific first class).
More airline partners than any other program
Aeroplan has more airline partners than any other frequent flyer program in the world. Not only is Air Canada in the Star Alliance, but Aeroplan has actively been adding as many airline partners as possible, including on some other airlines that otherwise have few partners.
For example, Aeroplan has all kinds of non-Star Alliance partners, including Air Mauritius, Air Serbia, Azul, Etihad, Gulf Air, Oman Air, Vistara, and more. Best of all, the list of partners continues to grow.
Stopovers for 5,000 points one-way
There aren’t many frequent flyer programs that allow stopovers on one-way awards, and this is another area where Aeroplan innovated. Aeroplan allows stopovers on one-way awards for just 5,000 points, which is an incredible deal in so many situations, especially when you consider the ability to mix and match partners:
- Flying from the United States to Mauritius? You could fly to Paris on Air Canada, have a stopover for 5,000 points, and then continue to Mauritius
- Flying from Europe to the Maldives? You could fly Gulf Air via Bahrain and have a stopover there for 5,000 points, and then continue to the Maldives
- Flying from the United States to Singapore? You could fly to Japan on United, have a stopover for 5,000 points, and then continue to Singapore
Award redemption costs are fair & reasonable
There are some programs that have sweet spot award redemptions that seem too good to be true, and where you’re sure the redemption is ripe for devaluation. That’s not really the case with Aeroplan. I’d say Aeroplan has very fair award pricing across the board, and that’s rational.
Aeroplan won’t always have the lowest award costs, but it will be the most consistent, and also have the most partners. That’s worth a lot.
No carrier imposed surcharges
One of the most frustrating practices in the frequent flyer program world is the concept of carrier imposed surcharges being added on awards, whereby there’s a huge cash co-pay with redemptions. Fortunately Aeroplan doesn’t pass on these surcharges for all partner airlines.
The only catch is that Aeroplan has a 39 CAD partner booking fee, but that’s hardly a huge cost for those of us booking first & business class awards.
No blocked availability
Aeroplan seems to have access to all saver award seats that are made available by partner programs. This might sound minor, but it really isn’t. For example, take Alaska Mileage Plan, where the program doesn’t have access to all award seats on Cathay Pacific, Qantas, and more. That can be extremely frustrating when there’s only one first class award seat and you can’t redeem miles on it.
Aeroplan doesn’t do any sort of blocking in that regard, and also invests in the technology to make sure that members can see all availability. Sometimes we see phantom availability through other programs, so I always cross reference Air Canada’s site, since I find it to be the most accurate.
A great online shopping experience
There’s something to be said for the ease with which you can actually book your travel, and Aeroplan offers a great online shopping experience:
- Awards on virtually all Aeroplan partners can be booked online, with accurate availability displayed
- Aeroplan lets you select seats for virtually all partner airlines online, which is oh-so-nice and also rare
- Aeroplan clearly displays confirmation codes of partner airlines
- Aeroplan awards can be canceled online and miles are redeposited instantly
This might all sound minor, but it really adds up. Seriously, can anyone think of a single other frequent flyer program that lets you select seats on virtually every partner airline? I can’t imagine that was a small time investment, but Aeroplan made it a priority.
In fairness, there’s still room for improvement here. Stopovers can’t yet be booked online, and neither can complicated itineraries. Fortunately this is a feature that should be rolled out in 2022, making the online experience even better. If this new feature is half as good as it’s described, it’s going to be in a completely different league than what any other program offers.
A program run by avgeeks committed to improving
I’m fairly certain that there are more avgeeks and mileage geeks working at Aeroplan than any other frequent flyer program. These are largely people who have done mileage runs, and who love maximizing their own miles. They take that passion into designing the program, and that’s worth something.
Let me give a concrete example — I once had a conversation with the head of another frequent flyer program about how the carrier lacked airline partners to redeem miles on, and I asked if they had considered trying to pursue more reciprocal frequent flyer partnerships. The answer? “That’s not a priority.” Meanwhile at Aeroplan, it sure seems to me like they’re knocking on just about every airline “door” to see what partners they can add.
There’s a way for a program to be profitable while still offering lots of value. At times that can be a tough balance to strike, and not many programs get it right. I think that’s something Aeroplan does, and deserves credit for.
Is there a more well-rounded frequent flyer program?
I’d like to turn this over to OMAAT readers. Aeroplan isn’t perfect, but I think the program is trying, and I think the program is delivering a lot of value for members. Is there a specific airline program that’s as well-rounded and valuable when it comes to redeeming points on a wide variety of airlines? If so, I certainly can’t think of it.
I’ll take it a step further — if I could only ever collect a single airline points currency again, I’d choose Aeroplan points. Of course I wouldn’t want to be in that situation (flexibility is the beauty of transferable points currencies), but I think it drives home my point about the balanced value that the program offers.
I’m curious how OMAAT readers feel about it — if you could only accrue one airline points currency for the rest of your life, which would it be?
Air Canada’s Aeroplan program delivers a ton of value when redeeming points, and is an often overlooked currency for redemptions on partner airlines. I think some positive reinforcement and credit is due here, as Aeroplan has done an amazing job adding airline partners, offering great value, differentiating itself through a generous stopover policy, and providing a good online shopping experience.
Best of all, the program will only keep getting better, as Aeroplan is promising to roll out a better booking tool this year, with the ability to book stopovers directly online.
What’s your take on the value of Aeroplan award redemptions? And I’m curious, does anyone think there’s a single more well-rounded frequent flyer program for redeeming points? If so, which one?