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New Aeroplan: What to Book Before November 8

 

By now, we’ve all had some time to welcome the Air Canada’s new Aeroplan program into our world. We’ve pored over the Flight Reward Chart, gawked at the snazzy new co-branded credit card designs, and absorbed the new possibilities offered by the quartet of brand-new features.

Of course, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies, though, because the transition to the new program on November 8 will also mark the end of some of the best deals under the current Aeroplan program.

In this article, let’s recap all of the Aeroplan redemptions you should consider booking before November 8, which would either no longer be permitted or will be significantly devalued in the new program.

In This Post

Unhappy with Severe Devaluations? Speak Up.

Before we begin, let’s acknowledge the cold fact of reality that the numbers on the new Flight Reward Chart represent significant increases for most redemptions that involve travelling outside of the North American continent, as we saw quite plainly in our Old vs. New award comparison chart.

Some readers have reflected that our coverage of the new program so far hasn’t given due weight to the impact of these devaluations. For the avoidance of doubt: there’s no denying that these award chart changes, in which many redemptions are increasing by 30–40% and some even by 50%+ if you happen to take a less-than-direct routing, are severe and punitive.

That’s especially true if your current travel style doesn’t allow you to capture the benefits of the new program that might otherwise soften this blow (for example, you only booked on surcharge-free airlines in the past, or you simply aren’t interested in having a stopover on a one-way).

The good news is that none of us need to take this devaluation lying down. Part of Air Canada’s pledge for maximum transparency in the transition process to the new Aeroplan is reading every word of members’ feedback, which can be submitted here.

I encourage everyone who may be affected by the negative award chart changes to take some time and share their honest feedback with the team who designed the new charts.

Remember, feedback along the lines of “the new charts are terrible” will be less effective than a more fleshed-out response such as “I live in X and regularly travel to Y and Z; here’s why I feel the charts are unfair and what I’d like to see being offered instead”.

While I get the sense that Air Canada is convinced the new Flight Reward Chart represents the correct balance between value for the customer and the underlying costs of the program, I’m confident that sufficient volume of feedback from people living in X can lead them to change their mind.

Personally, I will be submitting feedback to reflect that the new Atlantic zone is priced disproportionately expensively in my view, as well as asking for greater transparency in helping members understand the nature of the new Air Canada dynamic price ranges, which at the moment is quite unclear and can easily confuse members into thinking that they’ll be paying the highest prices in the range all the time.

We can all be a part of the solution by taking Air Canada up on their request for feedback. At the very least, I’d say that the chances of inducing change here are greater than when writing your representatives about pressing social issues. 😉

1. Virtually All Intercontinental Trips

As a result of the broad-based devaluation, the first item in our list of what you should book before November 8 is equally as broad: virtually all transatlantic, transpacific, and trans-Americas trips will be rising in price, so any travel in 2021 should be locked in before November 8, if possible.

The new Atlantic zone is perhaps where we’re seeing the most hard-hitting changes in price: with the exception of awards to select countries on the westernmost slice of the current Middle East & North Africa zone, almost all awards between North America and Europes 1 and 2, Indian Subcontinent, and East, West, and South Africa are all increasing in price.

Vancouver
(YVR)

Calgary
(YYC)

Toronto
(YYZ)

Halifax
(YHZ)

Atlantic zone

London
(LHR)

Direct
30K to 40K
(+33%)
55K to 70K
(+27%)

Direct
30K to 40K
(+33%)
55K to 70K
(+27%)

Direct
30K to 35K
(+17%)
55K to 60K
(+9%)

Direct
30K to 35K
(+17%)
55K to 60K
(+9%)

Istanbul
(IST)

Direct
37.5K to 40K
(+7%)
57.5K to 70K
(+22%)

Via LHR
37.5K to 40K
(+7%)
57.5K to 70K
(+22%)

Direct
37.5K to 40K
(+7%)
57.5K to 70K
(+22%)

Via LHR
37.5K to 40K
(+7%)
57.5K to 70K
(+22%)

Casablanca
(CMN)

Via YUL
40K to 40K
(0%)
82.5K to 70K
(–15%)

Via YUL
40K to 40K
(0%)
82.5K to 70K
(–15%)

Via YUL
40K to 35K
(–13%)
82.5K to 60K
(–27%)

Via YUL
40K to 40K
(0%)
82.5K to 70K
(–15%)

Dubai
(DXB)

Via YYZ
40K to 70K
(+75%)
82.5K to 100K
(+21%)

Via YYZ
40K to 70K
(+75%)
82.5K to 100K
(+21%)

Direct
40K to 55K
(+38%)
82.5K to 85K
(+3%)

Via YYZ
40K to 55K
(+38%)
82.5K to 85K
(+3%)

Johannesburg (JNB)

Via LHR
50K to 70K
(+40%)
75K to 100K
(+33%)

Via LHR
50K to 70K
(+40%)
75K to 100K
(+33%)

Via LHR
50K to 70K
(+40%)
75K to 100K
(+33%)

Via LHR
50K to 70K
(+40%)
75K to 100K
(+33%)

Maldives
(MLE)

Via TPE, SIN
50K to 70K
(+40%)
75K to 100K
(+33%)

Via NRT, SIN
50K to 70K
(+40%)
75K to 100K
(+33%)

Via IST
50K to 70K
(+40%)
75K to 100K
(+33%)

Via LHR, IST
50K to 70K
(+40%)
75K to 100K
(+33%)

New Delhi (DEL)

Direct
50K to 55K
(+10%)
75K to 85K
(+13%)

Via YVR
50K to 55K
(+10%)
75K to 85K
(+13%)

Direct
50K to 55K
(+10%)
75K to 85K
(+13%)

Via LHR
50K to 55K
(+10%)
75K to 85K
(+13%)

Awards to South Africa and the Maldives, two traditionally popular tourist destinations, are both increasing by 40% in economy class and 33% in business class.

Similarly, Canada’s Indian diaspora will find that their trips back home are now getting at least 10% more expensive, and that’s only if they can find a relatively direct routing – otherwise, they’re looking at 33–40% hikes too.

The impact to the Pacific zone is less significant, but most awards are still increasing in price with the exception of a few select sweet spots out of Vancouver and Calgary.

Vancouver
(YVR)

Calgary
(YYC)

Toronto
(YYZ)

Halifax
(YHZ)

Pacific zone

Tokyo
(TYO)

Direct
37.5K to 35K
(–6%)
75K to 55K
(–27%)

Direct
37.5K to 35K
(–6%)
75K to 55K
(–27%)

Direct
37.5K to 50K
(+33%)
75K to 75K
(0%)

Via YYZ
37.5K to 50K
(+33%)
75K to 75K
(0%)

Beijing
(PEK)

Direct
37.5K to 45K
(+20%)
75K to 75K
(0%)

Via YVR
37.5K to 45K
(+20%)
75K to 75K
(0%)

Direct
37.5K to 45K
(+20%)
75K to 75K
(0%)

Via YYZ
37.5K to 45K
(+20%)
75K to 75K
(0%)

Hong Kong
(HKG)

Direct
37.5K to 45K
(+20%)
75K to 75K
(0%)

Via YVR
37.5K to 45K
(+20%)
75K to 75K
(0%)

Direct
37.5K to 50K
(+33%)
75K to 85K
(+13%)

Via YYZ
37.5K to 50K
(+33%)
75K to 85K
(+13%)

Singapore
(SIN)

Via TPE
37.5K to 50K
(+33%)
75K to 85K
(+13%)

Via NRT
37.5K to 50K
(+33%)
75K to 85K
(+13%)

Via TPE
37.5K to 50K
(+33%)
75K to 85K
(+13%)

Via LHR
37.5K to 50K
(+33%)
75K to 85K
(+13%)

Sydney
(SYD)

Direct
45K to 50K
(+11%)
80K to 85K
(+6%)

Via YVR
45K to 50K
(+11%)
80K to 85K
(+6%)

Direct
45K to 50K
(+11%)
80K to 85K
(+6%)

Via YYZ
45K to 50K
(+11%)
80K to 85K
(+6%)

Auckland
(AKL)

Direct
45K to 45K
(0%)
80K to 75K
(–6%)

Via YVR
45K to 45K
(0%)
80K to 75K
(–6%)

Via YVR
45K to 50K
(+11%)
80K to 85K
(+6%)

Via YYZ, YVR
45K to 50K
(+11%)
80K to 85K
(+6%)

Perth
(PER)

Via NRT
45K to 50K
(+11%)
80K to 85K
(+6%)

Via NRT
45K to 50K
(+11%)
80K to 85K
(+6%)

Via NRT
45K to 65K
(+44%)
80K to 105K
(+31%)

Via LHR, BKK
45K to 65K
(+44%)
80K to 105K
(+31%)

Here, the price increases are more punitive for those who usually book in economy class – these rates are going up 30–40% in many markets, compared to a milder increase of 10–15% for premium cabins.

Going forward, economy class travellers to Asia may even want to rely more on cheaper cash fares or other award programs for these bookings, while saving their Aeroplan points for other uses.

Flights to South America follow largely the same pattern: whether you’re headed to the current Northern South America or Southern South America zones, you’re likely to pay more for your trip from November 8 onwards.

Vancouver
(YVR)

Calgary
(YYC)

Toronto
(YYZ)

Halifax
(YHZ)

South America

Bogotá
(BOG)

Via IAH
25K to 30K
(+20%)
37.5K to 50K
(+33%)

Via IAH
25K to 30K
(+20%)
37.5K to 50K
(+33%)

Direct
25K to 30K
(+20%)
37.5K to 50K
(+33%)

Via YYZ
25K to 30K
(+20%)
37K to 50K
(+33%)

Lima
(LIM)

Via IAH
30K to 40K
(+33%)
55K to 60K
(+9%)

Via IAH
30K to 40K
(+33%)
55K to 60K
(+9%)

Direct
30K to 30K
(0%)
55K to 50K
(–9%)

Via EWR
30K to 30K
(0%)
55K to 50K
(–9%)

São Paulo
(GRU)

Via IAH
30K to 40K
(+33%)
55K to 60K
(+9%)

Via IAH
30K to 40K
(+33%)
55K to 60K
(+9%)

Direct
30K to 40K
(+33%)
55K to 60K
(+9%)

Via EWR
30K to 40K
(+33%)
55K to 60K
(+9%)

The only exception is likely a trip between Central or Eastern Canada and Peru, which can clock in under the 4,500-mile distance threshold despite Peru counting as “Southern South America” before.

Everyone will have to decide what to book for themselves based on their 2021 travel goals and their Aeroplan mileage balance. But generally speaking, I’d say if you have even the slightest intention to travel internationally next year, you should run the numbers on your planned trips and at least consider locking something in.

The only exception would be if you’re specifically looking to take advantage of the new sweet spots and possibilities under the new program, such as booking Air Canada or Lufthansa flights that would currently come with $500+ in surcharges. In these cases, the savings in surcharges will likely be worthwhile compared to the additional number of points if you book after November 8. 

2. Canada/US Round-Trip with Stopover

Right now, Aeroplan members are able to book a complimentary stopover on any round-trip flight – essentially getting to visit two places for the price of one – including for travel within Canada and the US. This has always been one of the best “easy” sweet spots in the current program, allowing members to get outstanding travel value out of a relatively small sum of Aeroplan miles.

On the other hand, the new Aeroplan will introduce the ability to add a stopover on a one-way flight for an additional 5,000 Aeroplan miles – but no stopover will be permitted within Canada and the US.

Therefore, for travel wholly within Canada and the US, Aeroplan members no longer be able to add any stopovers on a round-trip; if they wish to visit multiple cities, they’ll need to book it as multiple one-way bounds and pay for each one separately.

Let’s take the example of Toronto–Vancouver–Los Angeles–Toronto. Currently, this can be booked as a single round-trip with a stopover for 25,000 Aeroplan miles in economy class.

However, under the new Aeroplan, you’d have to book every segment separately, paying 12,500 Aeroplan points for Toronto–Vancouver, 10,000 Aeroplan points for Vancouver–Los Angeles, and 12,500 Aeroplan points for Los Angeles–Toronto. You’d pay a total of 35,000 Aeroplan points – a 40% increase compared to today.

Similarly, consider the Aeroplan short-haul sweet spot, which treats Quebec and the Atlantic provinces as a single short-haul zone. Currently, Montreal–Halifax–St. John’s–Montreal is an excellent redemption for only 15,000 Aeroplan miles in economy class.

From November 8 onwards, this will be composed of three separate awards of 10,000 Aeroplan points each (even for Montreal–Halifax, which agonizingly clocks in at exactly 501 miles in distance flown, just one mile above the lower distance threshold), for a total of 30,000 Aeroplan points.

That’s double what it costs today – yuck!

3. Trips Over 2,750 Miles in Canada/US

While the stopover within Canada and the US will be going away, there are a few simple one-way and round-trip redemptions within Canada and the US that will be getting significantly devalued as well.

Any journey that exceeds 2,750 miles in flown distance – such as St. John’s–Vancouver, St. John’s–Calgary, Halifax–Vancouver, Halifax–Los Angeles, or Vancouver–Miami – will fall into this category.

(By the way, St. John’s–Calgary is a good example of why you shouldn’t be trusting the Aeroplan Points Predictor tool. The direct distance is less than 2,750 miles, but there’s no way to fly on scheduled Air Canada flights between the two cities without overshooting that threshold.)

Previously, these trips, like any other intra-Canada/US redemption, would cost 12,500 miles in economy class or 25,000 miles in business class one-way. But with the new distance-based system in place, these redemptions will fall into the highest distance band of “2,751+ miles”, meaning that they will cost:

  • In economy class, at least 17,500 Aeroplan points for travel on Air Canada or 22,500 Aeroplan points for travel on partner airlines
  • In business class, at least 35,000 Aeroplan points for travel on Air Canada or partner airlines

Both price points represent increases of at least 40%. For those of you who regularly travel between extreme opposite ends of the North American continent, it’s time to lock in some bookings before this hard-hitting devaluation arrives.

This one also applies to those of you who’d like to take advantage of Aeroplan’s partnership with Canadian North to travel to the extreme far-north parts of our country.

Of course, the flip side to this is that Canadian North currently levies a carrier-imposed surcharge of $75 per segment, which will no longer be levied under the new program. Therefore, depending on how many segments you’re planning on your Northern milk-run, it may also make sense to wait.

4. Air Canada Awards Within Canada/US That You’re Happy With

With dynamic pricing about to be introduced on Air Canada, I’d also make the argument that if you’re planning any travel within Canada or the US on Air Canada, you should lock in any awards that you’re currently happy with – even if they might be lower under the new program.

Some of the shortest short-haul flights in the network, for example, will be changing their rates from a fixed 7,500 miles to a dynamic range of 6,000–10,000 points for a one-way economy class flight.

Sure, you have the possibility of saving 1,500 points if you wait until November 8, but since the dynamic pricing will reflect the underlying cash fare, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to snag the cheapest rate of 6,000 points on your specific date and route.

There is inherent value in certainty compared to uncertainty, and that value could easily be worth more than a token savings of 1,500 Aeroplan points. If you’re happy with the price on any Air Canada reward you see before November 8, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to lock that in.

5. Etihad Apartments

One of the most compelling sweet spots for aspirational luxury travel in the current Aeroplan program is an opportunity that came to life very recently: the ability to book the Etihad Airways A380 First Class Apartments using Aeroplan miles, and especially the sweet spot of redeeming 110,000 Aeroplan miles between New York and Sydney, via Abu Dhabi, for 27+ hours onboard the Etihad Apartments.

You can refer back to our analysis of what’s happening to First Class sweet spots in the new Aeroplan, but to put it simply: things are not looking too pretty for the Etihad Apartments, and our favourite redemption between New York and Sydney will be rising from 110,000 Aeroplan miles to 140,000 Aeroplan points.

To stave off this 27% price increase, you’ll want to lock in a booking on this route before November 8 if you have any aspirations of travelling to Australia in the throes of luxury sometime in 2021.

Due to the overall devaluation in the Atlantic zone chart that we discussed above, most other Etihad Airways premium redemptions are increasing in price as well: Toronto–Abu Dhabi in business class, Los Angeles–Abu Dhabi in 777 First Class, Washington–Abu Dhabi in 787 First Class, London–Abu Dhabi in the Apartments, etc.

One very interesting possibility is to book Toronto–Abu Dhabi–Baku, which counts as a Europe 2 redemption and falls within the MPM for Toronto–Baku, for only 57,500 Aeroplan miles in the current program. Of course, whether or not you mysteriously miss your flight to Azerbaijan is another matter.

Alas, “Europe 2” will no longer be a thing after November 8, meaning that this opportunity is very much in its dying days.

6. Two-Stop Aeroplan Mini-RTW

As we discussed in yesterday’s post, the Aeroplan Mini-RTW will be transforming in many ways under the new program. Instead of a typical range of 150,000–165,000 miles for a round-the-world trip in business class, we can expect to pay about 180,000–200,000 Aeroplan points for a similar journey going forward, although we’ll be rewarded with a more generous routing and stopover allowance.

That’s the trade-off that’s being presented to us, and if you aren’t a fan of that trade-off, then you still have the opportunity to book one last hurrah under the current edition of the Aeroplan Mini-RTW – even if you’ll only be able to add one stopover or one open-jaw on a round-trip.

As I mentioned before, there is considerable value in the certainty we have on the current routing rules and MPM restrictions. Air Canada has given us a fair bit of guidance on how the new routing logic will work, but until November 8, any conclusions we draw remain hypothetical.

On the other hand, right now we know we can fly over 18,000 miles on the way to Perth for a fixed price of 160,000 miles round-trip, so if that’s the type of travel that makes you happy, then by all means lock it in. I’m certainly giving some thought to booking one last epic trip under the old rules – after all, the new Aeroplan will always be there to maximize after November 8.

7. Equal-Priced Partner Bookings

One of the “saltier” policies that the new Aeroplan will be introducing is the $39 booking fee on partner airlines.

I describe this as “salty” because a redemption on a partner airline’s premium cabin will obviously still represent great value in spite of the $39 fee, but it’s something we’ll begrudgingly have to pay nonetheless.

In light of this, even if the award cost of your favourite partner redemption isn’t increasing, it’s still beneficial to book before the transition to avoid the $39 partner booking fee. An example of this would be Vancouver–Taipei on EVA Air: this will cost 75,000 Aeroplan miles/points both before and after November 8, but if you make your booking before that date, you’ll save $39 per person travelling.

8. One-Way Hoppers with 7+ Segments

An edge case, but a cult favourite.

One of the more interesting bookings you could accomplish under the current Aeroplan was to book one-way “hopper” trips in which every stop is less than 24 hours (outside of Canada and the US) or less than 12 hours (within Canada and the US).

As long as your overall routing was within the maximum permitted mileage (MPM) between the origin and destination, you could slot in up to 16 flights on the same crazy one-way booking if you wished. For example, I had used my Aeroplan miles to take a Canadian Hopper across the country in 2018, and had booked a Balkan Hopper for my Euro 2020 trip which obviously eventually got scrapped.

In the new Aeroplan, the one-way bound logic limits each one-way bound to a maximum of six segments; after that, the bound will break and a new one will begin, meaning that you’ll end up paying for two separate awards instead of one.

Therefore, if you’ve ever dreamed of redeeming Aeroplan miles for a “hopper” trip across a certain part of the world in which the Star Alliance route network is fairly robust, then this is your last call.

(If you’ve never dreamed of doing such a thing, carry on – you’re a 100% medically-certified normal human being.)

Logistics of Making Bookings Before November 8

Finally, let’s address some of the questions that inevitably arise when we’re talking about making bookings prior to November 8 for travel after November 8.

Obviously, any bookings you make before the new Aeroplan program launches will continue to be subject to the current award chart, stopover policy, routing rules, and fee structure. With Aeroplan, you may book travel as far as 355 days into the future, meaning that the last possible travel date for a trip booked under the legacy Aeroplan rules is October 28, 2021.

Sometimes, when loyalty programs makes changes, they will honour the “old rules” as long as the ticket was booked prior to the changes kicking in. For example, you might expect that as long as you’ve made a booking before November 8, then you’d be able to modify it sometime in 2021 and still be subject to the old Aeroplan rules.

However, in this case, we’re seeing a wholesale relaunch of a new loyalty program, rather than simply changes happening within the same program. Therefore, this conventional practice will not be the case: if you made a booking prior to November 8 and needed to change it afterwards, you’d be subject to the new program’s award chart, stopover policy, routing rules, and fee structure.

This means that you may have to pony up an extra chunk of miles to make your change, you’ll pay the new set of change fees, etc. On the plus side, any fuel surcharges you pay at the moment should be refunded, since there will be no surcharges on any redemption under the new program.

Therefore, if you’re making a booking before November 8 for future travel, you’d better make sure it’s the exact itinerary you’ll be flying – or else the benefit of booking before November 8 will be negated.

(Of course, there is one reprieve here: if there’s an involuntary schedule change on your itinerary and you aren’t happy with the alternatives being offered, then Aeroplan agents wil be able to help you fix up your itinerary without enforcing the new program’s rules. And given the state of global aviation these days, I’d say that an involuntary schedule change is fairly likely to happen on any itinerary booked for 2021.) 

Conclusion

Whether you’d like to fly to Paris or Sydney, Mumbai or Cape Town, Qionghai or Sanliurfa – the majority of Aeroplan redemptions for intercontinental travel will be increasing in price as of November 8. Moreover, some of our favourite sweet spots (such as the North America round-trip with stopover) and niche redemptions (such as the amusingly priced Sydney–Abu Dhabi–New York redemption on the Etihad Apartments) will be going away too.

Let’s give them the send-off they deserve by maximizing our bookings before the November 8 transition, and be sure to play your part in making your feelings known about the unfavourable award chart changes by submitting your feedback.