Secret tricks and tips for booking Aeroplan rewards

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Shutterstock

If you’ve ever signed up for an Aeroplan card, chances are you have a love-hate relationship with the popular rewards program. On one hand it’s easy to rack up the points thanks to credit card sign-ups and bonuses on everything from gas to drug store purchases, and you can earn also points by travelling with any of their Star Alliance counterparts.

But when it comes time to use all those hard-earned points…that’s when things usually go south. Here are some secret tricks for booking Aeroplan rewards that will have you flying first-class for less in no time.

Ditch the taxes

I’m going to cut right to the chase: Aeroplan is one of the worst offenders when it comes to tacking on a stupid amount of taxes for reward flights, which is why the program gets a bad rap. Those who’ve searched for a redemption from Canada to Europe know exactly what I’m talking about—why would anyone in their right mind pay $600 in tax and part with 60,000 points for a trip across the pond, when you can simply buy the ticket outright for about the same price?! Mind boggling. Fortunately, there are some ways around it.

You see, the program passes along a fuel surcharge on behalf of airlines such as Air Canada and Lufthansa, which is why that ‘free’ flight suddenly costs so much when you go to book. But here’s the secret…many of the program’s partners don’t! United, Swiss Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Air China and Singapore Airlines are just some of the carriers who don’t levy the extra fee for redemptions, which is why savvy travellers always look to fly with them to save big bucks.

Lufthansa may be a great airline, but look out for those taxes! Credit: Tupungato / Shutterstock.com

Lufthansa may be a great airline, but look out for those taxes! Credit: Tupungato / Shutterstock.com

For example, I once searched for an Air Canada flight to Sydney, Australia via Vancouver, and the taxes were a staggering $1,200 on top of my 80,000 points—umm, no thanks. Instead, I found a United flight that travelled to Sydney via San Francisco, and only paid $250 in taxes. Not bad for a flight that literally goes around the world.

Pick up the phone

That brings me to my next point. Sometimes it takes a bit of work to find those low-fee redemptions, which is when using your social skills comes in uber-handy. I know what you’re thinking: “Who picks up a phone these days when you can just book everything online?” But when it comes to redeeming Aeroplan rewards, you’ll be surprised at how much you WON’T find on the website, which only an Aeroplan agent can help you track down.

If you have a rough itinerary but can’t find a low-cost reward that fits, it’s worth calling customer service to see what they can pull up on their end. When I was travelling around South America I wanted to book a reward flight with Avianca that was on United’s redemption website, but lo and behold when I went to aeroplan.com it was nowhere to be found. I simply gave them a call, read the agent the flight information, and she managed to book it for me.

One caveat is there is a $30 charge per ticket to book through the call centre, but seeing as how I saved myself hundreds of dollars by forgoing the pricier options (and got first class tickets out of it to boot) it was well worth the surcharge.

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Travel like a celebrity

Are you frugal but want to live like a one-percenter? I have great news for you: booking business and first class tickets are the best use of those coveted Aeroplan miles. Premium plane seats can cost thousands of dollars, but when you break down the cost of redemptions per point it’s actually better value to redeem them for a first class reward versus economy.

You’re welcome. Please save me some champagne.
champagne first class jet

Be spontaneous

Here’s another secret about booking Aeroplan rewards: the cancellation fee is only $90. Now you may think, “A hundred bucks just to change a flight I already paid for!? What the…” but apparently you’re a person who has never had a modify an itinerary before because then you’d realize THAT’S SO CHEAP.

You see, when you call most airlines to try and change your plans they’re all like, “Oh that’s cute. That will be $600 please, even though your flight was only worth $300” and I’m not even kidding. That’s why Aeroplan is amazing if you need to book a flight but aren’t 100 per cent sure if you’ll need to reschedule—you simply cancel, and they give all your points back minus the $90 bucks! Easy peasy.

Update as of November 2016: Aeroplan is changing their cancellation and refund charge structure, which now range in price from $30 to $150 depending on program status. 

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Shutterstock

No turning back

One of my absolute favourite things about the Aeroplan program is that unlike conventional airlines, they don’t penalize flyers for one-way trips. That means the rewards redemption for a one way flight is exactly half the amount of points required for a round trip ticket (as everyone should do, IMO). Smart travellers visiting multiple destinations on one trip can use this to their advantage, for example by flying into Paris and home from Rome.

A trip to Paris? Don't mind if I do! Courtesy of Shutterstock

A trip to Paris? Don’t mind if I do! Courtesy of Shutterstock

Now, pay attention as I have a HUGE. TIP. FOR. YOU. It turns out that sometimes you can actually save points by booking two one-way flights, instead of a return flight.

Reward availability occasionally means there are only premium seats for one leg of the flight, but not on the the other. However, Aeroplan will try and ding you points for a premium reward both ways. Yuck! If you’re stealth enough to notice the discrepancy, simply book each leg separately and you’ll get to keep those extra points from the economy leg.

Do you have any secret tricks for booking Aeroplan rewards to add to this list? Please share them in the comments below!

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62 Responses

  1. Cj says:

    Thanks for posting this!

    My wife and I have been all over the world on Aeroplan using your exact same stradegy. Going to south east Asia thru San Fran, or Europe thru Chicago, etc etc!! People have asked why we’ve had so much success with the program, where they seem to not?
    I also have to agree about the call centre. The $30 surcharge and being on hold for 20 mins saved me $1400+ a few times!!

    Thanks again

  2. John says:

    Great article; thanks for the pointers…especially on how to lower the taxes and surcharges.

    One irritant, though, is your use of “try and” vs. the grammatically-correct “try to”.

    On one occasion you say, “Aeroplan will try and ding you…” Aeroplan will either “try to” ding you and fail (presumably if you catch on and change your plans) or they will simply ding you (no need for the try – and or to – at all.

    Yes, I’m being pedantic; but, if you’re going to be in the business of communicating, it’s best to do so correctly.

  3. Franco says:

    Thanks!
    What’s the policies on canceling those cards after that XXXXX points bonus at sign in?
    Can one just cancel it after a few months and keep the points?

    • Yup, that’s usually allowed. However as I understand it, it doesn’t do your credit rating any favours if you go through cards so quickly. What I do is keep the card right until before it’s set to expire (even if I haven’t used it for 9 months) and then cancel it right before the annual fee is due.

  4. Anderson says:

    Do you have any advice on redeeming Aeroplan miles specifically for FIRST class on Lufthansa or Singapore? I can never seem to find a first class option on the Aeroplan website despite finding the route and availability via Lufthansa or Singapore’s website.

    Thanks!

    • I hear ya. Singapore Airlines (my favourite) is one that typically doesn’t show up on the Aeroplan booking site unfortunately. You can try navigating their Kris Flyer site to track down availability, but as far as I know the only way you can actually book it is by calling Aeroplan. They have that $30 call fee, but you might be able to ask the agent to waive the fee if you’ve already done all the work of tracking the flight down yourself. They’ve waived fees for me before, so worth a try!

      • Joan says:

        Do you usually have to do all the work yourself before calling in to an agent, or can you simply call Aeroplan and let them know where you want to go on which dates and which airlines (on Star Alliance but not Air Canada) and they do the work to find the flights?

        • In my experience it helps to do the work yourself before calling, so that when they inevitably say they can’t find anything you can helpfully direct them towards the exact booking you’re looking at.

          • Sandra Regier says:

            How do you know if the flight you are tracking down is even available through Aeroplan? I thought they only have limited seats they release every so often? I hope you are right!! I’m trying to book 7 seats to Costa Rica and finding NOTHING on the aeroplan site.

  5. Astrid says:

    Thanks for the great tips!
    Do you know if stopovers are allowed on a one way flight (Aeroplan points redemption)?

  6. Nick says:

    It seems that these days most of the aeroplan cards only let you get the welcome points once in a lifetime. I’ve already got a welcome bonus from visa once and AMEX once, so what now? Any trick to keep getting those bonuses?

    • Hi Nick, I have seen some cards limit how often you can get the bonus (for obvious reasons), but have also heard stories about people being able to reapply and get the bonus. Have you had any luck trying to reapply for a card you once had?

  7. Danielle says:

    These are great tips – thanks! Any idea about using miles more than a year in advance? I’m a planner … It’s tough to wait

  8. Matthew says:

    This is very helpful, thank you. I often fly out of Halifax, and if I want to go to Europe, Aeroplan wants to route me via a Halifax-Heathrow Air Canada flight, which has a very high tax & surcharge fee. If I want to use United, the logical connection is Halifax-Newark-Europe, because there is a direct Halifax-Newark flight on United. But on the Aeroplan site online, the direct Halifax-Newark flight via United doesn’t show up – they are only offering me Halifax-Boston (via Air Canada), and then Boston-Newark on United. It will still save me some money, but the extra stop in Boston is annoying. Are you saying that the direct Halifax-Newark flight (via United) WOULD be available if I booked by phone using an agent?

    • So frustrating isn’t it! Yes, I would recommend going on the United rewards site first to check which flights they have available, then call Aeroplan and see if they can get you on one of them. Good luck!

    • Philipp says:

      Depending on where you want to end up in Europe… ZRH is a great hub to go to. From Zurich you can pretty much get anywhere in Europe using Star Alliance Carriers (via Aeroplan). I frequently fly YHZ-YUL-ZRH using strictly Aeroplan for Business Redemption. SWISS is very good, much higher overall standard than AC. LX87 out of Montreal periodically uses their new flagship, Boeing 777. Airport taxes are up to 8 times less going that route vs. LHR which you mentioned in your post. I suggest to never travel to LHR unless your final destination is London. Another decent route is YHZ-BOS-ZRH, again use AC from Halifax to Boston and then SWISS from Boston to Zurich. Business makes sense here as you have a longer layover and want to enjoy the international business lounge. I generally avoid using U.S. Hubs when going to or traveling from Europe. Especially coming back you will most likely deal with very long waiting times at Immigration. I use NEXUS but not everyone does. Here are a couple more: YHZ-YUL-MUC using Lufthansa from Montreal to Munich, Business and sporadically you can snag some First Class Tickets (O) as well. Another one: YHZ-YYZ-FRA, Lufthansa again from Toronto to Frankfurt on their newer 747-8 with upper deck business class or sometimes in 3 class configuration. Going first here, you will be picked up in a black BMW on tarmac and chauffeured to the arrival lounge. The LH First class lounge has it’s private immigration booth and every other luxury you could imagine. Just some food for thoughts. Enjoy! Philipp, Truro NS, 2Mio Aeroplan Points.

  9. Kay says:

    Thanks Tamara for great tips. The only confusion about your tips is about First class or Bussiness flights rather than Economic ones. How might it benefit us when it costs so much more air miles compare to economic ones? Can you clear it up for me, please?

    • Hi Kay! Essentially it comes down to how you value the miles. For example, let’s say you redeemed 20,000 points for an economy flight that would normally cost $600, that means the points would be worth $0.03 each. But if you redeemed 50,000 points to get a first class ticket on the same flight which would cost $2100 if you bought it outright, your points are now worth more than $0.04 cents each, so you’re technically getting more value out of them.
      Hope that makes sense!

  10. Drew says:

    Does that still work calling in to Aeroplan and getting them to find flights that are not actually on Aeroplan’s website?

    For instance if I find a flight I want on Polish LOT’s website that isn’t on Aeroplan’s – I can call in and give them that flight information and they can use my points for it?

    • Hi Drew, as long as there are reward tickets available for that LOT flight, they should be able to book it. Unfortunately you need to remember that just because you can see seats available for a flight, it doesn’t mean there is reward space available, which is what the Aeroplan call centre can look into for you.

  11. Maria says:

    Hello Tamara! Thanks for this blog!

    I want to add my recent experience with Aeroplan and believe it or not, it was pleasant! I booked flights online using my points for our trip in December…yes…11 months away! When I got my email confirmation, I saw that we were already assigned seats as I did enter our seat preferences when I completed our information. When I checked our seat numbers, we were way at the back – next to the washrooms and I was so disappointed. I know my family would be once they find out. I don’t want to spend money buying seats to change them. That is how I came across your blog hoping that you would have some tips about this.

    Desperate, I tried calling Aeroplan and lo and behold – they were nice enough to change our seats. They said the system just automatically assign those seats because of course it has to start from the back. So that’s my tip! If you get bad seats when you book online using your Aeroplan points, just call and they could change them for you, depending of course on availability. The lady actually even said with Aeroplan, you don’t have to pay for seats. How sweet! Happy travelling to all!

  12. Tina says:

    Thank you so much Tamara for this information. Exactly what I am looking for as I am trying to redeem my point for very first time. Just one question how do I find out about other airline which have seat available before I call in, Do I just go on the website of that airline ? Thanks again Tamara

    • Check the options on the Aeroplan website first, and if you don’t see anything you like then try to go to the specific rewards program of each airline (i.e. Kris Flyer for Singapore Airlines, United’s Mileage Plus, etc) and try to see award availability there before calling in. Hope that helps!

      • Sandra Regier says:

        Do I have to be a member of those other programs to see what flights are available? Any tricks on how to do that?

        • Yes you do, but you can just sign up for a new account and once you do it will let you access their rewards flight schedule, even if you don’t have any of the airline’s specific “points”

  13. sona says:

    I am trying to book a flight to India and would have preferred Business/First Class but can’t seem to find anything in May. Any other hints. The Air Canada, economy ticket taxes and fees are almost $650 plus 75000 points. The ticket itself to purchase is only about $1,300. i am so disappointed. I have been saving for years to get a First class flight.

    • Unfortunately availability isn’t always the best, especially if you’re trying to book a ticket only a couple months out as it sounds like you are. I’d suggest calling Aeroplan and seeing if there’s first class availability through one of their partners, like United or Singapore Airlines. Good luck!

  14. Danny says:

    Being new in this game this may be a novice question. When I look at another airlines site like United they have saver award and regular higher priced awards available for different flights. Am I only allowed to call Aeroplan to get the saver award flights for a United flight?

    • Hi Danny, unfortunately while you can book some United flights through Aeroplan’s site directly, those saver rewards you’re referring to are actually part of United Airlines’ frequent flyer program so you’ll need those type of points (Mileage Plus) to book the flights you’re seeing on their site.

      If you think you’ll be booking United flights a lot, it may be worth signing up for their program and earning Mileage Plus points on flights instead of Aeroplan miles.

  15. George Hill says:

    Any hints on using aeroplan points to book a business class fare to Australia ? They NEVER seem to be available – even looking at flights 1 year away, operated by Air Canada, where the normal commercial AC booking site, shows no existing bookings in bus class. Very frustrating.

    • Hey George, I actually had good luck using Aeroplan to book my Calgary-Sydney flight, but through United. Don’t go with Air Canada- their fuel surcharges are crazy high.

  16. Raj says:

    This weekend we just booked 2 one way business class tickets from Toronto to Perth Australia, flying out next year. The one thing I strongly recommend to reduce the taxes is to keep your dates flexible as there will be different flight routes on different days. For example, depending on the day I found the following flight choices to Perth:

    1 – Air Canada (AC) to Denmark and then Thai Airways via Thailand – Taxes for both tickets $1690
    2 – Brussel Airlines to Belgium and then Thai Airways via Thailand Taxes $1630
    3 – AC to Beijing and then Singapore Airlines via Singapore Taxes $969
    4 – AC to Tokyo and then Singapore Airlines via Singapore Taxes $965
    5 – Ethiopian Airlines to Addis Ababa and then South African Airways via Johannesburg Taxes $214
    6 – Eva Air to Taipei and then Singapore Airlines via Singapore Taxes $153

    Based on this we chose the Eva Air flight not only because of the low taxes but also due to its high business class reviews and the opportunity to check out the Singapore business class.
    We plan to fly back from Sydney in premium economy the taxes on both tickets will be just $93!

    • Hi Raj, that’s so awesome! As you’ve illustrated, it can take a lot of work to find the best rewards option, but is so worth it when you can fly around the world for only a couple hundred bucks. Have fun in Australia!

  17. Clarence says:

    If one is traveling from Calgary to Paris and only a few flights are available, how does one fly through for example Zurich without using additional Aeroplan miles by booking two separate trips? Or does one find their own itinerary and then phone the booking center and then they book it all for you under one trip. Can you help?

    • Hi Clarence, Europe is interesting because it’s so cheap to get around once you’re there, so you may want to look at flying into a different destination with an airline that doesn’t have fuel surcharges (i.e. landing in Brussels, Zurich or Poland) and then paying your own way from there to Paris. For example, Brussels to Paris is a quick train ride.
      Failing that, look through other Star Alliance partners’ websites (such as United Mileage Explorer) and see what they have available. This will save time when you phone the booking centre to see if they can get you on that flight.
      Good luck!

  18. John says:

    Hi, Tamara – my wife and I are planning a points trip from Ottawa to either Zagreb or Ljubjana for September/October this year, and we are trying to avoid taxes as best we can. Using the Aeroplan trip planner I can’t book on any of the airlines that charge low or no surcharges (Turkish, Brussells, and LOT) even though they all provide connections from Ottawa to Zagreb. So what do I do? Do I call Aeroplan with the flight I want and ask them to book it using my points? Or is that even possible?

    • Hi John, in this case I would definitely call Aeroplan, and make sure you have a few flight options with those other airlines up on your screen so you can point them in the right direction. There’s a chance that there won’t be award availability, but you should definitely try!

  19. Felipe says:

    Hi Tamara,
    I need to buy 4 tickets to Sao Paulo BRA (4 adults 2 kids) for Feb/2018 and only have enough miles to cover 2… I can see already not retrieving direct flight for departure… what would your recommendation to best solve this please ? We’d prefer direct flights and paying for 2 tickets fair fare (not paying for making up miles to cover the other 2 tickets)…
    Thanks in advance for your help!
    Cheers,
    -Felipe

  20. Christine says:

    Hi Tarama,
    I have booked 2 award ticket from YYZ to YVR but I want to change it to business class. Does it considered as a change and I have to pay $100 each? Any way to avoid it?
    Thanks.
    Christine.

  21. Mike says:

    Helpful thread – thanks Tamara.

    I had to cancel 2 tickets bought through aeroplan last year with my wife. I have the points credited, but apparently they need to be used within one year, or they are lost(!). We have holidays in another month, but that will be past the expiry date. Do you happen to have any tips on how I could preserve the credits? Any help would be appreciated!

    • Hmm I’m not sure I 100% understand the situation- will the specific points that were refunded expire within a year, or are they referring to all of the Aeroplan points in your account? If it’s the latter then that’s true- the program stipulates that accounts must be active at least once a year or all of the accumulated points will disappear. The good thing is it’s super easy to get points- you can just swipe your Aeroplan card when you fill up at an Esso station for example, or use a credit card that earns Aeroplan points (or allows you to transfer to them, like Amex does). Hope that helps!

  22. Tony Cacioppo says:

    something is not right with aeroplane. I’m trying to book a flight to Rome business class ,but it keeps on giving mixed cabin options, with the transatlantic flight in economy. Very frustrating. i tried other dates and different destinations, and they all have the same pattern. 1 0r 2 stops and the the transatlantic is ALWAYS ECONOMY class.

    • Hi Tony, that’s definitely very frustrating. I’d phone their call centre if I were you as they might be able to find more options on their end (and ask them to waive the $30 booking fee, since it doesn’t sound like it’s possible for you to book it online).

  23. Satty says:

    Hi Tamara, very informative article.
    I have a question regarding the pending Air Canada split from Aeroplan on 30 June 2020. I know that it is business as usual, in booking and taking reward flights, until that date and that it may or may not be possible (likely not in current form) to book Air Canada/Star Alliance flights using Aeroplan points after June 2020. However, I cannot find any information on the following situation, where an Aeroplan rewards flight is booked on Air Canada/Star Alliance airline before June 2020 but the actual flight will be after June 2020.
    Would you have any insight if this would be allowed or would all Aeroplan flights have to be booked and taken before June 2020? Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Satty,
      Bookings for rewards flights are only opened up 365 days in advance, so it’s not possible to book flights in 2020 yet. As such, we’ll have to wait and see what happens- unfortunately they haven’t shared too many details about the new rewards program yet!

  24. Troy says:

    When you dont have points to redeem frequently, you end up in a situation like mine. I had accumulated enough to do a return reward flight Business class. So, I booked 9 months in advance. Lo and behold, two months away and I find I need to cancel the first leg. Called Aeroplan and was told me I could not ask for a refund for the outbound unless I cancel the whole trip and rebook but of course there are no reward seats. Or, I could change the date to within a year with a $150 charge but will lose my points if I do not use the ticket within a year. BIG mistake I made was not to buy 2 separate reward flights, this way I could have happily canceled one. Any tips on something I might be missing and could do?

    • Oh no! Sorry to hear that Troy. I think you’ve flagged a really important tip for everyone here, about booking legs separately if possible to avoid exactly what happened to you. Thank you for sharing!

      • Raj says:

        Yes, wise words. We always book one leg using my points only and the other leg using my wife’s points only. The other advantage of doing it this way is that if I were to book both legs for myself using my own points then there is a possibility that when my wife went to book her flights, none may be available!

        • Totally- such a risk but worth it if it works. Have you ever had that happen where the other flights disappeared? I guess one way to avoid that would be if you both pull up the booking platform at the same time and hit “Confirm” simultaneously!

  25. Raj says:

    The only time where there was a case of “the other flight disappeared” was when we booked an Aeroplan flight for the very first time ( economy return Toronto to Vancouver) back in 2003 we booked separately using our own points and when we went to book my wife’s flight the same return flight was no longer showing and as she didn’t want to fly back separately I had to call customer service and have my return flight changed to match her flight (paid $50 I think), since then we have always booked each leg separately for both of us together using one person’s points only to avoid this situation..
    On a related note, it is strange that on a particular day Aeroplan states no flights are available, when every seat is still available that day. This happened when we booked our return leg from Australia earlier this year, according to Aeroplan there were “no available flights” in Premium Economy on the day we wanted to return with the next available flights being 2 days later which we then booked. However, checking the available seats on the Air Canada website, every single Premium Class seat was still available/unoccupied for the original day that we wanted to return, just not according to Aeroplan.

  26. Aman says:

    How do you guys see other airlines on the Aeroplan website? All I get is AirCanada for every single search I do. Is there a trick to this that I’m missing?

    • Unfortunately it usually defaults to that for Canadian flights- the only way to see other airlines is when you’re flying internationally. If you’re still not seeing any from other airlines, it’s worth phoning Aeroplan to see what they can dig up on their end.

  1. April 28, 2016

    […] Secret tricks and tips for booking Aeroplan rewards […]

  2. March 22, 2017

    […] RELATED: Secret tricks and tips for booking Aeroplan rewards […]

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