Award Booking Successes and Frustrations

Grey Roberge details his experiences booking a Star Alliance first class award through Aeroplan.

Regular readers of my blog know that I’m a big fan of the Aeroplan program, and in particular their first class award from the US to South Asia (as far south as Singapore) for 120,000 miles — which allows you to transit the Atlantic or Pacific (or one ocean each direction) and to stopover twice in addition to your destination.

And I rather like Aeroplan agents, I have found them on the whole to be quite friendly. It’s a Canadian thing.

The one thing I don’t like is that they do not permit award holds. Instant ticketing only. Now, you can make changes to an itinerary after ticketing for CAD$90. And as long as you’re three weeks out from travel, you can also cancel an award and refund the miles. But you do have to be three weeks out, otherwise no redeposit.

The best part of their change policy is that unlike most Star carriers, they will let you make changes to your trip even after departure. You have to keep the same routing and carriers, but can change flights and dates. Very helpful, especially if nesting other tickets in with your award and in case of irregular operations on that other ticket. I usually otherwise live in fear of a whole return trip cancelling out. So this is quite a convenient option (of course there has to be award space to change into…).

Still, even with liberal routing rules, agents often have a hard time finding space that’s out there and it’s important for a redemption customer to be armed with the flights they want before calling. It’s usually a waste of time on a complicated itinerary asking the agent to find seats for you. I know what I want, and as Grey did (and as I’ve advised on this blog in the past), I tell the agent that I had worked on the award earlier and found flights with another agent that I was hoping to book. That tends to open them up to searching segment by segment for the flights I want.

He had a rather frustrating experience, spanning several hours, but in the end got what he was after — three Thai First Class segments, Lufthansa First, and United First. He generally knows what he’s doing and still didn’t have an easy time of it, and the seats were out there.

I’ve long said the problem isn’t availability, it’s technology. And it can take real expertise to workaround these issues, something that I do offer. Grey promises his thoughts on paid award booking services, which I’ll be interested to hear, and of course he managed to build his trip without one.

Keep reading this blog of course and you probably won’t need one (me!) either…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I think Gary would have helped himself in first doing what is advised—check the ANA tool. His first phone call was basically a waste by not doing his homework before hand. This likely would have taken care of some, if not all, of his headaches.

  2. @Brian: True, true. I fully agree. As I said in my post, ignorance of the perception of ease of booking with Aeroplan, as compared to United, clouded my thinking.

  3. LOL. It’s not Gary or Grey, but Gray.

    Time to start saving AMEX points for an AA award. Great routing for 120K miles in F. I just booked a MUC-SIN-MUC route in C on UA for the same number of miles. Miles go a little farther with AC it seems.

  4. What’s the 2 A* carrier requirement for Aeroplan? Can you explain this further?

    Also, what is the difference between the ANA page and aeroplan’s page for planning rewards?


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