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New Aeroplan: A Closer Look at Intra-Zone Travel (Atlantic & Pacific) T.J. September 28, 2020

New Aeroplan: A Closer Look at Intra-Zone Travel (Atlantic & Pacific)

In this installment on the new Aeroplan, I will take a dive into intra-zone travel under the new program. Specifically, I wanted to see if Aeroplan is a worthy competitor for short-haul redemptions as compared to some well-known British Airways Avios sweet-spots.

As Ricky so excellently detailed in his original guide to the new Aeroplan, our planet will be divided into four zones: North America, South America, Atlantic, and Pacific. This leaves us with four intra-zone charts and 10 inter-zone charts to peruse.

In this post, I will look at short-haul travel within the Atlantic and Pacific zones and do a brief comparison with how it stacks up against Avios. I’ll look at travel within North America and South America in a subsequent post. 

As a brief review, within each zone is a distance-based chart which can be used to calculate the number of Aeroplan points required to redeem for a flight in any particular class. The distances within each tier vary by zone, so you will want to acquaint yourself with the new Flight Reward Chart. Further, with the exception of travel within North America, a stop can be added to a one-way bound for an additional 5,000 Aeroplan points.

For the purposes of this exercise, I will assume the fixed cost in points for redemptions with partner airlines. I will also only look at the first two tiers of distance with selected airlines in each zone, as these tend to make for the best short-haul deals.

For each hub city, I used a combination of mapping two ranges of distance on Great Circle Mapper and using FlightConnections to visualize which airports may fall within those ranges on direct flights. While I tried to be as detailed as possible, the visualizations are by no means exhaustive, and I encourage you to conduct similar searches and leave a comment if you find anything interesting.

Within the Atlantic Zone

The Atlantic zone is a vast area that encompasses the entirety of Europe and Africa, as well as the Middle East, most of Central Asia, and the Indian Subcontinent (including Bangladesh and Nepal). Unfortunately, for many Canadians, this area took the hardest hit in terms of the increased cost in points when travelling from North America.

With such a large area to cover, I decided to look at four airlines based out of different areas within the zone: Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, and Etihad Airways, and their available routes within the first two tiers of distances of 0–1,000 miles and 1,001–2,000 miles.



1. Lufthansa

Lufthansa’s Frankfurt hub is ideally located in Central Europe. All destinations within the inner band fall within 1,000 miles of Frankfurt, and would cost 7,500 or 15,000 Aeroplan points in economy class or business class, respectively.

Similarly, all destinations in the outer band fall within 2,000 miles of Frankfurt, and would cost 12,500 or 25,000 Aeroplan points in economy or business, respectively.

With the abundance of low-cost carriers in Europe, using miles for redemptions may not give you good value (as Kirin detailed in his budget traveller’s view on the new Aeroplan). This is especially true as European business class tends to be fairly underwhelming, and your miles may be put to better use elsewhere.

There are, however, a few interesting destinations on the above map. Algiers and Tunis both fall within the first band at 959 and 914 miles respectively. Las Palmas on the Canary Islands is satisfyingly 1,979 miles from Frankfurt. Tel Aviv is 1,836 miles from Frankfurt. I’d previously never heard of Tromsø, Norway, but I can imagine the summer solstice would be a very interesting time to visit there.

While Avios doesn’t have a Frankfurt-based airline, I thought that British Airways’s hub in London would be a worthy opponent. Below is a comparison against the off-peak rates on British Airways.

New Aeroplan
from Frankfurt (FRA)

Avios (Off-Peak)
from London (LHR)

Tel Aviv (TLV)

12,500 / 25,000

10,000 / 31,250

Las Palmas (LPA)

12,500 / 25,000

8,500 / 17,000

Moscow (DME)

12,500 / 25,000

8,500 / 17,000

Reykjavik (KEF)

12,500 / 25,000

8,500 / 17,000

Rome (FCO)

7,500 / 15,000

6,500 / 12,750

In economy class and for most business class bookings, off-peak Avios would be the preferred option. The sole exception here is flying between Frankfurt and Tel Aviv, which would be less costly with Lufthansa.



2. Turkish Airlines

With a vast network and an ideal location in the middle of the Atlantic zone, Turkish Airlines has some intriguing destinations for intra-zone travel. Istanbul has become my preferred city to transit through as a result of Turkish Airlines’s excellent hard and soft products; its proximity to Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa; and because Turkey is a fascinating place to visit.

Within the inner band, most cities in Eastern Europe are accessible, as well as a handful of destinations along the Adriatic and Mediterranean Seas. Tbilisi, Sochi, Tel Aviv, and Cairo are other cities that stand out to me.

Included in the outer reaches of the second band are a mix of classic and niche destinations. While Lisbon is a frustrating 2,001 miles from Istanbul, Porto is 1,934 miles, saving you 12,500 (economy) or 20,000 (business) Aeroplan points. Abu Dhabi and Dubai fall within the 2nd tier, as do Ekaterinburg, Murmansk, Edinburgh, and Dublin. 

While relatively distant from each other, I decided to do some comparison Aeroplan’s Turkish Airlines and Avios’s Royal Jordanian Airlines.

New Aeroplan
from Istanbul (IST)

Avios
from Amman (AMM)

Cairo (CAI)

7,500 / 15,000

9,000 / 16,500

Moscow (MOW)

12,500 / 25,000

11,000 / 22,000

Dubai (DXB)

12,500 / 25,000

11,000 / 22,000

London (LHR)

12,500 / 25,000

13,000 / 38,750

Madrid (MAD)

12,500 / 25,000

13,000 / 38,750

Of course, keep in mind that Istanbul is a much more well-served transit hub than Amman. The numbers are relatively similar across the board, with the exception of flights to London Heathrow and Madrid in business class, where flying with Turkish Airlines would clearly be preferable.



3. Ethiopian Airlines

With the fate of South African Airways up in the air, Ethiopian Airlines is the only carrier based in sub-Saharan Africa in the Star Alliance network. From its base in Addis Ababa, it services a host of destinations that lie within the Atlantic zone.

Included in the inner band are several hubs for tourism, including Nairobi, Kampala, and Kigali. This part of the world has long been on my list of places to visit (including Ethiopia), and I am intrigued by the possibility of nesting a trip within a larger trip. 

Antananarivo, Madagascar squeaks in at 1,999 miles from Addis Ababa, as do the Seychelles, Kinshasa (DR Congo), Lusaka (Zambia), and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania). Flights to these destinations tend to be fairly expensive, especially in premium classes, so booking on points may very well prove to be good value.

It’s difficult to compare award flights with Avios, as Royal Air Maroc is based in a completely different part of the continent than Ethiopian Airlines. I think it would be fair to say that Ethiopian Airlines is better for redemptions in East Africa on Aeroplan, and Royal Air Maroc would be better suited to short-haul flights in North and West Africa.



4. Etihad Airways

As one of the newest Aeroplan partners, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airlines added a strong Middle Eastern presence to the Star Alliance network. While you won’t find the Etihad Apartments on any of the short-haul routes, there are a number of direct flights to the Indian Subcontinent and its surroundings.

While the inner band is limited to surrounding destinations in the Middle East, there are a number of destinations that fall within the second tier. 

While Colombo and Kolkata are just out of reach, many major cities in India fall within 2,000 miles of Abu Dhabi, including Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Delhi. Kathmandu and the Maldives also fall within this tier, with each destination offering radically different possibilities for a holiday. 

In particular, I have been wanting to return to Nepal for another Himalayan trek since my first in 2008. I can’t think of any better way to celebrate a trek than flying in an Apartment back to North America.

(Very annoyingly, the Seychelles would fall within the third tier, as it is 2,002 miles from Abu Dhabi.)

Given the close proximity to each other’s main hubs, it is worthwhile to compare Qatar Airways and Etihad for short-haul flights. Importantly, Qatar Airways is not bound to the distinction between Atlantic/Pacific zones, as Etihad is with Aeroplan. So, if you are looking to travel further to what would be Aeroplan’s Pacific zone, using Avios may well be advantageous.

New Aeroplan
from Abu Dhabi (AUH)

Avios
from Doha (DOH)

Istanbul (IST)

12,500 / 25,000

11,000 / 22,000

Mumbai (BOM)

12,500 / 25,000

11,000 / 22,000

Kathmandu (KTM)

12,500 / 25,000

13,000 / 38,750

Maldives (MLE)

12,500 / 25,000

13,000 / 38,750

Seychelles (SEZ)

25,000 / 45,000

13,000 / 38,750

There are some interesting observations in the above chart. The first is that generally, if you are flying in economy, there isn’t a significant amount of variation between the two programs (excluding the Seychelles). It appears that the differences between distance bands in the Avios chart don’t result in much of an increase in mileage.

If you are flying in business class, though, booking with Etihad can open up some fairly significant savings (25,000 Aeroplan points vs. 38,750 Avios to Kathmandu and the Maldives). For the Seychelles, which is just over the 2,000-mile threshold for Aeroplan’s new chart, there is a significant jump in economy and a moderate jump for business class.

Within the Pacific Zone

The new Pacific zone includes the majority of Asia, including Russia (east of the Ural mountains), China, Japan, North and South Korea, Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania. Fortunately, this zone isn’t as impacted as the Atlantic zone when it comes to the increased redemption cost. 

The first two tiers for the Pacific zone have the same distances as the first two tiers for the Atlantic zone. Note that the cost in Aeroplan points is slightly different, though, with flights in the first tier costing 8,000 or 20,000 Aeroplan points, and flights in the second tier costing 12,500 or 30,000 Aeroplan points, in economy or business class, respectively.



1. Singapore Airlines

While there aren’t as many options within the first tier as other airlines, there is at least an expectation of an excellent flight with Singapore Airlines. For shorter flights, though, there are plenty of low-cost carriers in this part of the world, so your Aeroplan points may be better saved for a more aspirational redemption.

Singapore Airlines usually offers First Class on flights to Jakarta with award space generally being abundant. With access to The Private Room by Singapore Airlines before your flight, it should be pretty easy to wine and dine enough value, on the ground and in the air, out of the 25,000 Aeroplan points it would cost you.

In the second tier, flights to Taipei, Hong Kong, and Manila are within reach, while Shanghai and Perth are both in the third tier. (I imagine that the Westin Perth won’t be seeing as many of us as they have in the past once the new program launches.)

Malaysia Airlines, which is based out of Kuala Lumpur, is a good fit to compare with Singapore Airlines given their close proximity. 

New Aeroplan
from Singapore (SIN)

Avios
from Kuala Lumpur (KUL)

Bangkok (BKK)

8,000 / 20,000

9,000 / 16,500

Denpasar (DPS)

12,500 / 30,000

11,000 / 22,000

Hanoi (HAN)

12,500 / 30,000

11,000 / 22,000

Manila (MNL)

12,500 / 30,000

11,000 / 22,000

Taipei (TPE)

12,500 / 30,000

13,000 / 38,750

Once again, in some instances it would make more sense to book with Aeroplan if you are flying in economy, such as to Bangkok or Taipei. In many other cases, if you are flying in business class, Avios is the cheaper option. If you are flying to Taipei, though, it would be better to book with Aeroplan, and you’d be getting a much better experience with either EVA Air or Singapore Airlines.



2. EVA Air

Taipei-based EVA Air is centrally located between China, Japan, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia. As Ricky has detailed, they also have a strong reputation as an excellent carrier for both hard and soft products.

Within the inner band, there are a number of hubs and destinations, including Manila, Seoul, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Fukuoka. 

Beijing, Cebu, Hanoi, and Osaka all lie just over the 1,000-mile threshold. Most major hubs in Southeast Asia (Bangkok, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, Tokyo, and Singapore) all fall under 2,000 miles, while Kuala Lumpur is just over at 2,012 miles. Flying between Taipei and any of these hubs would cost 12,500 (economy) or 30,000 (business class) Aeroplan points plus the applicable taxes and fees.

For comparison, let’s have a look at flying between Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific and some Star Alliance hubs in the Pacific zone. Note that this comparison will serve for both EVA Air and Air China (below).

New Aeroplan
from Taipei (TPE)

Avios
from Hong Kong (HKG)

Seoul (ICN)

8,000 / 20,000

11,000 / 22,000

Beijing (PEK)

12,500 / 30,000

11,000 / 22,000

Tokyo (TYO)

12,500 / 30,000

11,000 / 22,000

Bangkok (BKK)

12,500 / 30,000

9,000 / 16,500

Singapore (SIN)

12,500 / 30,000

11,000 / 22,000

With the exception of Seoul, if you have the choice, it seems that booking with Avios will save you some points between these (and other) cities. This is especially true if you are looking to book in business class. Further, if you transferred your American Express Membership Rewards during a 30% or 50% bonus to Avios, the true cost of redemption will be lowered even more. 



3. Air China

Using Beijing as a hub, there are a host of destinations within China in the first tier. Ulaanbaatar, Seoul, Pyongyang, Chita, and Fukuoka also stand out as interesting places to fly within this tier. My brother is moving to Beijing in the very near future, and I hope to explore the country and its surroundings at the first available opportunity. 

I think a flight to Manzhouli (NZH) would be worth it just to see the epic woolly mammoths outside of the airport.

You can get as far as Chiang Mai (but not Bangkok), Hanoi (but not Ho Chi Minh City), Manila, Lhasa, Sapporo, and Urumqi in the second tier with Air China.



4. All Nippon Airways

Last, but certainly not least, is Tokyo-based All Nippon Airways. Admittedly, ANA is my favourite airline, and with the new Aeroplan’s Vancouver–Tokyo sweet spot, I hope to spend a lot of time in Japan over the coming years. 

While there aren’t many surprises with the destinations in the first and second tier, as Japan isn’t very central to the Pacific zone, I can see myself using the combination of a domestic flight and the bullet trains to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Okinawa also strikes me as a place I’d like to visit, falling just within the first distance band.

Also of interest in the first tier is Vladivostok, which is the ultimate destination of the Trans-Siberian Railway. Ricky and I have often discussed how interesting Eastern Russia is, and I can think of many ways to combine train travel and Avios redemptions on S7 Airlines to explore the sparsely populated but very intriguing part of the world.

For short-haul travel from Japan, let’s have a comparison between Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways. Both airlines have a reputation of being excellent in every way, so it will be interesting to see how the costs compare.

New Aeroplan
from Tokyo (TYO)

Avios
from Tokyo (TYO)

Sapporo (CTS)

8,000 / 20,000

6,000 / 12,500

Okinawa (OKA)

8,000 / 20,000

9,000 / 16,500

Beijing (PEK)

12,500 / 30,000

11,000 / 22,000

Hong Kong (HKG)

12,500 / 30,000

11,000 / 22,000

Manila (MNL)

12,500 / 30,000

11,000 / 22,000

With the exception of an economy class flight between Tokyo and Okinawa, Japan Airlines seems to have the advantage for all of the above flights. The cost difference in economy is negligible, but if you plan to fly in business class, Avios has the clear edge.

Conclusion

With the new Aeroplan zones launching in November, we will all have to get used to the various nuances of the new program. A dramatic shift to hybrid zonal and distance-based charts will leave Miles & Points enthusiasts spending countless hours poring over details in search of sweet spots.

There were a few highly valuable sweet spots that arose during my deep dive into the Atlantic and Pacific zones, as well as some very interesting new places that are now on my radar. It was also valuable practice in using Great Circle Mapper, FlightConnections, and the Avios reward charts to compare costs.

In the end, it looks like British Airways Avios still edges out Aeroplan for short-haul travel within Europe and Asia from a pure cost perspective, although one must also take into account the larger Star Alliance route network compared to Oneworld, as well as Aeroplan’s lack of fuel surcharges across the board.

Have you looked into travelling within the Atlantic and Pacific zones with the new Aeroplan? What do you foresee as your strategy for booking flights? Feel free to leave a comment below or in the Prince of Travel Elites Facebook group.

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17 Comments
  1. Avatar
    Hannah

    Excellent post to ease us into the mentality of the new world of points in preparation for our resumption of pleasure travel. Thans

  2. Avatar
    Leifinseoul

    @T.J: Are you sure about Myanmar falling into the Atlantic zone? From the color coding on the “flight reward chart”, it appears that most of the country is in the Pacific region. Unless it’s intentional that the country is split between two regions, it looks more likely that the country is intended to be in the Pacific region.

    1. T.J.
      T.J.

      Hmm, you’re right – the squiggly line on the Flight Reward chart indeed shows most of the country in the Pacific region. It will be good to have a list in the near future, but I’ll update the article to reflect this.

  3. Avatar
    Md shahriar mannan

    Thanks for correcting me TJ

  4. Avatar
    bingo

    Great article, T.J. It seems as though we’ll need to shift our thinking going forward, as we plan around the new program. Oddly, I’m dreading having to spin up an excel sheet to sort through various options, and determining he best usage of points–certainly doesn’t help with the uncertainty of travel in the coming year.

    1. TJ
      TJ

      Thanks! There is definitely a shift in thinking coming up. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment, but I enjoyed making the maps and visualizing what the new program will look like. Having multiple currencies is going to be very handy, too, whenever travel becomes possible and safe again.

  5. Avatar
    Tommy Fung

    Hey Ricky thx for the excellent info. I stumbled to one of your youtube videos and since then found your website. Just getting into some CC bonuses and start saving for my trips. Keep up the great work. BTW, do you take a hiatus now or still travelling?

    1. Avatar
      bingo

      T.J., not Ricky.

  6. Avatar
    Les dorgo

    I am looking at the one way sweet spot with a stop as a star gold member. With TAP airs cheap flights and using the one way aeroplan there are some very good possibilities in europe.

  7. Avatar
    Egypt Air

    “Ethiopian Airlines is the only African-based carrier in the Star Alliance network”

    Egypt Air has entered the chat

    1. TJ
      TJ

      That was definitely an error on my part. The article has been amended – thanks for pointing out the mistake!

    2. Avatar
      hibiki

      Egypt Air,
      Maybe TJ has edited after your comment, but I see ‘Ethiopian Airlines is the only carrier based in sub-Saharan Africa’.

      Egypt isn’t in sub-Saharan Africa.

      1. Ricky
        Ricky

        Indeed it was a correction made after the fact thanks to Egypt Air’s graceful entry into the chat 🙂

  8. Avatar
    Oz

    Hey thanks for doing the analysis. So looks like not much of a difference, especially when AP points have TD X 3 and CIBC giving them away a bit easier compared to RBC and HSBC. Now with AP family pooling i think they are a simpler step 1. Overall we are the winners with 2 solid options. Time to plan out leave or absences, sabbaticals, or extra long weekends 🙂

    1. TJ
      TJ

      I’ve been carefully planning out trips for as far in advance as possible, too. I imagine I’ll be using Avios and Aeroplan even more strategically once the new program launches.

    2. Avatar
      Shahriar

      Ricky will it possible to include thai airways who are also part of Star alliance. Also would you recommend any sweet spot to travel to Bangladesh flying out from western csnada

      1. Avatar
        bingo

        T.J., not Ricky.

T.J.

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