For anyone that predicts the spin-off of a frequent flyer program into a separate publicly traded business must mean a devaluation of the program, check out the changes to Aeroplan and see what you think!
The Aeroplan program has recently developed a reputation as stingy, but it’s anything but. Sure, they collect pretty hefty fees on award redemptions, usually called fuel surcharges. But when you combine at least two non-Air Canada partners on a single award they price taxes and fees manually and don’t include a fuel surcharge. I recently ticketed a first class award to Asia with Aeroplan points and the total taxes and fees were less than US$60.
Air Canada is a member of the Star Alliance, so Aeroplan points can be used to book plenty of partners — this solves the frequent flyer availability issue in most cases, at least for the award itineraries that are most valuable. And unlike United, they do not filter otherwise available seats being offered by their partners. So if Thai Airways is offering first class seats from London to Bangkok, you can book them.
With United’s award chart undergoing a massive devaluation come January 1, that leaves Aeroplan (or in some cases US Airways) as the least expensive award chart in Star Alliance. That means their miles are clearly amongst the most valuable.
Now Air Canada has made some really attractive changes to their rules on award itineraries, in place since December 8th.
Their international awards now permit (2) stopovers rather than just one. I haven’t verified yet whether it’s possible to have two stopovers and an open jaw, though I’ve seen reports that this has been permitted.
They also now permit crossing both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans on a single award without bumping up to a round the world award.
Back in March I flew DC – Frankfurt – Singapore on my outbound, made a stopover in Beijing on the way back, but since I was using United miles I had to return back across the Atlantic since that’s how I had flown to Asia in the first place (and United charged me 20,000 extra miles for having done so). That meant extra flying, and because of airline schedules an overnight on the return as well.
Under the new Air Canada rules I could have flown my outbound as-is, and returned even on the United non-stop Beijing-Washington, DC (if that flight was available).
This is also a huge boon to award availability, you get to search availability on both the transpacific and transatlantic carriers for a single ticket! It also means you can visit both Asia and Europe on that one ticket as well!
Assuming bmi Diamond Club gets swallowed into Miles and More eventually, or otherwise devalued, AIr Canada could be my new favorite airline porgram. And since they’re an American Express Membership Rewards partner, since they partner with various hotel programs for points transfers (or straight earning), as well as being a repository for my Club Rewards points (I remain one of the last Diners Club holdouts!) this is a huge opportunity.
Oh, and their change fees are pretty reasonable at ~ $55 (though I believe this increases February 1) as well.