Air Canada's Aeroplan Frequent Flyer Program's New Award Charts were released today, and take effect on November 8, 2020. The new award pricing is…interesting. For Air Canada itself, award rates will be revenue based, so our first piece of advice is: don't redeem Aeroplan miles for Air Canada.
Far more interesting is Aeroplan's new award chart for partner airlines. Air Canada is a member of Star Alliance, which has a number of great partners, from ANA to SWISS. Think ANA First Class, Asiana First Class, Austrian Business Class, Brussels Business Class, EVA Business Class, Lufthansa First Class, Singapore Business Class, and SWISS Business Class, among others. Aeroplan also partners with some additional non-Star Alliance airlines, such as Etihad, so Etihad First Apartment awards are also a possibility.
Aeroplan New Partner Award Charts (effective November 8, 2020)
Aeroplan's new award charts are a combination of zone based and distance based. Often, zone based award charts such as American AAdvantage and Alaska MileagePlan offer greater value, particularly for first class and business class award flights, over distance based award charts, such as British Airways Executive Club, although not always.
Aeroplan's new award chart divides the world into 4 zones:
- North America (red)
- South America (beige)
- Atlantic (light blue) = Europe, Africa, Middle East, India
- Pacific (light purple) = Asia including Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand
Here are the new Aeroplan award charts:
Within North America
North America – Atlantic Zones
North America – Pacific
North America – South America
Atlantic to Pacific
Within Atlantic Zone
Within Pacific Zone
Pros and Cons of New Aeroplan Award Rates Vs. Old Aeroplan Awards
With the Old Aeroplan, our favorite sweet spot awards were SWISS Business Class and Brussels Airlines Business Class awards between the U.S. and Europe. These were typically 55,000 miles each way, but when there was a 20% AMEX Membership Rewards transfer bonus to Aeroplan, that was akin to getting the award for just 46,000 AMEX points, a fantastic deal.
Unfortunately, with the new Aeroplan North America to Atlantic award chart, that rate goes up to 60,000 Aeroplan points for routes such as JFK-ZRH and JFK-BRU, while SFO-ZRH and LAX-ZRH, if available would go up to 70,000 Aeroplan points, a 27% increase. So the increase in the points required for many awards is definitely a con, which is likely to be the case for many of our TravelSort Award Booking clients, who, particularly during pandemic times, are NOT looking to stop anywhere and want nonstop flights.
On the positive side, for post-pandemic travel and those who like to combine a couple far flung destinations, the new Aeroplan will offer far more flexibility in designing routings. The primary rule is that you can't backtrack. For example, here's how some of these awards would price:
- Miami MIA-Zurich ZRH-Tokyo NRT in SWISS Business Class for 90,000 Aeroplan points
- Houston IAH-Amsterdam AMS-Taipei TPE in United Business Class and EVA Business Class for 90,000 Aeroplan points
- LAX-Abu Dhabi AUH-Tokyo NRT in Etihad First Class for 145,000 Aeroplan points
- SFO-Auckland AKL-Bangkok BKK in United Business Class and Thai Business Class for 110,000 Aeroplan points
- London LHR-Abu Dhabi AUH-Male, Maldives MLE in Etihad Business Class for 65,000 Aeroplan points
- New York JFK-Vienna VIE-Tel Aviv TLV in Austrian Business Class for 75,000 Aeroplan points
Some good news is that it will be possible to have a stopover even on a one way itinerary, for an additional fee of 5000 Aeroplan points. Very few other frequent flyer award programs, apart from Alaska Mileage Plan, permit a stopover on a one way award. Note, though, that the stopover may NOT be in the U.S. or Canada.
Partner Award Booking Fee and Call Center Fee
Note that ALL partner awards incur a CAD 39 partner booking fee, per ticket, although this is refundable if the ticket is cancelled (unlike Alaska Mileage Plan's USD $25 partner award fee, which is non-refundable even if the award is cancelled).
Other than the above partner award fee, there is no charge to book an award at aircanda.com, but if you're unable to book the award you want online, there is still a non-refundable CAD 30 fee for using the call center to book the award–let's hope the new Web site is much better than the current one, which has been subject to many glitches over the years, including missing many Star Alliance awards that are bookable on the United.com site.
No More Fuel Surcharges on Partner Awards
The good news is that the new Aeroplan will no longer charge fuel surcharges on partner awards–this has been a significant disincentive with the current Aeroplan program, which levied fuel surcharges on Adria, ANA, Asiana, Austrian, LOT Polish, Lufthansa, TAP Portugal, and THAI.
Change and Cancellation Fees (in CAD)
The current (old) Aeroplan frequent flyer program permits a cancellation via the Web site for CAD 125, or via the call center for CAD 150. As of 11/8/20, that increases to CAD 150 via the aircanada.com Web site, or CAD 175 via a call center agent, so an increase of CAD 25 over the current rates.
In better news, while the current (old) program charges CAD 100 per direction per ticket, the new Aeroplan program will reduce this to CAD 75 if the change is made at least 60 days prior to the travel date. Within 60 days of the travel date, the fee is still CAD 100 per direction (so CAD 200 if changing both the outbound and return of a roundtrip ticket).
Earning Aeroplan Miles
If you're not Canadian or don't regularly fly Air Canada, you may be wondering why you should care about Aeroplan at all. If you earn AMEX Membership Rewards points, these transfer 1:1 to Aeroplan. Or if you earn Marriott Bonvoy points, these transfer 3:1 to Aeroplan, with a 5000 Aeroplan mile bonus when you transfer 60,000 points (recall that when Marriott integrated Starwood SPG, each SPG point became 3 Marriott Bonvoy points). Capital One miles also transfer to Aeroplan, but honestly, don't bother with Capital One (see Capital One Miles Transfer to Airline Miles But AMEX and Chase Cards Still Better).
Now, we prefer to earn primarily Chase Ultimate Rewards points, since they can be earned more easily than AMEX Membership Rewards points, thanks to all the great Chase category bonuses, such as the Chase Ink Cash's 5X bonuses, which makes it easy for us to earn 5X on all Whole Foods and Amazon spend as well as 5X on all internet and phone bills. There's also the Chase Sapphire Reserve's 3X on all travel and dining spend and the Chase Freedom rotating 5X bonuses on categories such as grocery stores, Amazon, gas, etc. That said, Ultimate Rewards points transfer to United Airlines, British Airways, Singapore KrisFlyer, Aer Lingus, Iberia, JetBlue, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, and a few other partners, but not Aeroplan.
AMEX cards don't have all those lucrative category bonuses, but the AMEX Blue Business Plus does at least earn 2X on all spend, with no annual fee, so that's a good card to have, and will earn you Membership Rewards points that can be transferred to Aeroplan.
Aeroplan Points Expiration
Aeroplan points won't expire as long as you have earning or redemption activity every 18 months. Aeroplan credit card holders' points and Aeroplan elite frequent flyers' points won't expire.
New Aeroplan Family Sharing
Aeroplan will join several other frequent flyer programs, such as British Airways Executive Club and JetBlue TrueBlue to allow family sharing of Aeroplan points. Up to 8 family members may pool their miles together, with all points earned by the members as part of a shared family balance.
The new Aeroplan award charts, which are a combination of zones and distance for partner awards, will make most awards more expensive, and North America to Asia (the Pacific zone in the new Aeroplan zone map) via the Pacific is especially expensive compared to Asia awards on JAL or Cathay Pacific using Alaska miles. It's also unfortunate that Aeroplan will charge a CAD 30 fee if calling the Contact Center, even if the Web site is buggy and it's impossible to book the award online.
On the positive front, Aeroplan is eliminating the dreaded fuel surcharges that plagued so many airline partner awards on ANA, Austrian, Lufthansa, and other airlines, so that is a vast improvement. And the addition of family accounts for pooling miles is very welcome, since it makes it possible for a family to transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points from their various accounts to Aeroplan (ideally with an AMEX to Aeroplan transfer bonus) and pool them to book Aeroplan awards.
What do you think of the new Aeroplan award charts and award program?
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