Readers of this blog will be familiar with many ways to "game" the Aeroplan loyalty scheme. I've already discussed some killer strategies that you can use to squeeze every drop of value out of your Aeroplan miles, such as maximizing stopovers, combining two trips into one redemption, leveraging long layovers, finding the MPM online, avoiding fuel surcharges, and nesting trips.
True mastery of a points program, though, involves being able to draw upon a multitude of "tricks and secrets", using them to your advantage at a moment's notice. Today I'm sharing with you 9 incredibly useful things to know about Aeroplan, which can help you drastically lower your award travel costs in terms of both cash and miles. Some of these things certainly don't seem like they were intentionally designed this way...
1. Don't Trust the Search Engine
This is the easy one, which I'd hope most of you already knew.
The Aeroplan search engine is notoriously unreliable. As a rule of thumb, you should always assume that the search engine is acting against your best interests.
For example, if a Montreal–Athens redemption is possible on any of Air Canada, Lufthansa (both of which levy carrier surcharges), and Turkish Airlines (which does not), the search engine will most likely "forget" to show you the option to fly on Turkish.
After all, we all know that carrier-imposed surcharges are little more than a shameless cash grab on the part of the airlines, so it makes sense why Aeroplan would design their search engine in this anti-consumer fashion.
In addition, familiarize yourself with Star Alliance route networks by using a website like FlightConnections.com – in our example, if you searched Montreal–Istanbul and then Istanbul–Athens separately, you'd be able to piece together the availability and then call in to book.
2. Upgrading a Mixed Cabin Segment for Free
This is a handy one to keep in mind. Often times when you redeem Aeroplan miles for, say, a trip in business class, you end up having to make do with a segment or two in economy class, since that was the only space available on a particular flight at the time.
If business class space later opens up on that flight, you can call in and upgrade your economy seats to business for free! In the below itinerary, for example, if business class space later opens up on the exact same Toronto–Boston flight, you can request the upgrade for no extra charge.
There's no change fee as long as it's the same flight as before, and you've already paid the amount of miles for the higher class of service. The same idea holds for upgrading a segment from economy or business class to First Class, if you've paid the miles for a First Class redemption.
3. Maximize Your Schedule Change
It can definitely be frustrating when airline changes up the schedule for your already booked flight. But it can also be a blessing in disguise.
You see, once a ticket has been affected by a major schedule change (this usually means a change of at least one hour, so those annoying five-minute adjustments to flight times unfortunately don't count), you're allowed to request all sorts of changes for free. It gets even more fun if your schedule change results in your itinerary truly conking out – like arriving at a certain airport a couple of hours after your next flight has already departed.
The typical allowance I hear from Aeroplan supervisors is that you can change to any routing that you'd like within three days of the original flight date. You also won't have to pay any change fees, airport taxes, or – that's right – carrier-imposed surcharges!
Of course, you still need to find available award space, but taking advantage of a schedule change can be an excellent way to fly products like Lufthansa First Class or Austrian business class without getting fleeced by carrier-imposed surcharges.
4. Getting On Revenue Flights
I mentioned above that when reissuing your ticket after a schedule change, you still need to look for available award space. But what if there's simply no space available?
Well, Aeroplan still has an obligation to get you from one point to another, based on the contract you established at the time you purchased your ticket (unless Uncle Swiss has something to say about it, of course). So if there's truly no award space available, Aeroplan is obliged to go out there and buy you revenue flights in order to hold up its end of the deal.
It's not unheard of for Aeroplan to purchase full-fare business class seats on Star Alliance flights when schedule changes can't be resolved within the award space ecosystem. Passengers can then credit these flights to any Star Alliance points program (including Aeroplan itself) and earn redeemable miles!
Of course, this isn't something you can willingly control, but you bet that whenever you notice a schedule change on your Aeroplan award, your instinct should be to figure out how you can best leverage this to your advantage.
5. Share Your Super Elite Privileges
I've mentioned this on the blog before, but one of the nifty tricks with Aeroplan is how easily one member can extend their privileges to another.
For example, Air Canada Super Elite members can enjoy a full waiver of the carrier-imposed surcharges when redeeming miles for Air Canada flights. By booking trips out of a Super Elite friend's account, you can literally save thousands of dollars on some Air Canada routes, and you can enjoy the convenience of nonstop flights from Canada to your destination as well.
Tricks like these is why I think networking is so important in the game these days. But of course, Super Elite members are few and far between. It's a good thing their privileges aren't the only ones for which "sharing is caring"...
6. Share Your Aeroplan Diamond Privileges
Aeroplan Diamond status is by all accounts easier to attain than Air Canada Super Elite. Load $100/day on three AC Conversion cards and you're there.
Just like Super Elite privileges, you can bestow your Aeroplan Diamond privileges on other members as well. For starters, you can book Market Fares for others at the heavily discounted rate.
What some people might not realize is that the other big perk of Diamond status – lower change and cancellation fees – is also extendable.
If you, as a Diamond member, phone up the Aeroplan call centre and enter your Aeroplan number, you're able to make changes to any itinerary – no matter which account the miles originally came out of – for the Diamond change fees. So, if you haven't earned Diamond status, it's time to make friends with someone who has!
7. Use Hidden City Ticketing to Save Miles
Hidden city ticketing is the practice of booking a ticket that looks like A → B → C and deliberately ending your trip at B. When done with revenue tickets, they can lead to significant cost savings, so why would you expect anything different with Aeroplan? 😉
I'll leave it to you to Google the risks of hidden city ticketing. The most important thing to keep in mind, though, is that no-showing for a flight typically invalidates the remainder of your ticket, which is why hidden city ticketing is most effective on one-way tickets.
So how can you use hidden city ticketing on Aeroplan? Well, it usually rests on the fact that North America to Europe is a relatively cheap redemption, and also has surprisingly generous maximum permitted mileage (MPM) figures.
Say you live in Montreal and you wanted to fly to Dubai. Ordinarily, a one-way redemption from Canada to Middle East & North Africa costs 40,000 miles in economy class or 82,500 miles in business class. But what if you booked this instead?
That's a one-way redemption from Montreal to Istanbul, which is in Europe 2. So now you'd be paying only 37,500 miles in economy class, or 57,500 miles in business class.
You could get off the plane in Dubai and never look back, saving yourself between 2,500 and 25,000 miles by adding an extra "hidden city" leg to your journey.
Those based in the West Coast can take advantage of this as well. A Vancouver-based traveller going to Beijing would ordinarily pay 75,000 miles in business. Add on an entirely unnecessary 10-hour flight to Istanbul, though, and you end up saving 17,500 miles, paying only 57,000 miles for the one-way trip to Europe 2.
You do need to make sure that your new itinerary, including the throwaway leg, fits within the MPM rules for, say, Montreal–Istanbul or Vancouver–Istanbul. But the scope for this trick is pretty wide – for example, by taking advantage of it, you can probably save lots of miles when flying on certain First Class routes as well!
8. Use Hidden City Ticketing to Maximize Routings
Another way to use hidden city ticketing is for those of you who like to maximize every inch of permitted mileage between your origin and destination.
Say you're trying to get from Istanbul back to Calgary, on the below circuitous routing. Assume you want to make 23-hour layovers in each city, or something like that. Unfortunately, as you can see, the total mileage of 9,868 miles exceeds the Istanbul–Calgary MPM of 9,442 miles (which you found by using the MPM trick).
So what do you do? Well, by adding on a final segment to San Francisco, your itinerary is suddenly valid! That's right – because of how distance on a sphere works, San Francisco turns out to be deceptively farther away, and the Istanbul–San Francisco MPM is actually a whopping 11,137 miles.
The difference in MPMs more than exceeds the actual distance between Calgary and San Francisco. Your total trip distance of 10,886 miles now falls within the Istanbul–San Francisco MPM.
This means that you are now able to do your intended tour of Europe before finishing your trip in Calgary and nonchalantly disposing of your last remaining boarding pass.
Not bad, eh?
9. Some Things Just Don't Seem... Right
When you do lots and lots of Aeroplan searches, you're bound to stumble upon stuff that seem like glitches in the matrix. I'm talking, of course, about mispriced awards.
For example check out this post by a user on Reddit. Something doesn't seem quite right, does it? Remember, we all know that the search engine on the Aeroplan website is flawed in many ways. It doesn't show all the availability, it's not smart enough to allow connections through two airports in the same city, it rarely captures all the possible flight times, etc.
Surely, then, it's not inconceivable that disguised among all these flaws in the search engine are some lucrative glitches lying in plain sight?
I'll leave the rest up to you. On a final note, one of the most often heard complaints among Aeroplan users is how the search engine just loves to throw up mixed cabin itineraries, but sometimes that's not as bad as you might think...
Aeroplan has helped countless Canadians unlock the world, and that's just within the boundaries of its flight reward chart. Once you get into all the juicy tricks and secrets, the value you can get from Aeroplan can only get even higher. I hope that you find some of these useful, and that they get your mind thinking of ways to find even more secrets hidden within Aeroplan!