Air Canada’s new Aeroplan program was launched on November 9, 2020, bringing the previous spun-off loyalty program under one roof.
With over five million members in its ranks, the new Aeroplan remains Canada’s most popular frequent flyer program. Here’s your complete guide to understanding everything you need to know about earning and redeeming Aeroplan points (with links to key blog articles for your reference along the way).
Earning Aeroplan Points
As one of the dominant Canadian rewards programs, Aeroplan makes it very easy to for members to earn points.
By far the fastest way to do so is to earn American Express Membership Rewards points and transfer them to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio. Transfers are quick and painless, and the ease with which you can amass MR points makes earning lots of Aeroplan points an equivalently simple task.
The following American Express credit cards offer compelling welcome bonuses at the moment:
American Express Platinum Card: 85,000 MR points, $699 annual fee (offset by $200 annual travel credit)
American Express Business Gold Card: 60,000 MR points, $250 annual fee
American Express Business Platinum Card: 100,000 MR points, $499 annual fee
In addition to earning points through the American Express Membership Rewards charge cards, Aeroplan also has a few co-branded credit cards of its own.
There are three tiers of personal credit cards available: entry-level, core, and premium, distinguished by design in varying hues of silver, grey, and black, respectively.
TD and CIBC issue the entry-level Aeroplan credit cards:
TD Aeroplan Visa Platinum: 20,000 Aeroplan points, $89 annual fee (waived for the first year)
CIBC Aeroplan Visa Card: 10,000 Aeroplan points, $0 annual fee
TD, CIBC, and American Express all issue the core Aeroplan credit cards:
TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite: 20,000 Aeroplan points + Air Canada Buddy Pass, $139 annual fee (waived for the first year)
CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite: 20,000 Aeroplan points + Air Canada Buddy Pass, $139 annual fee (waived for the first year)
American Express Aeroplan Card: Up to 40,000 Aeroplan points + Air Canada Buddy Pass, $120 annual fee
TD, CIBC, and American Express all issue the premium Aeroplan credit cards:
TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege: 50,000 Aeroplan points + Air Canada Buddy Pass, $599 annual fee
CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege: Up to 75,000 Aeroplan points, $599 annual fee
American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card: Up to 90,000 Aeroplan points, $599 annual fee (offset by $100 statement credit in the first year)
Finally, TD, CIBC, and American Express all issue Aeroplan credit cards geared towards small business owners:
TD Aeroplan Visa Business: 25,000 Aeroplan points + Air Canada Buddy Pass, $149 annual fee (waived for the first year)
CIBC Aeroplan Visa Business: 20,000 Aeroplan points + Air Canada Buddy Pass, $180 annual fee (waived for the first year)
American Express Aeroplan Business Reserve Card: Up to 90,000 Aeroplan points + Air Canada Buddy Pass, $599 annual fee (offset by $100 statement credit in the first year)
You can consult the below blog articles for more detailed comparisons of the Aeroplan co-branded credit cards, as well as comparisons with the American Express Membership Rewards family of cards.
Besides credit cards, you can also earn Aeroplan points by shopping at partner retailers through the Aeroplan eStore, taking advantage of special offers and promotions… and of course, by flying!
After all, Aeroplan is Air Canada’s proprietary frequent flyer program. You can earn Aeroplan points on any flight operated by a Star Alliance airline according to each airline’s earnings chart, which you can find here.
Redeeming Aeroplan Points
Once you’ve earned your Aeroplan points, redeeming points for flights is where the fun begins.
Every potential redemption begins with the Aeroplan Flight Reward Chart, which splits the world into four separate zones, creating 10 separate award charts for travel within each zone and between each possible combination of zones.
Below are the charts showing the one-way mileage requirements for flights from North America. For round-trip pricing, simply double the amount required.
Here’s the chart for “Within North America zone”:
Here’s the chart for “Between North America and South America”:
Here’s the chart for “Between North America and Atlantic zone”:
And here’s the chart for “Between North America and Pacific zone”:
You’ll notice the Flight Reward Chart is a hybrid chart based on both the travel zones, the class of service, and distance-based thresholds. Furthermore, while partner-operated flights are priced at a fixed level, Air Canada flights are priced based on a dynamic pricing model, and the pricing can land anywhere in the published ranges based on the underlying cash fare.
In order to price out a redemption, first determine the correct zones based on your origin and destination, and then head over to Great Circle Mapper to determine the distance between your origin and destination cities.
For example, a Toronto–Vancouver domestic flight clocks in at 2,085 miles in distance.
We’d take the “Within North America chart”, look up the distance band of “1,501–2,750 miles”, and see that a one-way flight should cost 12,500–17,500 Aeroplan points in economy class or 25,000–60,000 Aeroplan points in business class.
(Keep in mind that the published ranges for Air Canada flights are meant to be an estimate of 80% of flight results based on the dynamic pricing model. The pricing may also go below or above this range, and if you have Aeroplan Elite Status or a co-branded credit card, then you’ll enjoy discounts on the pricing thanks to the preferred pricing feature.)
Now, you might be wondering: What about when there’s a connection or a stopover along the way? How exactly is the distance calculated? The answer is as follows:
- If the itinerary consists only of Air Canada flights, then the distance is calculated based on the direct distance between origin and destination.
- If the itinerary consists of a partner-operated flight, then the distance is calculated based on the total distance flown.
Thus, whenever you’re booking flights on a non-Air Canada partner, keep in mind that choosing convoluted routings might put you into the next distance band, thus costing more points.
We can look at an example to illustrate, such as a one-way flight between St. John’s and Munich.
We use the “Between North America and Atlantic zone” chart. The direct distance between St. John’s and Munich is 2,902 miles, well below the 4,000-mile threshold of the first distance band.
However, in practice, booking St. John’s–Munich requires backtracking to a hub airport, such as Montreal, in order to catch the transatlantic flight.
If this transatlantic flight is operated by Air Canada, then scenario #1 above applies.
The pricing is calculated based on the direct distance between St. John’s and Munich, so you’ll pay the dynamic Air Canada pricing for the first distance band of “0–4,000 miles”: 35,000–60,000 Aeroplan points in economy class or 60,000–160,000 Aeroplan points in business class.
But if the transatlantic flight is operated by Lufthansa, then scenario #2 above applies, since there is now a partner-operated flight on the ticket.
The pricing is calculated based on the total distance flown, so you’d pay the partner pricing for the second distance band of “4,001–6,000 miles”: 40,000 Aeroplan points in economy class or 70,000 Aeroplan points in business class (assuming that there’s no “weighted average” pricing going on, which we’ll discuss next).
Indeed, there’s one glaring question that you might ask based on the St. John’s–Munich example on a mix of Air Canada and Lufthansa: if Air Canada’s flights are dynamically priced, but partner flights are fixed, how does that price out on one itinerary?
The answer is that the price is a weighted average based on the respective distances flown on Air Canada and on partner airlines.
Any time you book an Aeroplan reward flight, you have the ability to select one of three different fare categories (Standard, Flex, or Latitude) in economy class, or one of two different fare categories (Lowest or Flexible) in premium economy, business class, or First Class.
Within each class of service, the higher fare categories typically command a premium of 8,000–15,000 Aeroplan points per direction, and come with added benefits such as a waiver of change and cancellation fees, Preferred seat selection, checked bags, and prioritized eUpgrade clearance.
For example, if you book a Latitude economy fare, you can confirm an upgrade into business class instantly if you have sufficient eUpgrade credits in your account, whereas a Standard economy fare must wait until 4–14 days before the date of departure to confirm an upgrade.
Moreover, after choosing your desired flight, class of service, and fare category, you’ll be given the choice to pay for your Aeroplan award in one of four different ways under the Points + Cash feature.
You can pay the default number of points along with the standard taxes and fees, or you can pay for the whole thing with Aeroplan points (i.e., essentially redeeming additional points to avoid paying the taxes and fees), or pay only 60% of the award with Aeroplan points and the remainder with a cash co-pay (i.e., essentially buying back your points and saving them for a future trip).
First of all, paying for the whole thing with points is almost never a good deal – you’re essentially redeeming Aeroplan points for 1cpp, which is a very poor redemption value.
But currently, Aeroplan lets you “buy back” 40% of your points at an effective rate of 1.8cpp (CAD). Since it’s generally pretty feasible to unlock a higher redemption value than 1.8cpp, it can sometimes be a good idea to take advantage of this end of the Points + Cash spectrum and save your points for future high-value uses instead.
Finally, remember that fuel surcharges have been entirely eliminated under the new Aeroplan program, regardless of the chosen airline. However, you’ll pay a $39 partner booking fee for any ticket that contains at least one flight on a partner airline, and there’s also a $30 phone booking fee for any ticket booked over the phone.
To learn more about Aeroplan’s flight rewards and see how everything plays out on the online search engine, you can watch the below YouTube video that walks you through everything in live-action:
Award Chart Sweet Spots
Let’s talk about some of the best sweet spots for redeeming your Aeroplan points.
Generally speaking, business class and First Class flights to international destinations usually offer the best value redemptions – but that’s not to say that redemptions in economy class can never be good value.
Using points for last-minute economy tickets, for example, could be extremely valuable since cash fares are likely sky-high. And some people simply don’t care for luxury travel, preferring to use their points to take more trips in coach instead – fair play to them as well.
Because the new Aeroplan program uses zonal and distance-based charts, the best sweet spots will vary depending on where in Canada you’re originating from.
If you’re based on the West Coast, then one of the best sweet spots is flying Vancouver–Tokyo (on Air Canada or ANA) or Calgary–Tokyo (on Air Canada’s seasonal service) for only 35,000 Aeroplan points in economy class or 55,000 Aeroplan points in business class.
Due to the geographical proximity to Asia, redemptions under the Pacific chart tend to be more favourable than going to Europe.
On the other hand, if you’re based in Toronto or Montreal, then the redemption rates to Europe would be relatively more favourable than going to Asia.
For example, 60,000 Aeroplan points (or often fewer, thanks to Air Canada’s preferred pricing if you hold Elite Status or a credit card) would unlock a transatlantic flight to most parts of Western Europe.
No matter where in Canada you originate from, the “8,001–11,000 miles” distance band on the “Between North America and Pacific zone” chart is a very interesting sweet spot, because it lets you fly a relatively very long distance for only 85,000 Aeroplan points in business class – it’s one of the best distance-to-price ratios of the entire chart, and 11,000 miles is often enough to route through Europe on your way to Asia!
There are also sweet spots closer to home: short-haul flights within North America that are under 500 miles only cost 6,000 Aeroplan points one-way.
Here is a Great Circle Mapper depiction of select major cities that are within 500 miles of Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, and Halifax. You’ll note that there are several places you could fly to within each band for only 6,000 points one-way.
Another very satisfying sweet spot is Hawaii being barely within 2,750 miles of Vancouver, falling just within the third distance band of the “Within North America” chart and costing a mere 12,500 Aeroplan points one-way in economy class at the lower bound of Air Canada’s published range.
In summary, here’s a list of what I’d consider to be Aeroplan’s best sweet spots and most favourable redemptions:
- Short-haul flights of fewer than 500 miles for 6,000 Aeroplan points in economy class
- Flights of fewer than 1,500 miles (e.g., Toronto–Halifax, Vancouver–Los Angeles) for 10,000 Aeroplan points in economy class or 20,000 Aeroplan points in business class
- Major Canadians cities to Mexico for 12,500 Aeroplan points in economy class or 25,000 Aeroplan points in business class
- Central & Eastern Canadian cities to the Caribbean for 12,500 Aeroplan points in economy class or 25,000 Aeroplan points in business class
- Vancouver to Hawaii for 12,500 Aeroplan points in economy class or 25,000 Aeroplan points in business class
- Rest of Canada to Hawaii for 17,500 Aeroplan points in economy class or 35,000 Aeroplan points in business class
- Toronto or Montreal to Casablanca for 35,000 Aeroplan points in economy class or 60,000 Aeroplan points in business class
- Vancouver or Calgary to Tokyo for 35,000 Aeroplan points in economy class or 55,000 Aeroplan points in business class
- Vancouver or Calgary to Auckland for 75,000 Aeroplan points in business class
- Vancouver to Brisbane for 75,000 Aeroplan points in business class
- Central & Eastern Canadian cities to Peru for 50,000 Aeroplan points in business class
- Canada to the “Asia 3” distance band, potentially routing via Europe, for 85,000 Aeroplan points in business class
The Aeroplan Mini-RTW
In addition to simple round-trip and one-way redemptions, one of the most valuable ways of squeezing every drop of value out of your points is by taking advantage of Aeroplan’s generous stopover rules.
A stopover is defined as a stop of more than 24 hours in duration on your way from origin to destination. A stopover can be added to a one-way journey for an incremental 5,000 Aeroplan points.
On round-trip awards, you can therefore have up to two stopovers – and thus visiting three places in total, the destination plus the two stopovers – for an incremental 10,000 Aeroplan points.
In addition to the stopovers, you can also add layovers (i.e., connections of less than 24 hours) to your itinerary, meaning you could visit five, eight, or even ten places all for the price of one.
You’d only be allowed to stay more than 24 hours in your chosen stopover(s) and destination cities, but you could in theory schedule 23-hour layovers in the rest, and get an absurd amount of sightseeing under your belt.
To illustrate, let’s take the following sample itinerary:
- Toronto–Lisbon (layover) on TAP Air Portugal
- Lisbon–Rome (stopover) on TAP Air Portugal
- Rome–Istanbul (layover) on Turkish Airlines
- Istanbul–Bangkok (destination) on Turkish Airlines
- Bangkok–Seoul (stopover) on Thai Airways
- Seoul–New York (layover) on Asiana Airlines
- New York–Toronto on Air Canada
The outbound flights to Bangkok will comprise a single “one-way bound”, while the return flights would comprise a second “one-way bound”.
Both would be priced under the “Between North America and Pacific zone” chart, and since the respective total flown distances are 10,249 and 9,525 miles, both one-way bounds would cost 85,000 Aeroplan points each.
Add 10,000 Aeroplan points for the two stopovers, and we arrive at a total price of 180,000 Aeroplan points for the journey in total.
Essentially, for around 180,000–200,000 Aeroplan points, you’re allowed to visit three cities around the world on a round-trip award – which is one of the most valuable uses of your Aeroplan points, since it allows you to essentially take three trips in one.
There’s much more depth to the topic of “Aeroplan Mini-Round-the-World” trips like these, or Aeroplan Mini-RTW for short – including how you can have up to 10+ destinations on the same ticket, and what exactly is meant by a “one-way bound” in the first place.
That’s beyond the scope of this guide, but I’ve written an in-depth article covering all the details, which you can consult below.
Aeroplan Elite Status
Aeroplan is now Air Canada’s official frequent flyer elite program, known as Aeroplan Elite Status, which replaced the old Altitude Status and Aeroplan Status programs.
To qualify for Elite Status, members will need to earn the following qualification criteria during each calendar year:
- Status Qualifying Miles (SQM): Flight distance (in miles) flown with Air Canada
- Status Qualifying Segments (SQS): Flight segments flown with Air Canada
- Status Qualifying Dollars (SQD): Total spending (in Canadian dollars) on Air Canada flights, including base fares and carrier-imposed surcharges, but excluding third-party taxes and fees
The exact qualification criteria for each elite tier is listed as follows:
To qualify for...
Members will need to earn...
In addition to...
25,000 SQM or 25 SQS
35,000 SQM or 35 SQS
50,000 SQM or 50 SQS
75,000 SQM or 75 SQS
100,000 SQM or 100 SQS
In addition to the above, it’s also possible for Aeroplan members to earn Aeroplan 25K status through Everyday Status Qualification: by earning 100,000 Aeroplan points via eligible sources (i.e., flying activity, eStore purchases, spending on Aeroplan co-branded credit cards, but excluding credit card signup bonuses and points transfers) during any calendar year.
Let’s talk about the elite privileges. As discussed above, Aeroplan Elite Status members will benefit from preferred pricing when redeeming Aeroplan points on Air Canada flights, giving them a discount on the number of points required for an award compared to non-status members.
Air Canada’s eUpgrades have also been retained as part of the new Aeroplan Elite Status. The higher your status level, the more eUpgrades you earn, and you can use eUpgrade credits towards upgrading to a higher class of service on Air Canada flights.
Arguably the most meaningful privileges of Aeroplan Elite Status are Priority Rewards.
Priority Reward vouchers will be distributed depending on how many Status Qualifying Dollars (SQD) you rack up each calendar year (with the first Priority Reward being granted upon reaching 4,000 SQD), and they offer an incredible 50% discount on the number of points required for any eligible flight redemption at the time of booking.
Depending on your status level, “eligible flight redemption” ranges from economy class flights within North America to business class flights worldwide:
- Aeroplan 25K: Canada and US, economy class
- Aeroplan 35K: Canada and US, economy class
- Aeroplan 50K: North America, up to premium economy
- Aeroplan 50K: Worldwide, up to premium economy
- Aeroplan Super Elite: Worldwide, up to business class
Note that each Priority Reward voucher is only valid for one ticket for one passenger, so if you’re booking travel for multiple passengers, you’d need multiple Priority Reward vouchers.
Lastly, the Status Pass benefit (coming in 2021) allows Aeroplan 50K and higher elite members to bestow their elite privileges upon friends, family members, or anyone else, even if they aren’t travelling together.
One standout feature of the new Aeroplan program is Family Sharing, which allows up to eight family members to pool points together.
The household lead of each Family Sharing group has the power to invite members to the pool, as well as designate which members of the pool have the ability to redeem points out of the pool.
There are some rules to be aware of as it relates to joining and exiting a Family Sharing group:
- Once you’ve joined a Family Sharing group, you may not exit the group until three months later
- Once you’ve exited a Family Sharing group, you may not join another Family Sharing group until six months later
It’s also important to note that whenever a redemption is made out of the Family Sharing group, points are deducted from all family members’ accounts proportionally to their current points balances.
There are several benefits that come along with Family Sharing. Not only does it make things more convenient for families who are earning and redeeming points as a unit, but as long as one member of the Family Sharing group has Elite Status or a co-branded credit card, then that member’s preferred pricing benefits are extended to the whole family as well.
Tricks of the Trade
There are so many useful tips and tricks that you’ll pick up once you start playing around with the program. In no particular order, here are a few select ones:
Book early: Everyone is looking for the same award space, especially in high season and mainly in long-haul business class cabins. You’ll want to start searching for space as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.
Schedule change: If your itinerary gets messed up as a result of an airline’s schedule change, you can request to be rebooked on alternative flights, and you won’t be hit with change fees or additional partner booking fees.
Latitude Attitude: Instead of booking an Air Canada business class flight directly, it can also be a great deal to book a Latitude fare in economy class instead, and then use your eUpgrades to instantly confirm an upgrade into business class. This might allow you to save some Aeroplan points for future trips.
Hidden cities: Hidden-city ticketing works with awards too! Want a one-way award ticket Toronto to the Maldives, but reluctant to pay the 100,000 points required for North America to the Atlantic zone? Just tack on a Maldives–Singapore segment at the end, with a stopover in the Maldives instead, and it becomes only 90,000 points for North America to the Pacific zone! The usual hidden-city ticketing cautions apply.
Maximizing Super Elite Priority Rewards: Super Elite members have the means to redeem their vouchers towards 50% off international business class tickets – and considering you can combine six one-way bounds into one ticket, there are some spectacular deals to be had if you can convince a Super Elite friend to lend you their Priority Reward vouchers.
Just below the threshold: You can maximize your points by concluding your trip just below the next-tier distance band. For trips within North America, staying under 2,750 miles in distance flown means paying only 25,000 points one-way for business class. And for Aeroplan Mini-RTWs, the sweet spot is flying to the Pacific zone and keeping the whole trip under 11,000 miles in distance flown, for a very reasonable 170,000 Aeroplan points in business class round-trip (with the ability to add stopovers, too).
Separate bookings: Imagine booking Calgary–Tokyo–Nagoya–Shenyang as one itinerary in business class, but the Nagoya–Shenyang segment is only available in economy class: this would cost 75,000 Aeroplan points. However, if you take advantage of the intra-Pacific chart and book the economy segment separately, it would cost a total of 63,000 points, providing a savings of 12,000 points!
Over five million Canadians actively collect Aeroplan miles. Whether that’s because the program offers outstanding value or because there’s no better alternative here in Canada is something each member must decide for themselves.
I hope that this guide has shown you that Aeroplan is a program where you get back what you put into it. If you dedicate a little bit of effort to navigating the initial learning curve, Aeroplan will allow you to reap massive rewards.