Sweet Spots of the New Aeroplan Program

Air Canada's loyalty program has great redemption rates on award flights within the U.S. and Europe.

JT GenterDec 1, 2020
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Air Canada has relaunched its rewards program, and though it retained the Aeroplan name, quite a few aspects of the program have changed. One of these changes: the number of points required for award flights on Air Canada and its partners.

While this transition closed the door on old Aeroplan sweet spots — specific routes and seats that offered uncommonly good deals for award travel — it opened up a whole new set of sweet spots. Here’s a quick overview of the revamped Aeroplan program, followed by a dive into some of the best booking strategies to maximize the value of your points.

How to get Aeroplan points

You can earn Aeroplan points by flying Air Canada. You can also credit flights on 37 airline partners to Aeroplan or you can earn points through four car rental partners, major hotel loyalty programs including Marriott Bonvoy, IHG and Best Western Hotels, Air Canada credit cards (available in Canada only at this time), and other travel and shopping partners.

But the easiest way to amass Aeroplan points is by moving points from transferable point programs. Aeroplan is currently a transfer partner of three programs:

Basics of the new Aeroplan Rewards program

The number of Aeroplan points you need for a flight is based on the distance you fly. It costs more to fly longer flights than shorter flights, but the exact award rate depends on which zone you’re traveling to and from. Thankfully, there are just four zones to learn:

Aeroplan’s chart shows how many points you need for a flight within North America. The distance, the class of service and whether the flight is operated by Air Canada or one of its partners all factor into the cost.

Economy award flights start at 6,000 points each way and top out at 25,000 points one-way. Business class awards start at 15,000 points and climb to no more than 70,000 points each way. Premium economy awards are available on Air Canada flights only.

For flights on partner airlines, the number of points needed is set at a fixed rate. Air Canada pledges to make every seat on every Air Canada flight available for redemptions and there’s a range of pricing for awards on Air Canada flights.

The North America chart leads us to our first Aeroplan sweet spot:

Fly within North America from 6,000 points each way

For just 6,000 Aeroplan points, you can fly in economy on Air Canada or its partners up to 500 miles in distance.

Five hundred miles might not sound very far. But there are plenty of ways this sweet spot can come in handy. This 500-mile range includes award flights on Aeroplan’s partner United on routes like:

  • Chicago to Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Kansas City and other Midwest destinations.

  • Newark to Raleigh-Durham, Toronto, Quebec, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Bangor.

  • Denver to Oklahoma City, Jackson Hole, Wichita, Lubbock and Billings.

  • San Francisco to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego, Redmond, Eugene and Reno.

  • Houston to Lubbock, Memphis, Tulsa, Fayetteville, Oklahoma City and New Orleans.

This 500-mile range also includes the route between New York-LaGuardia and Toronto — which is the seventh-busiest international route in the world.

Fly to Hawaii from 12,500 points each way

Unlike most airline programs, Aeroplan doesn’t consider Hawaii part of a different region than the contiguous U.S. That means a route under 2,750 miles in distance will cost 12,500 Aeroplan points anywhere in North America — including Hawaii.

That’s just enough miles to include flights between the West Coast and Hawaii. So, for as few as 12,500 Aeroplan points, you can book United or Air Canada flights from:

  • Los Angeles to Honolulu, Maui, Kauai and Kona.

  • San Francisco to Honolulu, Maui, Kauai and Kona.

  • Vancouver and Honolulu, Maui and Kona.

Nerdy tip: You aren’t limited to nonstop flights. Aeroplan uses the “actual distance flown between origin and destination” to calculate the points required. So you can book a connecting itinerary for just 12,500 Aeroplan points if the total distance flown is under 2,750 miles.

Fly to Hawaii in business class from 25,000 points each way

It’s not just economy awards to Hawaii that can be a great deal. You can fly between the West Coast and Hawaii for 25,000 Aeroplan points in business class, as long as you keep the route under 2,750 miles in distance.

However, business class award availability to Hawaii can be hard to find. Use the United calendar award search tool to browse a couple of months of availability at a time.

Start on this search page. Enter your route, select "My dates are flexible," then enter a date in the month you want to travel. Once you click search, business class award availability is shown as five dots on the date.

United charges 40,000 MileagePlus miles for a saver award flight to Hawaii in first class. That’s not bad, but Aeroplan’s rate of 25,000 points for these flights is incredible.

Fly to Europe in business class from 60,000 points each way

Europe, Africa, the Middle East and even India are all included in the Atlantic award zone. Award flights between North America and the Atlantic zones that are under 4,000 miles in distance cost as little as:

  • 35,000 points in economy.

  • 50,000 points in premium economy (valid on Air Canada flights only).

  • 60,000 points in business class.

  • 90,000 points in first class.

Of those options, there’s a clear sweet spot: business class. As long as you can keep the combined flight distance to under 4,000 miles, you can book a business class award flight to Europe for 60,000 Aeroplan points.

That covers United flights from Newark to at least 17 destinations in Europe:

Or you can fly on United flights from Washington-Dulles to at least seven destinations in Europe:

You could also book an award flight on one of Air Canada’s many European partners including Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, LOT Polish, Lufthansa, SAS, SWISS, TAP Portugal and more.

A key aspect of the new Aeroplan program is "no cash surcharges." This is a huge deal considering many European airlines charge a substantial amount for carrier-imposed fees. Under the old program, Aeroplan would charge members for these fees. But not anymore.

Hop through Europe from 12,500 points for two destinations

Once you get to Europe, you probably don’t want to see just one city. You can use Aeroplan’s "within Atlantic zone" award chart for award flights intra-Europe:

Aeroplan charges 7,500 points for a one-way award under 1,000 miles in distance or 12,500 points for award flights between 1,000 and 2,000 miles in distance.

Say you use the 60,000-point sweet spot to fly to Edinburgh, Scotland. You can then fly from Edinburgh to Munich for just 7,500 points.

But wait, there’s more. The new Aeroplan stopover rules allow you to add a destination along the way for just 5,000 additional points. That means you can see two additional destinations in Europe for 12,500 points as long as you can keep the flight distance under 1,000 miles.

So for 12,500 Aeroplan points, you can book:

  • London to Brussels (stopover) to Rome.

  • Barcelona to Paris (stopover) to Frankfurt.

  • Paris to Vienna (stopover) to Berlin.

You can build quite the European trip by combining the Aeroplan sweet spot for business class flights to Europe and the sweet spot to see two additional destinations in Europe for 12,500 additional points.

Make sure to check cash prices for the intra-Europe flights. It might be cheap enough to pay for the flights outright rather than booking with Aeroplan points.

The bottom line

These sweet spots only scratch the surface of what you can do with the new Aeroplan rewards program. Think about your own travel plans and run some test searches to see if using Aeroplan miles will get you the best deal.

You’ll get the cheapest rates on shorter flights. If you’re flying a longer route, see if you can maximize your trip by building in an extra stop for 5,000 additional points using Aeroplan stopover rules.

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