Aeroplan Drops The Hammer, Makes Award Booking Harder With New Restrictions

Aeroplan may seem like the kind of thing only our friendly neighbors to the North care about, but it’s actually one of the most useful American Express Membership Rewards transfer partners.

Aeroplan has access to the same awards that United does thanks to the Star Alliance. Their award chart is reasonable for many destinations. And their website is pretty good. Transfers from Amex are instant. Aeroplan costs just 45,000 miles each way in business class to nearer Europe.

Winter is Coming for Aeroplan Routing Rules

Two days ago I noted that Aeroplan routing rules were changing in terms of how they determined whether flights were permissible for award redemption.

Every city pair has a published ‘maximum permitted mileage’ — a number of miles you can fly when going from A to B. Some city pairs have more than one set of allowable mileages, for instance flying between North America and Asia has one limit if you’re crossing the Pacific and another higher limit if you’re going via the Atlantic.

Aeroplan allowed you to exceed this published maximum by 5% and sometimes by more when redeeming miles. This was really quite generous.

One Mile at a Time was excited at the prospect of Aeroplan eliminating even this restriction.

I didn’t think this would work out so well, especially because along with the elimination of the maximum permitted mileage rule Aeroplan was going to start automatically pricing awards instead of having agents check whether awards were ok under the rules.

That sounds great, but if they are only allowed to book itineraries that autoprice in the computer there’s lots of room for glitches.. or hidden award constraints that simply don’t price.

Now that the rules are in effect we know that they are worse for flyers than before, much of what used to be allowed when using miles no longer is.

Air Canada and Aeroplan Have Been Getting Worse and Worse for More Than 3 Years

It should be noted that this comes on the heels of Air Canada’s massive devaluation of elite benefits. And note further that Aeroplan was already the most devalued program in North America. In fact, I have been building up my Aeroplan balance with a working hypothesis that things couldn’t get too much worse!

First there was the gutting of their award chart on July 15, 2011. For instance, my favorite award — first class to most of Asia — went from 120,000 miles to 175,000 miles (a 46% increase in one shot). Australia awards went from 75,000 to 80,000 in coach; 100,000 to 135,000 in business (35% increase), and 140,000 to 185,000 in first (32% increase).

Then the cost of redeeming awards went up hundreds of dollars through the imposition of fuel surcharges on many of their partners effective November 2011.

Then last summer they increased award prices again. Remember that first class Asia award that three years ago cost 120,000 miles? It went up to 210,000 miles. First class to Australia? 220,000. And that’s not even the most expensive award.

What the New Award Routing Restrictions Means

There isn’t a new, fully published explanation of what Aeroplan’s new rules are and how they work in principle or in practice.

But Matthew covers what the changes to Aeroplan seem to mean so far.

[R]outings we once enjoyed to Asia via Europe are no longer permitted. The official MPM may be gone, but Aeroplan has now essentially averaged the Pacific and Atlantic MPMs, allowed something in between, and that means the upper bounds of the Atlantic MPM is now too many miles.

…There are, let’s say, some glitches in the system right now…or perhaps exception. Try routing via Istanbul for more generous routing rules…I am sure we will figure out why in the coming days.

This is bad news, really bad news, and I fear it will be worse once we fully figure out the new logic and limits behind Aeroplan’s updated routing rules.

The problem with auto-pricing is apparent: sometimes conventional routings like Los Angeles -London – Beijing make sense, but if the computer says no, the computer says no. We are now at the mercy of the Aeroplan computers.

Lots of awards that used to be possible via Aeroplan no longer are possible. So not only do awards cost more points and more money than they used to, fewer awards are even allowed than before. I didn’t think Aeroplan could get worse in the immediate-term. I was wrong.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The other thing that Aeroplan / Air Canada is really useful for is booking close in flights on United (if you don’t have status).

    My sister needed to fly from California to Ohio less than 21 days out and I was able to transfer points from Amex to Aeroplan and book a United flight for her without paying United’s $75 close-in booking fee.

  2. I am not sure how Los Angeles – London – Beijing is a conventional routing. You are making a 4,000 mile flight 250% longer. This devaluation actually makes sense.

  3. Is it now like lifemiles, you can only book itineraries that the system returns and the agents cant do anything more than the system ??

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