The new American Express welcome bonuses for Summer 2021 are the talk of the town.
Between American Express’s twin flagship premium travel cards, the Platinum Card is offering a tantalizing 150,000 MR points, while the Aeroplan Reserve Card is offering a groundbreaking 150,000 Aeroplan points.
With many of us poised to rack up huge sums of Aeroplan points this summer, let’s have a refresher on the best ways to redeem your 150,000+ Aeroplan points for some incredible trips around the world.
1. Business Class within North America
If you aren’t ready to embark on international trips just yet, you can still get very impressive value out of your Aeroplan points even if you’re travelling domestically or across the border to the US.
Given the prevalence of cheap economy class fares these days, it’s business class redemptions that will fetch you the highest value. In particular, you want to aim for Air Canada Boeing 777 and 787 flights with lie-flat seats, which are among the best business class experiences for intra-North America travel.
You’ll find these planes mostly operating out of Toronto Pearson, headed to Vancouver, Calgary, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Vancouver–Montreal also frequently receives these widebodies, supplemented by Air Canada’s refurbished A330s with equally comfortable pods.
As you go about searching for business class redemptions, you may find yourself roadblocked by Aeroplan’s unpredictable dynamic pricing model on Air Canada flights.
If you’re lucky, transcontinental business class flights can be booked for around 20,000–40,000 Aeroplan points one-way if you have preferred pricing. But most likely, you’ll only find one or two flights per day (if that) at that level, with other flights priced at 60,000 or even 100,000 Aeroplan points one-way.
That’s where Air Canada’s eUpgrades come in. If you have at least Aeroplan 25K status, you can leverage the “Latitude Attitude” and book an Economy Latitude flight in the region of 20,000 points, before using eUpgrades to confirm an instant upgrade into business class.
Effectively, eUpgrades offer “protection” against the ugly side of Aeroplan’s dynamic pricing model, allowing you to lock in cheap intra-North America business class flights on a reliable basis even if the dynamic pricing shoots up to a nonsensical number.
Whether you hunt for reasonably-priced direct redemptions or leverage the Latitude Attitude, a signup bonus of 150,000 Aeroplan points would be enough for 4–7 one-way business class flights all on its own – an incredible return on a single credit card application!
2. Hawaii with eUpgrades
We can extend the same line of reasoning to Hawaii, which promises to be an ever-popular destination in the intervening period between domestic and international travel fully reopening.
With Hawaii, however, the dynamic pricing problem is even more exacerbated. In fact, it’s very rare to find any business class redemptions that are at the lower end of Air Canada’s dynamic pricing range, so eUpgrades are very much the dominant strategy if you want to kickstart your island getaway in the fancy lie-flat seats.
eUpgrade availability tends to only be available on Air Canada’s flights from Vancouver to Honolulu and Maui. While the direct flights from Toronto and Montreal do offer greater convenience, they typically don’t offer any eUpgrade space, since there are too many high-rolling East Coasters who are happy to pay the premium for those direct lie-flats.
From anywhere in Canada, then, your strategy is to fly into Vancouver and connect onto one of the Hawaii-bound services on an Economy Latitude booking, before deploying your eUpgrades for a confirmed upgrade into the forward cabin.
3. Business Class to South America
Many South American countries are already open to travel with no more than a COVID-19 PCR test. If you’re headed to this part of the world, then Aeroplan points are very much the best way to get you there in comfort… and maybe a little bit of creativity.
A round-trip business class journey will likely cost you 120,000 Aeroplan points if you’re travelling to the pointy end of the continent.
You also have the ability to add stopovers on a one-way bound for 5,000 points each, so you could leverage the strong connectivity of Copa Airlines and Avianca to schedule extra stops in Panama City and Bogotá on your way to and from, say, Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro.
That would cost you 130,000 Aeroplan points all-in, making it a sweet use of the 150,000 points you earn from this summer’s welcome bonuses.
As a side note, the proximity of Panama City and Bogotá also creates a few interesting routing possibilities, especially when combined with the fact that intra-South America redemptions are priced rather favourably under the new charts.
4. Business Class to Europe
Among global destinations, Europe is most likely on the radar for the majority of Canadians who’d be interested in international travel as soon as borders open up, thanks to the short flight times, cultural proximity, and relatively lax travel restrictions.
If you’d like to treat yourself to a luxurious transatlantic flight to celebrate your first post-pandemic trip, you’ll be delighted to know that 150,000 Aeroplan points will be just enough to cover a round-trip journey from the East Coast.
Indeed, 140,000 points will get you the round-trip flights themselves, with a further 10,000 points allotted for any stopovers you’d like to schedule.
(If you’re travelling from the West Coast, you might need closer to 170,000 points to fly round-trip to Europe in business. An extra bit of spending or maybe a Buddy Pass conversion should cover that quite easily.)
There’s a variety of high-quality business class airlines that can get you across the pond. Between Air Canada, Lufthansa, SAS, Swiss, TAP Air Portugal, and Turkish Airlines, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding some lie-flat availability for your desired dates.
Certain routes in particular, such as Turkish’s new Vancouver–Istanbul route, are bound to prove more popular than others, so planning farther in advance is always a good idea.
5. ANA Business Class to Japan
Trips to Asia are probably going to be more realistic in early 2022 compared to late 2021. But with the phenomenon of “revenge travel” taking hold across adventure-starved travellers around the world, you’d do well to start thinking about making a booking now.
While you can’t go wrong with any business class product en route to Asia, there are two particular redemptions that I wanted to highlight.
The first is the well-documented sweet spot of ANA 787 business class between Vancouver (or Seattle) and Tokyo for only 55,000 Aeroplan points – a real winner for anyone based on the West Coast. As an alternative, Air Canada’s direct flights between Vancouver or Calgary and Tokyo would also fall under this price point, subject to dynamic pricing.
A single summer signup bonus of 150,000 Aeroplan points would be almost enough to cover three one-way business class flights! It really doesn’t get much better than that.
(Keep in mind, though, that ANA rarely releases more than two award seats in business class on a single flight, so if you’re a family of three, you may need to split up the party here.)
Timed at a 4:40pm departure and a 2:50pm arrival back into Vancouver, a set of well-timed round-trip flights on ANA business class from Friday to Monday could even be suitable for a cheeky long weekend getaway to the other side of the world, giving you a full two days’ time to eat your way through Tokyo.
6. EVA Air Business Class to Asia
If you’re headed further afield in Asia, the primary routing that I’d aim for is EVA Air business class from either Vancouver or Toronto.
In both cases, the flight itself would cost you 75,000 Aeroplan points one-way (meaning that a signup bonus of 150,000 points would be enough for a round-trip), although you’ll most likely pay more if you’re connecting beyond Taipei.
EVA Air has one of the best business class products across all of Star Alliance. With comfortable reverse herringbone seats on the 777 and a cutting-edge staggered seat design on the 787, a wide menu to pre-order your meals from, and an impressive drinks menu, EVA Air business class makes for one of the best ways to cross the Pacific using your points.
It’s one of the redemptions that I personally cannot wait to book for my post-pandemic travels, and indeed, I’ve already locked in a couple of flights out of Vancouver for the spring of 2022, with the intention of modifying my onward routing to whichever Asian destination is open to international travel when the time comes.
7. Speculative Trips Down Under
Hey, remember Australia and New Zealand? Who wouldn’t want to plan a trip down under once their borders reopen after so long?
You’d think that an Aeroplan redemption on the ultra-long-haul flight to Sydney would be amazing value, wouldn’t you?
You pull up the search engine, start dreaming of those brunches and flat whites… only to find that your signup bonus of 150,000 Aeroplan points would be enough for half of a one-way business class flight.
That’s right, Air Canada redemptions down to Australia and New Zealand are still beset by the uncertainty of Australia’s border restrictions and flight capacity controls. Since Air Canada doesn’t want too many travellers booking these flights, lest they pay out hefty compensation in the event that they have to cancel the flight, the redemption price points are set prohibitively high as a result.
Instead, if you wanted to roll the dice on the off-chance that Australia’s borders reopen by mid-2022, then there’s plenty of award space on Air Canada and ANA business class via Tokyo for only 85,000 Aeroplan points.
And don’t forget, as long as you book by the continuously rolling deadline of July 31, you can cancel your booking and get all your points back for free if your plans don’t work out.
8. First Class with Etihad, ANA, Lufthansa
Venturing beyond business class, First Class awards represent one of the best ways to extract maximum value from your Aeroplan points, although they’ll require either lots of advance planning or extreme flexibility in snagging last-minute award space.
Etihad Airways First Class is probably the easiest to book, with a fair bit of award space available on the three-class Boeing 787s between Washington DC or New York and Abu Dhabi for 120,000 Aeroplan points. Even though the Etihad A380 First Class Apartments are sadly no more, the 787 First Class product still counts among the best experiences you can unlock with Aeroplan.
Pair it with an Etihad business class flight onwards to the Maldives, or perhaps with an indulgent Marriott Bonvoy redemption at Al Maha Desert Resort in the UAE, and you have all the ingredients for the perfect post-pandemic pilgrimage.
ANA First Class is another aspirational award to aim for. The Japanese airline operates its best cabins on the Boeing 777 between Tokyo and Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, or New York JFK in the US, as well as London and Frankfurt in Europe.
If you book out of JFK, London, or Frankfurt, you’ll even get to experience ANA’s “The Suite” New First Class, which is one of the top remaining items on my own personal luxury travel bucket list.
Note that even though an ANA First Class redemption will cost you at most 110,000 Aeroplan points one-way, which is covered by the summer signup bonuses of 150,000 Aeroplan points, it’s arguably not an optimal way to book ANA First Class.
That’s because the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club sweet spot for ANA First Class is so outstanding, requiring only 60,000 Virgin Atlantic miles for a similar journey.
Finally, Lufthansa First Class is a real classic, although it may be a little challenging to book over the coming months as we emerge out of the pandemic.
Lufthansa had retired much of their First Class fleet during the fallow months of 2020, and even though they’ve restored a few A340s in 2021, the overall set of First Class seats is still much lower than before.
Combine that with the fact that Lufthansa only releases First Class award space at most 15 days before departure, and you’ll have to hunt for availability very keenly if you want to snag a transpacific Lufthansa First Class award for 90,000–100,000 Aeroplan points – and unlike the old Aeroplan program, now with $0 in fuel surcharges!
9. The New Aeroplan Mini-Round-the-World
The new generation of the “Aeroplan Mini-Round-the-World”, which refers to maximizing Aeroplan’s stopover allowance to book three destinations for the price of one, has gotten more expensive compared to before.
Now, if you’d like to hop through Europe en route to Asia and indulge in another stopover on the way back, it’ll cost you at least 180,000 Aeroplan points in most cases.
The sweet spot to aim for is the third distance band in the “North America to Pacific zone” chart, which costs 85,000 Aeroplan points for a one-way journey of up to 11,000 miles flown.
This allows you to route through much of the Atlantic zone en route to the Pacific zone, but still pay the more favourable pricing for the Pacific zone. For example, departing from Toronto, you could stop in Europe for a few weeks before heading down to Singapore, and then returning via Japan.
If you’re starting from Vancouver or elsewhere in Western Canada, your overall mileage allowance is more constrained given the longer flying distances via Europe.
But you still have many possibilities to play around with, such as an extended stop in Istanbul before heading to Singapore, and then returning via a multi-city hopper journey with a stopover in one of the places.
As long as you keep both of your one-way bounds under 11,000 miles in distance, you’re looking at two sets of 85,000 Aeroplan points for a total of 170,000 points. Add in 5,000 points for each of the two stopovers (one in each direction), and we arrive at a total of 180,000 Aeroplan points for what promises to be an unforgettable round-the-world trip.
A single welcome bonus of 150,000 points wouldn’t quite be enough, but throw in a Buddy Pass conversion for a further 50,000 points with First Year Free and an easy spending requirement, and you’re more than set.
Once you’ve amassed your newfound riches in Aeroplan points, it’s time to think carefully about how you plan to redeem them for optimal value on your first few post-pandemic trips.
What high-value Aeroplan redemptions have you planned for 2021 and 2022? Are you aiming to take advantage of the best sweet spots, like 55,000 points to Japan, or would you prefer to string together a three-stop round-the-world bash for 180,000 points all-in? Let’s get the ideas rolling in the comments below.