I often hear a lot of complaints about the Aeroplan program. The usual suspects are: lack of award availability, blackout dates, high tax and surcharge fees, etc. There is an article from CBC that talks about the high fuel surcharges with Aeroplan.
This story is just more of a reminder for us to redeem our Aeroplan points on Star Alliance partner airlines that have lower tax and fuel surcharges. The international airlines can offer much more value for your points.
Today, I will give a few tips to help you overcome these obstacles to help you maximize the return for your points. First of all, if you do not fly internationally at all, then I suggest to fly with Porter Airlines or WestJet within Canada. Both of them have a more straightforward earning and redemption structure in place that provides more value than Air Canada.
If you fly internationally even only once every 1-2 years then I recommend having Aeroplan. As I have indicated in other posts, the points game requires some work. But the good thing is, the more work you put in, the more you will be rewarded. The ideas below will required a little bit of effort to help you maximize your return. For me, saving money is like making money, so I definitely feel that the time is well spent.
1) Aeroplan actually has a very comprehensive reward chart, so I won’t go over all the little details. If you qualify for elite status on Aeroplan, you can get a discount on the number of points required for a reward flight.
2) Remember that Aeroplan is a member of the Star Alliance, which means that you can use your points on partner airlines. If you fly internationally, there are a few airlines that have much more reasonable tax and surcharge fees. Here are some of the top partners:
- For North and South America, I would look at TAM Airlines and United Airlines.
- For Asia, I would look at Air China, Shenzhen Airlines and Singapore Airlines.
- For Africa, I would look at EgyptAir, Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways.
- For Europe, I would look at Aegean Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines SAS, SWISS and Turkish Airlines
The other airlines in the alliance can still have good deals, the point is the shop around to see what’s available.
3) Call customer service. One of the frustrations that everyone has is the lack of availability for reward flights online. But if you call customer service and get a patient agent, they are more tedious at going through the “multi-city” feature to book a reward flight. Otherwise, you can actually select the multi-city option online as well, but it will require more work.
Furthermore, Aeroplan is very generous at giving you layovers and you will only be able to arrange a layover by the phone. It is still possible online, but it is much more difficult. Keep in mind that you will have to pay a $25 service charge for booking over the phone. What you can do is get their help to find you an award booking that works for you, then input what they found online yourself and then book that exact flight online.
4) Be flexible on your travel dates. Giving yourself the flexibility to travel on different dates gives you the opportunity to take advantage of better deals.
5) Award availability opens up closer to the take off date. Often times, airlines protect the number of reward tickets available because they rather sell those tickets. But as you get closer to the date, the will slowly release more availabilities to fill up the plane. All the more reason to give customer service a call to see what is available. I know a lot of people who will hesitate to call customer service because it may feel time consuming, but at the very least you get can an idea of what’s available to help you shop around.
Aeroplan has the potential to give you a great return if you do a little research. Unfortunately some of the good deals require a little bit of digging, but once you find it, you are golden!