While most of the Miles & Points knowledge in the Canadian landscape is applicable nationwide, some of the finer aspects can vary significantly from region to region. In many ways, we’re all playing different variations of the same game, depending on where in Canada we live.
In this article, I’d like to explore the most compelling sweet spots that are particular to each region and shed some light on the best redemption opportunities available to you as a resident of a certain part of Canada.
Hint: Some parts of the country have it better than others!
In This Post
- 1. Western Canada
- 2. The Prairies
- 3. Ontario
- 4. Quebec
- 5. Atlantic Canada
- 6. The Territories
1. Western Canada
If you’re living in British Columbia or Alberta, congratulations: the ever-lucrative Alaska Mileage Plan works so much better for you than it does for everyone else!
That’s because while the Alaska program has some excellent partner redemption possibilities, it only allows you to have one partner airline per award ticket, in addition to any Alaska-operated flights.
In other words, if you wanted to fly Cathay Pacific using Alaska miles, you can’t also add, say, an American Airlines flight to the itinerary – you can only add Alaska Airlines’s own flights.
Why is that to the benefit of Western Canada residents? Well, the only Canadian cities historically served by Alaska are Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, Calgary, and Edmonton, so if you live in one of those cities, you can catch Alaska flights to your gateway city of choice, before catching an international flight on one of Alaska’s partner airlines.
So if you wanted to fly Japan Airlines First Class for 75,000 Alaska miles one-way, you could book Kelowna to Seattle to San Francisco on Alaska Airlines, followed by San Francisco to Tokyo on JAL First, all on one ticket.
Anyone east of Alberta would not have such a luxury – they’d need to book a separate positioning flight to one of the US cities that has JAL First Class service (at additional cost).
Meanwhile, Aeroplan remains one of the most useful programs in Western Canada, but certain types of Aeroplan redemptions are easier to accomplish than others.
On one hand, travelling to places like Hawaii and East Asia with Aeroplan is eminently feasible, given the geographic proximity.
Indeed, Western Canada is home to one of Aeroplan’s best sweet spots: 55,000 points for a one-way business class flight from Vancouver or Calgary to Tokyo, with either Air Canada or ANA.
Heading to Hawaii, Western Canadians also benefit from the lowest price points in economy class and the most generous “R” space for applying eUpgrades to upgrade into business class.
Besides those options, you’ll typically have to route through Toronto, Montreal, or the US West Coast to get on a reasonably priced partner award in business class or First Class.
A starting point in Western Canada also makes it a bit harder to take advantage of the “Asia 3” sweet spot, in which you can fly up to 11,000 miles to Aeroplan’s Pacific zone for only 85,000 Aeroplan points in business class.
It’s still possible to make these routings happen – but you have less leeway to customize your routing before you start exceeding 11,000 miles.
Lastly, this part of Canada is home to some of the best British Airways Avios sweet spots. In economy class, Vancouver to Tokyo on Japan Airlines can be booked for only 25,000 Avios one-way, while a flight to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific can be had for only 30,000 Avios one-way.
And if you get yourself down to Seattle or Bellingham, you can take advantage of a well-documented sweet spot and book flights to Hawaii on Alaska Airlines for only 12,500 Avios one-way!
2. The Prairies
Sorry Sasketchewaners and Manitobans, but there just isn’t much going on in this part of the country.
There’s virtually no direct international traffic coming into any of the region’s major airports, meaning that any attempt to redeem your miles will likely have to route through the bigger population centres to the east, west, or south.
That’s not to say that you can’t get good value for your points, but rather that there aren’t really any sweet spots that are particular to this region.
Aeroplan will certainly be your program of choice, given that you can add on domestic Air Canada flights in order to get yourself to places like Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver and continue your onward journey.
With such slim pickings, it’s probably also worth thinking outside of the box every now and then.
For example, the ability to transfer Amex MR points to Delta SkyMiles at a 1:0.75 ratio isn’t one that’s discussed too often, but it could be something to keep in mind if you live in the Prairies.
That’s because Delta’s service from their Minneapolis/St.Paul hub to Winnipeg (and Saskatoon as well in pre-COVID times) might present a useful one-stop option for flying to your international destinations.
I’ll be focusing on Toronto, since they consider themselves the centre of the universe and all that. 😉
Ontarians naturally benefit from Toronto being the largest city in Canada, and there are plenty of direct international service to other countries that make for good points redemptions.
With Aeroplan alone, Ontarians have the ability to travel far and wide on Air Canada (with the “Latitude Attitude” to help with business class bookings) and a wide range of partner airlines such as Avianca, EgyptAir, Ethiopian, Etihad Airways, EVA Air, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, and TAP Air Portugal at the fixed partner prices.
Furthermore, it’s a lot easier to take advantage of the “Asia 3” sweet spot from Toronto, and there’s a wide range possible stopover points en route to the Pacific zone while remaining under 11,000 miles in distance flown.
For 90,000 Aeroplan points, you could to Asia in business class with a stopover in any of Europe, the Middle East, or even Africa…
Looking beyond Aeroplan, good opportunities exist with the other major programs as well. Redeeming British Airways Avios on British Airways flights come with insanely expensive surcharges, but the ability to redeem on Aer Lingus is often overlooked.
Indeed, the distance-based award chart means that the Toronto–Dublin route is quite a compelling sweet spot, since an economy class flight can be booked for as low as 13,000 Avios one-way on off-peak dates.
Meanwhile, business class is 50,000 Avios one-way on off-peak dates, which is still lower than the 60,000+ points that Aeroplan would charge for a Europe flight.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is a little trickier. Alaska doesn’t fly to Toronto, so you’ll have to book a separate positioning flight if you want to get on the high-value First Class redemptions to Asia.
Nevertheless, you can drop 50,000 Alaska miles on Cathay Pacific’s Toronto–Hong Kong flight in business class (the route doesn’t offer First Class, unfortunately), or you could continue onwards to South Africa for 62,500 Alaska miles.
You can also redeem Alaska miles for travel on American Airlines, which has excellent connectivity to Toronto from its many US hubs. From there, you could leverage another one of Alaska’s sweet spots by flying American onwards to South America.
And lastly, Alaska does have a daily flight from Detroit to Seattle, so if you drive across the border from Windsor you can take full advantage of the program without the need for positioning flights!
Just as Ontarians benefit from the large volume of international air traffic in and out of Toronto, so too do Quebec residents enjoy strong connectivity out of Montreal.
In terms of Aeroplan redemptions, the daily flight from Montreal to Zurich on Swiss is certainly a fan favourite, as is the 3x weekly flight to Vienna on Austrian Airlines.
The 5pm departure is a great way to make a quick afternoon escape from your workplace, catch a flight, and wake up in Europe bright and early the next day. Indeed, it’s one of the most popular one-stop routings to Europe for everyone else in Canada as well.
A few more good ideas include the 3x weekly flights from Montreal to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines or from Montreal to Lisbon on TAP Air Portugal, as award availability on these flights is often easier to come by than the airlines’ Toronto or Vancouver services.
Morocco is another destination that makes for a nice sweet spot out of Montreal. You can redeem 22,000 or 44,000 Etihad Guest miles for long-haul economy class or business class on Royal Air Maroc, respectively.
Since Etihad Guest is a 1:0.75 transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards, this means that you’ll only need 29,333 Amex MR points to get yourself from Montreal to Casablanca in economy, or 58,666 Amex MR points for business.
And if you’d rather go through Aeroplan, the same flight with Air Canada would cost 35,000 or 60,000 Aeroplan points in economy or business, respectively – assuming no sky-high dynamic pricing!
Finally, Montreal is noteworthy for being the only Canadian city served by Qatar Airways and their famous Qatar Airways Qsuites product.
That makes it a great place to take advantage of one of American Airlines AAdvantage’s best sweet spots: booking Qsuites to the Middle East or Indian Subcontinent for only 70,000 American miles one-way, or to Africa for only 75,000 American miles one-way, with no surcharges!
5. Atlantic Canada
Atlantic Canada’s relative dearth of international air traffic in this part of the country means that sweet spots are few and far between.
In theory, the proximity to Europe would result in more accessible travel across the pond. However, Air Canada has significantly reduced their transatlantic route network out of the Atlantic provinces due to the pandemic, so you’d still mostly have to backtrack via Toronto, Montreal, or the US West Coast to fly in a premium cabin.
If the routes from Halifax and St. John’s to London were to return in the future, then Atlantic Canadians could use them to get further into Europe while staying under the lowest 4,000-mile distance band on the Atlantic chart.
This ties into another potential (albeit minor) advantage for Atlantic Canadians: when an Aeroplan itinerary consists of only Air Canada flights, then it’s the point-to-point distance between the origin and destination that counts when calculating the points required, not the total distance flown.
Therefore, someone who lives in St. John’s could backtrack to Toronto and then fly to Europe without paying much of a premium at all – dynamic pricing notwithstanding, of course.
In the below example, the 33,600 Aeroplan points in economy class is a fairly decent value considering how much distance is being covered. Book this in Latitude Economy and apply eUpgrades, and you’ve got a reasonably-priced transatlantic business class ticket on your hands.
Alas, with flight schedules being gutted all around due to the pandemic, virtually nowhere in the Atlantic region is served by non-Canadian airlines, so there sadly aren’t many sweet spots to speak of beyond the minor ones with Aeroplan.
6. The Territories
Given the high cost of travel to and from the territories, one could argue that the very ability to redeem Aeroplan points for these flights is the greatest sweet spot of all.
Indeed, with round-trip fares up to our country’s northern communities often reaching four-figures, being able to pay just 12,500+ Aeroplan points for a one-way flight instead is an incredible deal.
You can travel on Air Canada (which serves Whitehorse and Yellowknife), Calm Air (which serves northern Manitoba and parts of Nunavut), and Canadian North (which serves large parts of Northern Territories and Nunavut).
Canadian North flights can be combined with Air Canada on a single reservation, while Calm Air is not combinable with any other airline.
There’s one more sweet spot to tell you about, and it’s completely out of left field. For some reason, Condor, the German leisure airline, operates a once-weekly flight from Whitehorse to Frankfurt in the summertime.
Condor is partners with Alaska Mileage Plan, so if you live in Whitehorse, you can book a direct flight to Europe for 25,000 Alaska miles in economy class, 45,000 Alaska miles in premium economy, or 55,000 Alaska miles in business class, one-way.
These are extremely competitive rates, especially considering that the very existence of a direct flight between Yukon and Europe is something of a miracle in the first place!
Whether it’s the West Coast to Japan sweet spot for Vancouverites or the abundance of premium partner flights from Toronto and Montreal, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the best sweet spots for redeeming points in Canada are concentrated around our major population centres.
Living in the big cities therefore gives you a significant head start in terms of redeeming your points for good value, whereas those of you based in smaller communities will likely need to put in some extra legwork in order to do so!