The Beauty of Air Canada Aeroplan’s Routing Rules and “Mini Round the World” Award Itineraries

I’ve written in the past about how much I like working with Air Canada Aeroplan, but an award that I booked yesterday really illustrates the power of those miles.

Their award chart is on the whole pretty good, 80,000 miles for business class from North American to nearer points in Europe and 100,000 in first. For farther destinations like Greece it’s 100,000 and 120,000. A value on some destinations, competitive for others.

South Asia — as far south as Singapore — is 120,000 miles in first class. Great value on its own, but where Aeroplan really shines is the routing rules:

  • Up to 10 segments (not overly generous, but not cumbersome either)
  • Transit either the Atlantic or the Pacific, or one ocean in each direction (round-the-world)
  • Two stopovers — or a stopover and an open jaw — in addition to destination. United allows only one stopover or an open jaw. Continental allows one of each. Clear advantage to Aeroplan.
  • Any connection less than 24 hours doesn’t count as a stopover, so you can do 23 hour 59 minute ‘connections’ .. probably because of the old song, I’m always fond of planning “One Night in Bangkok.”
  • You’re allow to travel either on a published routing or to fly up to the maximum permitted miles for a given city pair plus 5%. Either way, you’re permitted to exceed a route’s permitted mileage.

With that, I helped some folks plan an anniversary trip yesterday, visiting the three cities they wanted to stsay at and giving them a couple of single night stays they wanted at all — all on preferred travel dates. That, of course, is just illustrative of the stellar first class award availability offered by Star Alliance, in this csae booking six months out.

Victoria – San Francisco, United Economy
San Francisco – Frankfurt, Lufthansa First Class
Frankfurt – Istanbul, Lufthansa Business Class

Istanbul – Bangkok, Turkish Airlines First Class
Bangkok – Singapore, Thai Airways Business Class

Singapore – Bangkok, Thai Airways Business Class

Bangkok – Shanghai, Thai Airways First Class

Shanghai – Frankfurt, Lufthansa First Class

Frankfurt- San Francisco, Lufthansa First Class
San Francisco – Victoria, United Economy

I did want to route Istanbul – Singapore via Hong Kong so that the second flight could be in United First Class instead of Thai Business but United was only offering business and the connection wasn’t as good.

But this award gets three long-haul first class segments on Lufthansa, Turkish First and Thai First, and some of the very best ground experiences out there — the First Class Terminal and the Thai Airways First Class spa, plus Turkish will provide ground transportation from Istanbul to the airport.

There are two stopovers (Istanbul, Shanghai) in addition to the destination (Singapore) and two overnight connections (Bangkok, Frankfurt).

The published “MPM” for Singapore – Victoria, Briitsh Columbia is 14,251. Five percent over that is 14,963. This return trip, per Great Circle Mapper, is 14,654. So even with Aeroplan’s generous routing rules, we had only 309 miles left!

I priced out the itinerary as a paid ticket and it was over $27,000. I wouldn’t actually pay that, but it’s still far better than a bunch of LCD toasters!

The only downside is that calls with Aeroplan often seem to take longer than they should, and this is especially true with really complicated award bookings like this one. The agent couldn’t calculate the tax, his system kept having problems, and he needed to hold to contact ticketing. We were using miles from two separate accounts for each of the two tickets, so they had to do each one separately. More time. I calculated the taxes my self on my end, so it really shouldn’t be that hard, I assume most of the time was just waiting in the queue for our agent to talk to someone in ticketing. But I was on the phone for nearly 90 minutes! But for an itinerary like this one, which should be fun for the folks flying it, it was well worth the hassle.

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. That’s a stellar itinerary – well done! I’m having trouble, however, reading which are the stopovers and which are the long transit points. In any case, is it 2 stopovers in each direction (i.e. outbound and inbound) or 2 stopovers for the whole itinerary?

    It has me thinking whether I should consider AC after my BD account gets enveloped into M&M. Can’t think of a more generous *A FFP out there with fairly low *G target (although the best I would probably aim for is Elite, not Super Elite).

    It also behooves me where to find these rules, unless I’m not scouring AC’s T&Cs thoroughly enough.

  2. I just booked a similar trip with Aeroplan and didn’t have nearly the phone call duration that you did. I spoon-fed the flights and dates to the agent (after lots of research using KVS for availability) and the total call duration was under 45 minutes. On top of that he commented “You must book a lot of Aeroplan tickets. You know so much.” If he only knew that this was my first phone in booking with them.

    anat0l….2 stopover and 1 turnaround for the entire trip. And the rules aren’t readily found on AC/Aeroplan’s sites. Instead look through the Aeroplan forum on Flyertalk.

  3. That’s a fantastic trip! I’m sure the contrasting cultures and cities will be striking.

    One question/comment: Are you sure TK will give you car service from IST to the city? The IST arrival flight is not on TK. From my experience last month, one gets car service corresponding to the leg of the TK F flight. Either way, this perk is quite enjoyable!

  4. Is Aeroplan so generous as to offer North America to Australia with stop-over in Asia? Or do they not allow routing via Asia (like United and American)?

  5. @Bradley, you can definitely travel North American to Australia via Asia with Aeroplan (or for that matter, with US Airways)

  6. @Mark re-read my post, I wrote they’d get car service “from Istanbul to the airport.” That is, car service to the airport for their flight to Bangkok… not on arrival in Istanbul.

  7. Gary – what was the total amount of miles you used for this itinerary? And can you share the final taxes on this?

  8. Oops. Sorry for not reading carefully enough. I should have known you’d not be mistaking. I’m sure you already know this, (but might clarify TK rules for others), arriving TK F and leaving TK C does not get you a car ride to the airport either. I tried my darnedest to convince them a ride back to IST would be a part of the F/C experience, but no go. Worth a shot 🙂

  9. Where do you get your MPM figures from? I look at random YY fares on EF but my numbers are way different.

  10. You’re probably looking at MPM numbers *for a Pacific routing* .. there are different MPM numbers for Atlantic vs Pacific routings from North America to Asia.

  11. So if I’m based in a non-AC city is the best way to earn Aeroplan miles to just use my AP # when flying *alliance flights? Is there a credit card or other method of building up miles?

  12. @Nic they are a US American Express Membership Rewards partner, they are a Starwood Preferred Guest transfer partner…

  13. I just signed up for the SPG card, I was just trying to bank all my miles to AA, but sounds like I may just need to keep them all as SPG and transfer when I need them. Thanks!

  14. Gary, I am not sure how much you charge for your service, but this post clearly shows that people can get a lot more for their points by using your service!

    Great post!

  15. Nic: It you’re in the US, there’s a Bank of America Aeroplan card that gets you 1 point per USD spent, with a $60 annual fee.

  16. Gary,
    For the Victoria-SFO leg, when UA makes some F seats available, will you get them automatically? Or are you stuck in Coach?

  17. Using British Airways miles, can you also fly North America to Australia (“South West Pacific”) with a stop in Hong Kong (“Far East”)? I know AA will not allow this routing via Cathay or JAL, but will BA allow it and with a free stopover?

  18. I just spent 180,000 us air miles for 2 bus tixs from ICN – LAX on OZ, plus 90,000 miles for 2 F tixs from LAX – TPA on US.

    It seems like from this post I’ve spent way too many miles for this itinerary.

    Tell me your thoughts and should of contacted you for your services first

  19. @Boss the LAX-TPA flights should have been included in the same itinerary for the same 90k miles apiece unless it was a totally separate trip?

  20. “Tell me your thoughts and should of contacted you for your services first.”
    I am saving saving miles and when I’m ready to book my RTW I am definitely going to use Gary! Now, if I can just find someone who has the time to travel with me! LOL

  21. That a great trip, but to be fair isn’t there a major downside to AC miles – they expire permanently after 6 years or so? This is contrary to most programs which permit you to extend expiration indefinitely. That is huge downside for many of us who accumulate our miles over time in order to save up for big awards (yes, I’m well aware it isn’t the best strategy given continuous devaluation, but it is the only one that works for somewhat infrequent travelers and/or those who can’t take major international trips every year).

  22. @Boraxo yes you do need to redeem every 7 years… seems trivial to me, but others may have a different POV.

  23. @Sam if the Victoria-SFO leg becomes available on UA in First, you can call Aeroplan and they will give you the seats for no charge/change fees. This does not happen automatically. You have to call.

  24. I am the lucky person going on this trip. I couldn’t be happier with the outcome of the itinerary. There is no way I could have put it together without the help of Gary.

  25. would love to know the amount of time spent in each city. could you post how long was spent in each city?

  26. @Eli I purposely left dates off since while I booked the trip, it isn’t MY trip. But I’ll say that they’re gone a couple of weeks.

  27. would you mind saying how much time was spent in each city? dont need to put dates but like for the stops that were only 23 hours versus longer stops?

    thanks 🙂

  28. Istanbul, Singapore, and Shanghai are several days apiece.

    There’s “One Night in Bangkok” and an overnight in Frankfurt.

  29. I have 250k AA miles. I planned to take my niece to Europe as a graduation gift next year. RT / FC would have used them all. After reading this post I’m wondering if I should do something more creative. Will def check out your service site. Thanks!

  30. Gary

    any advice on best carrier or partner with lowest redemption of amex points that i could transfer through for first/business seat between NY and Shanghai, I’ve seen references to aircanada, and ana, but i see star alliance looks better value?

  31. One of the reqiurements on the Aeroplan website states “Star Alliance rewards are applicable for travel on one Start Alliance airline, excluding Air Canada, or two or more Star Alliance airlines, which may include Air Canada.”

    So how come you were able to do this without a flight on Air Canada? I’m at 175k miles right now, but going to have > 240k in a few more months. I’m kind of excited about doing something like this!

  32. This discusses whether to use the Star or Air Canada award chart, and the award was two or more Star Alliance airlines, which MAY (or may not…) include Air Canada.

  33. I’m new to FF award travel and found this post very interesting. A couple questions though – How did your friends acquire the miles to take the trip? Did they have to acquire those miles through Air Canada or could they get them through a partner airline offer?

  34. Hi,
    I am redeeming with Aeroplan on business europe 1 for 90k. I want to fly Turkish airways FCO IST IAD
    I wonder if i can do a layover in IST since Istanbul is part of the europe 2 redeeming group.

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