If you've read the complete guide to Aeroplan I put together a few weeks ago, you'll know that in actuality it's quite far from complete. I had promised that there was a load of information on the so-called "Mini-RTW" redemption that would require an entire separate post.
Well, it turns out one post won't be enough either, so I present to you here the first part, where we shall go over just the basics of this amazing trip construction. Next week, we'll dive into some juicy examples of stretching the Mini-RTW to its most extreme limits.
The name "Mini-Round-the-World", or "Mini-RTW" for short, was coined as a diminutive form of actual "Round-the-World" tickets, which are special tickets you can purchase from each of the three global airline alliances (Star Alliance, OneWorld, and SkyTeam).
Each alliance sells you these tickets, for a certain amount of either cash or miles, allowing you to travel on a any of the alliance's airlines for a certain distance or number of flight segments. They are basically alliance-wide flight passes.
Usually, you're allowed to fly to (and stop in) quite a few cities on these tickets. For example, the RTW ticket offered by Star Alliance allows you to fly up to 16 segments and cover 39,000 miles in distance flown, all in one go.
Unfortunately, these "true" RTW tickets are also very expensive. The cheapest Star Alliance variety costs around $3,000 or 200,000 Aeroplan miles in economy. That's quite a hefty price to pay, even for such a generous ticket.
And that's where the "mini-RTW" moniker came about. By leveraging Aeroplan's stopover policies, you can create a trip that's very similar to a true RTW ticket, including staying in up to three cities and piecing together your itinerary using a mix of Star Alliance airlines.
Definitions and Rules
Let's set the stage with some key definitions:
- Origin: The city from which your itinerary begins.
- Destination: The city farthest from your origin in which you stop for more than 24 hours
- Stopover: A stop in a city other than your destination for more than 24 hours
- Layover: A stop in a city other than your destination for less than 24 hours
- Open-jaw: A break in your itinerary where you make your own way between two cities
Great Circle Mapper is a magnificent tool to measure distances between cities, which is key to determining which city counts as your "destination". Let's say that a traveller from Vancouver wants to visit Vienna, Venice, and Vilnius on one trip, staying for a week in each place. To find out which city counts as the destination, this traveller would enter the following into GCMap:
YVR-VIE; YVR-VCE; YVR-VNO
As you can see below, our traveller would plan this mini-RTW with Venice as the destination (since it's the farthest from Vancouver, at 5,384 miles) and Vienna and Vilnius counting as stopovers.
Now, let's move on to the rules that underpin the mini-RTW:
- You are charged the number of miles between your origin and destination according to the Aeroplan Reward Chart.
- On transcontinental round-trip itineraries, you are allowed either two stopovers or one stopover and one open-jaw.
- You are allowed unlimited layovers on any redemption.
- You can route through the same city twice only if the two visits are on either "side" of the destination (one before, one after).
- Your itinerary must fall under the "maximum permitted mileage" (MPM) between your origin and destination.
All clear? No? Let's look at some examples...
Stopovers & Layovers
Let's check in on our venturing Vancouverite, who's planning a mini-RTW with Venice as destination and Vienna and Vilnius as stopovers. Since you can put your two stopovers anywhere in the itinerary (either both before the destination, both after, or one before and one after), she could visit her three cities in any order she wanted, as long as she finds availability and stays within MPM.
To find flights in between these cities, she'll want to heed the lessons from the beginner's guide to redeeming points: research the routes that serve your desired cities, do your best to avoid airlines that collect fuel surcharges, and find award availability on these flights.
Here's one such possible routing:
1. Air Canada / AC1146 / Vancouver to Montreal / Jun 3 / 0730 1517 2. Swiss / LX87 / Montreal to Zurich / Jun 3 / 1700 0615+1 3. Swiss / LX1660 / Zurich to Venice / Jun 4 / 0735 0840 4. Austrian / OS522 / Venice to Vienna / Jun 11 / 1055 1210 5. Austrian / OS833 / Vienna to Vilnius / Jun 17 / 0955 1245 6. Turkish / TK1410 / Vilnius to Istanbul / Jun 24 / 1140 1425 7. Turkish / TK5 / Istanbul to Chicago / Jun 25 / 1400 1735 8. United / UA563 / Chicago to Vancouver / Jun 25 / 1930 2200
Note that our traveller spends 23 hours and 35 minutes in Istanbul, which is plenty of time to get a fair amount of sightseeing done. Istanbul is farther from Vancouver than any of the three aforementioned cities, but looking at Rule 2 from above, this doesn't factor into the analysis of which city counts as the "destination" because she's stopping in Istanbul for less than 24 hours.
Rule 3 tells us that you can substitute one of your stopovers for an open-jaw, which is a break in your itinerary that allows you to travel between two cities on your own.
The official policy is that your open-jaw must be "adjacent" to your destination. That is, one of the two points spanning your open-jaw must be the destination of your itinerary. So, under the official policy:
- Our traveller would be able to fly into Venice, take a train to Vienna, and carry on her trip from there to Vilnius
- Our traveller would not be able to fly into Venice, fly to Vienna, then take a train to Vilnius, before flying home
This is because Venice counts as the destination for our trip, and the open-jaw is adjacent to Venice in the first instance but not in the second.
However, this policy seems to be loosely enforced, because there are many anecdotal reports of people being able to book open-jaws that aren't adjacent to the destination. So by all means, give it a try when you're booking your mini-RTW, and don't necessarily give up if the first agent says no.
The other thing that you're allowed to do with an open-jaw is to put it adjacent to your origin: you can, for example, begin your trip in Montreal and end your trip in Toronto. That counts as an open-jaw as well.
Given their versatility, there's lots of cool tricks you can do with open-jaws. Watch out for Part 2 for the details.
Maximum Permitted Mileage
Rule 5, MPM.
Otherwise known as a cloud of obfuscation that enshrouds the Aeroplan program and gives even the most experienced miles and points players a headache.
The purpose of the MPM rule is to limit the total mileage you can fly between origin and destination. It's to prevent people from booking outrageous routings such as flying from Canada to Europe via Australia.
The rule itself is quite simple: there is a certain MPM value for each Origin–Destination pair, and the routing you choose between the origin and destination is not allowed to exceed this value in distance.
Aeroplan calculates the MPM between two cities using a proprietary formula, which means that there's no way to find out the MPM for your desired trip besides calling Aeroplan and asking them for it. As a general rule, however, cities that are farther apart will have a higher MPM.
Incidentally, the greatest possible distance between two cities is equal to half the circumference of the earth: 12,451 miles. City pairs with this property are called "antipodes", meaning they are located on perfectly opposite sides of the globe. The MPM for city pairs that are close to being antipodes is incredibly high – in the 20,000 miles range!
What does this all mean for you? Well, we know that the mini-RTW lets you visit three cities for the price of one. However, depending on where you're starting from, not all trios of cities may be possible.
This is because the MPM between your origin and the farthest-away of your three desired cities (i.e., your destination) might be too low to allow routing through one or both of the two stopover cities.
On the other hand, if you knew the MPM you were working with, you could figure out exactly which additional cities you could use as stopovers. Knowledge is power.
That's why it's best to know the MPM value for your origin–destination pair when you begin planning your trip. But like I said, the only way to find out is to call Aeroplan, and for non-Diamond members the call centre wait times can be ridiculous. And that's why I'm offering a free MPM inquiry service: simply include the city pair(s) in a comment below and I will call Aeroplan, as a Diamond member with no wait times, to ask for the MPM on your behalf.
You can also check out this FlyerTalk thread, where members have compiled a list of MPMs for select city pairs over the years.
That's a good amount of information on the basics of booking the so-called mini-round-the-world trip with Aeroplan. This kind of trip construction is by far the most worthwhile way to use your Aeroplan miles. This is especially true for business or first class redemptions, but even in Economy, mini-RTWs can be a great use of your miles since you can't usually book cheap stopovers on cash tickets.
With so many moving parts – stopovers, open-jaws, layovers, and MPMs – it comes as no surprise that there's a ton of room to stretch the mini-RTW into some truly epic and memorable (some might even say crazy) trips. That'll be our topic of discussion in the second part of this feature, so stay tuned.