As a Canadian, it is well known that Aeroplan is the default go-to program. The main reason is because it is the more widely accessible and easier program for a Canadian to rack up their miles in a hurry. They have partnerships with three banks (American Express, CIBC and TD), who all offer co-branded credit cards. There are ten personal credit cards offered to Canadians, not including business Aeroplan cards.
Furthermore, Aeroplan is a member of Star Alliance (recently updated list), unlike the other Canadian airline option, WestJet, who is not a member of any major airline alliances. For this reason, I do feel that WestJet is as valuable a program.
Moreover, unfortunately, Canadians are not offered any other co-branded Star Alliance member credit cards. So there is no quick way to earn miles of other alliance partners. However, if you fly frequently enough, there are other airlines that I would recommend to credit your miles with instead of Aeroplan.
Below is a list of airlines that you may want to credit your miles to instead of Aeroplan, but it will depend on where in the world you fly frequently to. The trend is usually to find an airline that does not have fuel surcharges.
If you fly frequently to and from Asia, I would look into KrisFlyer with Singapore Airlines. They tend to restrict award availability of its own flights and offer the best reward redemptions to its own members. As a member, you get access to some of the top value reward redemptions and relatively low fuel surcharges.
Note that when you use your Aeroplan miles to book a Singapore Airlines flight, you do not have to pay any fuel surcharges.
If you fly frequently to and from Africa, I would strongly consider the EgyptAir Plus program. They offers 2 years of elite status once you qualify and do not have fuel surcharges.
Turkish Airlines’ Miles & Smiles offers elite status for 2 years and are generous with status matches. While Swiss Airlines’ Miles & More treat their elite status members well.
Note that with both programs, you will have to fuel surcharges on their own flights, but if you use Aeroplan to book a Turkish Airline or Swiss Airlines flight, you will not have to pay fuel surcharges.
United Airline’s MileagePlus program offers some of the best economy travel reward redemption in the industry, especially for flights within the United States, as well as flights between Canada and the US. They have a strong presence in Canada with many direct flights to choose from.
If you ever tried to redeem your Aeroplan miles on a United flight through Canada, you may not necessarily find the award availability right away. Priority is given to MileagePlus members, before being released to other Star Alliance partners. So if you need to book a reward flight on a United flight to the United States well ahead of time, you are better off having MileagePlus miles.
And of course, they do not have fuel surcharges on reward redemptions.
You can always go with United Airline’s MileagePlus program, as you will most likely connect through the United States to reach South America (from Canada). However, I would also give strong consideration to Avianca’s Lifemiles. They are an ideal choice because they have lower prices for reward redemption. They have the option of cash and miles, which offers decent value.
And you guessed it… no fuel surcharges on a reward redemption!
Basically, depending on which part of the world you fly frequently, you have some options to consider other than Aeroplan.
Overall, I like United Airline’s MileagePlus program the best. However, if your flight patterns are more random, or they are primarily vacation based, then I would recommend to stick with Aeroplan instead.
Hopefully Air Canada was taking notes about fuel surcharges. Though suspect that if they ever took off fuel surcharges, the reward redemption requirement may increase.