Aeroplan Mini-RTW: Strategies for Booking Before September 1

Last week, we learned that the Aeroplan Mini-RTW in its current form would be disappearing as of September 1, 2019.

On that date, the current stopover policies, which allow you to add either two stopovers or one stopover and one open-jaw on a round-trip ticket, will change to only allow one stopover or one open-jaw instead.

(For simplicity’s sake, whenever I refer to “two stopovers” under the old rules in this article, I’m also referring to the alternate possibility of having one stopover and one open-jaw. And whenever I refer to “one stopover” under the new rules, I’m also talking about the possibility of having an open-jaw instead.)

 
 

August 31, 2019 is therefore the last day to book an epic trip under the old rules. But that’s the last day to book – how far out can you actually travel? And is it possible to extend these travel dates further into the future by making changes to your Aeroplan itinerary? The answer might be more complex than you’d think.


If You Book Before September 1, Old Rules Will Apply

After learning about the upcoming rule change on September 1, one of the first questions I had was whether the new rules would apply to bookings made before that date. 

In other words, if you booked an Aeroplan Mini-RTW with two stopovers prior to September 1, and needed to make a change to it afterwards, could you still keep your two stopovers, or would you be “forced” to give one of them up when making the change?

I called Aeroplan soon after the changes were announced to clear up this question, and was told that the old stopover rules would definitely be honoured on bookings made before September. In addition, I was assured that this would be the case regardless of whether you changed the dates, destinations, routing, or class of service, and regardless of how much you changed them – as long as the ticketing date was before September 1, 2019, the two-stopover allowance would apply. 

This is encouraging, because it means that if you were to book your Aeroplan Mini-RTW on or before August 31, 2019, then you could make changes to it after that date and still remain assured of having two stopovers on the ticket.

But this is also great news for those of you who, at the moment, don’t have enough Aeroplan miles in your account to book your desired Aeroplan Mini-RTW, but were planning on earning those miles sometime later this year to book your trip.

If you’re in this position, you can “lock in” an Aeroplan Mini-RTW with two stopovers as long as you book something containing two stopovers, on or before August 31, 2019 – it doesn’t even have to be in your desired class of service! You can then make changes later on, and you’ll continue to be granted two stopovers. 

I’ll talk more about the possibilities below. First, we should also consider the question of how much you can change the travel dates if you were to make a change to your booking…


If You Make Changes Before Travel Commences…

Before these changes were announced, many of us had assumed that the Mini-RTW sweet spot was here to stay until at least June 2020, and therefore that we’d be able to book a two-stopover trip around the world until well into 2021.

Clearly, we were mistaken. But the above revelations that the old rules will still apply on pre-September bookings does raise the question: can we make a booking before September and then change the ticket in order to extend our window of travel into late 2020 and perhaps even 2021?

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The answer here rests on a subtle distinction in terms of when you make the change. 

If you make changes to the itinerary before travel commences (i.e., before the first flight on the ticket has been taken), then you cannot push the window of travel further back, because the trip must conclude within one year of your original ticketing date. 

Let’s assume you made an Aeroplan Mini-RTW booking at the last minute on August 31, 2019, for travel in summer of 2020. Come February 2020, if you wanted to change this round-the-world trip into a winter getaway that takes place during the festive season instead, you would not be able to do that: your whole trip must take place by August 31, 2020, because that’s one year from the original ticketing date.


If You Make Changes After Travel Commences…

But the rule is different for changes made after travel commences (i.e, after the first flight on the ticket has been taken). When making these types of changes, the trip must conclude within one year of the first flight on your ticket. 

This represents a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, if you were to make a change to your two-stopover trip after travel commences, you could potentially extend your window of travel into the second half of 2020 and even 2021.

For example, imagine that you booked the trip on August 31, 2019, with the first flight taking place on May 31, 2020, and the remaining flights not scheduled until later in the year. After you take the first flight in May 2019, you call Aeroplan to change the ticket – at this point, your ticket under the old rules can be extended as far as May 31, 2021!

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But on the other hand, think carefully about what’s actually happening here. By flying the first leg of your itinerary, you’ve already “arrived” at one of your two stopovers under the old rules.

You’re therefore only left with one stopover (plus your destination), to be used up sometime before May 2021… but that’s what you’ll be able to book under the new rules anyway!

So really, there are only certain specific situations in which it might make sense to take advantage of this ability to extend your window of travel on a two-stopover Aeroplan Mini-RTW.

For example, let’s take someone who wants to book two trips. The first is a simple round-trip to Europe in July 2020, and the second is a full-blown Aeroplan Mini-RTW trip with two stopovers, including Europe as the first stopover, in May and June of 2021.

(This may seem pretty contrived, but I imagine there could be quite a few of you in this situation, especially if you’re the type of traveller who plans out their trips several years ahead.)

Here’s what this traveller could do: in August 2019, they’d book a two-stopover Aeroplan Mini-RTW trip, with the first flight (or first few flights, if there are long layovers or connections involved) going from North America to Europe in July 2020. 

They would use this as the outbound portion of their simple round-trip flight to Europe that summer. 

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The rest of the original Aeroplan Mini-RTW booking would consist of “dummy” flights, taking place before the one-year mark from the ticketing date. The traveller doesn’t intend to take these flights, but has simply chosen them as placeholders to create a valid Aeroplan ticket with the two-stopover allowance.

After our traveller takes the first flight in the July 2020, they’ll change the ticket, moving the remainder of the ticket into May and June 2021 and thereby creating the final three-quarters of their Aeroplan Mini-RTW in the summer of 2021. 

What’s the missing piece of the puzzle? The traveller still needs a return trip from Europe in July 2020, and still needs to fly out to Europe in May 2021 to link up with their Aeroplan itinerary. Well, at this point, you just book a simple round-trip between Europe and North America to take care of both objectives. It’s the principle of “nested trips” in action. 

In this example, our traveller is able to extend the current two-stopover allowance of the Aeroplan Mini-RTW into the summer of 2021, although this ability rests on the traveller’s need to take a standard round-trip flight in the summer of 2020 first. 

You can substitute Europe for Asia or any other destination as well, and you’ll arrive at a similar conclusion. As long as the destination of your earlier round-trip is the same as the first stop on your later Aeroplan Mini-RTW, you can extend your Aeroplan Mini-RTW into August 2021 at the latest.

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So What Should YOU Do?

Since the news dropped last week, I’ve received a ton of emails from people saying that the new Aeroplan rules have thrown a wrench in their plans, and asking me whether their specific situation can be resolved by booking and changing Aeroplan tickets in some kind of clever way. 

Broadly speaking, below are the various situations that you might face as a result of the impending rule changes, together with a few comments on how you might work around them:

  • You want to book a two-stopover Aeroplan Mini-RTW, but won’t have enough miles to book it before September 1, 2019.

    Thankfully, as per the first section above, all you need to do is book something with two stopovers before the deadline, and then you can make a change to your full desired trip once you’ve earned enough miles, and pay only the difference in mileage.

    If I understand Aeroplan’s terms and conditions correctly, you’ll need a minimum of 50,000 Aeroplan miles per person to “secure” your booking in this way – that’s how much it costs for a round-trip to the Northern South America region, which is the cheapest region that counts as “intercontinental” travel and therefore eligible for two stopovers instead of one.

  • You want to book a two-stopover Aeroplan Mini-RTW for travel well before August 31, 2020 (say, before or during July 2020).

    No worries here. Simply book the trip before August 31, 2019 to take advantage of the old rules.

  • You want to book a two-stopover Aeroplan Mini-RTW for travel before but close to August 31, 2020, and you worry that airlines might not have opened up the award space for August 2020 by the deadline of September 1, 2019.

    If your desired journey involves travelling in August 2020, some airlines might not have released award space for that period yet, because many airlines only release award seats at 330 days out.

    If this is the case, you may need to book something by August 31, 2019 with “placeholder” flights for one or more segments on your itinerary, and then call in later to make changes when the award space does open up.

  • You want to book a two-stopover Aeroplan Mini-RTW for travel after August 31, 2020.

    As I outlined above, you’ll need to explore the possibility of extending your travel window by taking the first flight and then making changes. This would only really make sense if you’re in a position to effectively take two trips, combining the Aeroplan Mini-RTW booking with another redemption.

    Note: For all of the above four situations, you’ll want to consider the change fees involved, which are $100 per direction per person for regular Aeroplan members and $75 per direction per person for Aeroplan Diamond members. Will these change fees be worthwhile, or would it make more sense to simply book a trip under the new rules and use low-cost flights to get around to other places?

  • You want to book a two-stopover Aeroplan Mini-RTW before the deadline, but don’t have the time to learn how to plan the trip and/or search for availability.

    Don’t worry, help is at hand. My Points Consulting service can help you plan your trip, providing you with a list of flights with available space and a valid itinerary so you can call Aeroplan to book!

 
 


Conclusion

The lifespan of the Aeroplan Mini-RTW, as we know it, is dwindling fast. If you plan on taking advantage of this amazing redemption sweet spot – one that’s given myself and many others a lifetime’s worth of travel memories – then you have 40 days to take action. In this article, I’ve outlined a few strategies for booking and changing Aeroplan tickets in certain ways to achieve certain ends, and I hope you find them helpful as you consider your travel plans ahead of the impending Aeroplan rule change.