Aeroplan Mini Round-The-World Introduction
As I set out to publish my next trip report, I realized I’ve yet to make a post explaining one of my favourite program sweet spots. While Aeroplan gets a bad name for taxes and fees and lack of availability, the truth is they are actually a very important airline program for Canadians wishing to leverage travel reward points. One of the best kept secrets is Aeroplan’s generous routing rules, in particular, the ability to add two stopovers, or one stopover and an open jaw to any round-trip ticket for no additional miles. In shorter terms, this is call the Aeroplan mini round-the-world, or mini-rtw for short, and is a technique I’ve employed numerous times.
Almost anytime I book a roundtrip Aeroplan reward I look first to see if I can maximize routing rules and add another destination or two. Right now our new contributor Kyle is on a quasi Aeroplan mini round-the-world trip with his family (they aren’t actually flying over both oceans but are maximizing the routing rules), so you can look for some great posts coming soon from him, in addition to my next set of reviews from my trip to Jakarta and Paris, which cost only 155,000 miles in business class!
Aeroplan Mini Round-The-World – The Basics
To employ this travel hacking tool, you will need to have the basics covered. You’re going to want a fundamental understanding of how to search routes, how to find award seat availability, and knowing most of the major airport and airline codes will be helpful. Furthermore, you will want to know which Star Alliance partner airlines have minimal taxes and fees to make it an even better redemption. While many routings are valid, there are several that are not. Keep into consideration the following caveats before beginning your search:
- The routing must be valid and bookable, and fall within Aeroplan’s ‘maximum permitted mileage’ (more on that later)
- You cannot transit the same city twice in either direction. For example, if Singapore was your destination, you could not fly Vancouver – Tokyo – Seoul – Tokyo – Singapore.
- You can fly through the same city on the inbound/outbound. In other words, Vancouver -Tokyo – Singapore -Bangkok – Tokyo – Vancouver would be a valid round-trip ticket.
- If you choose an open jaw, it must be in the same IATA zone:
- IATA 1 – The Americas (incl. Caribbean, Hawaii)
- IATA 2 – Europe as far as the Ural Mountain range, Middle East & Africa
- IATA 3 – Oceania, SE Asia, Far East, Subcontinent.
- If you choose to open jaw, remember you will only have one-stopover permitted (doesn’t impact layovers)
- It doesn’t really matter where you plan to spend most of your time, Aeroplan will choose the furthest point as your turnaround point. Generally speaking, to get the most routing options from North America, your turnaround point – furthest point from origin – will be in Southeast Asia.
Aeroplan Mini Round-The-World Maximum Permitted Mileage (MPM)
Up until a few years ago it was easy to determine if a routing would be valid by searching MPM using a service such as ExpertFlyer. However, Aeroplan recently changed their routing formula and it was largely unknown how many miles were permitted between any two city-pairs without calling in to ask. So, if you were booking a round-the-world trip to Asia, using Singapore as the turnaround point may work with the MPM if you want to fly home through Europe, but Hong Kong wont. It was really frustrating after finding a routing, flight availability, and preferred dates only to be told during booking that the routing wasn’t valid. Some Aeroplan agents would disclose the number you needed to fall within, others would not. Needless to say, it was rather time consuming.
How To Find The MPM Between Two City-Pairs
If you’re not technologically savvy, there is a great Flyertalk thread with a growing list of city-pairs located here. If you don’t see your city-pairs, there are a couple of options to figure it out yourself.
You can call (not recommended, as hold times can be long, and some Aeroplan agents don’t like giving this info out, for whatever reason).
Or, if you’re familiar with the Aeroplan multi-city search tool, you can figure it out yourself quite easily. To do this, simply open the search engine and plug in any arbitrary destinations and dates, ensuring your city-pairs are in the first box. So, for example, say you wanted to know the MPM between Vancouver and Singapore. First you would enter Vancouver to Singapore, then Singapore to anywhere between Singapore and Vancouver (Tokyo in this example), and then whatever city you choose back to your origin. It doesn’t matter if you search for economy or business, the MPM will be the same, but it’s probably easier to find segments with availability if searching economy.
Once you’ve found availabilty on all segments, simply copy and paste the following into the address bar of the search results, and hit enter, and the MPM will pop up!
With MPM in hand, you can now start planning a trip knowing that you have a total of 13,206 miles in either direction to work within (note that Aeroplan generally won’t budge on the MPM, even by a mile).
To find out how many miles your preferred routing is, open Great Circle Mapper (one of my favourite tools) and input your airport codes (this is where knowing them will help a bit). Given a 13206 mile MPM, it’s possible that you could route home as follows, using one city as a stopover and the rest as 24-hour (or less) layovers:
Singapore – New Delhi – Istanbul – Frankfurt – Zurich – Montreal – Vancouver
However, the following routing, which would go from Europe to San Francisco rather than Montreal, would not be valid, given the distance is over the legal MPM.
Aeroplan Mini Round-The-World Considerations
As mentioned earlier, the cost of an Aeroplan mini round-the-world is the same as a roundtrip ticket between the origin and ‘turnaround point’ (the stop geographically furthest from the origin). Therefore, a routing between North America and Asia 2 would be:
- 90,000 miles in economy
- 130,000 miles in premium economy
- 155,000 miles in business class
- 215,000 miles in first class
Also be aware that the entire Aeroplan round-the-world mileage amount will depend on the highest class of service on any given segment. In other words, you’ll get the most value out of your redemption if you can plan all (or most) of your flight segments in the same cabin class.
Obviously redeeming for premium cabin travel will yield a higher cent per point (cpp) on your redemption, but I wouldn’t recommend paying 215,000 miles if you can only get one or two segments in first class. The good news is that Star Alliance has a number of partner airlines with long haul first class, including:
ANA All Nippon Airways first class on the Boeing 777 (great for transpacific)
Thai Airways first class on the Airbus A380 (good availability between Asia and Europe)
Lufthansa first class on the Airbus A380 (good last-minute transatlantic availability)
Air China first class on the Boeing 777 (great availability and seat but the service isn’t the greatest)
Taxes and fees will vary depending on your point of turnaround, and what airports are used for connections. For example, London Heathrow is notorious for high airport taxes, so unless you’re planning a stop there, I would route through a different city. On the other hand, some governments have put in restrictions on taxes, so destinations like Japan and Hong Kong will often result in much lower fees.
Aeroplan Mini Round-The-World – How To Avoid Paying Fuel Surcharges
Lufthansa and Air Canada are probably the worst offenders when it comes to fuel surcharges. While transpacific flights tend to be more reasonable, flights to Europe from North America are borderline insane, with roundtrip tickets easily costing upwards of $1000 in fuel surcharges. If booking first class or business class, this can still represent decent value, but economy travel yields a very poor return on your points once accounting for the fees, and what the ticket would have cost if paying cash.
If booking an Aeroplan mini round-the-world, however, there is a great trick that could potentially save a lot of money if wanting to fly a carrier that imposes charges!
Essentially, Aeroplan will not recalculate taxes and fees once the trip has commenced. Complex routings usually have a number of stops, so the key is to book sort of a ‘dummy’ placeholder flight with minimal taxes and fees, and change the award ticket at your first stop, but before the segment you wish to change.
As an example, say I wanted to book a roundtrip ticket between Vancouver and Frankfurt, but wanted to stop in Detroit on the outbound flight. If I booked Lufthansa from the beginning, I would be looking at roughly $650 in fuel surcharges alone on the Detroit – Frankfurt segment. Yuck.
If I had a couple of days in Detroit, and was flexible with dates (Lufthansa is very good at releasing last-minute award availability), I could simply book any flight across the Atlantic on carriers without surcharges, start the trip, and change it anytime after takeoff from Vancouver . The results? A savings of about $650 dollars in carrier surcharges, as only the original $34 would be collected, as Aeroplan will not recalculate taxes and fees once the trip has started.
If your dates aren’t a bit flexible, I would suggest you book a placeholder flight that wouldn’t be the worst to fly. If you’re flying on a business class ticket, try to get something at least in business class. This way if your preferred carrier doesn’t have space that works with your schedule, you still have a good backup plan. Case in point, I probably wouldn’t actually book the above example if planning a trip, since the transatlantic segment is in economy, which I wouldn’t want to be stuck flying in the event I wasn’t able to change my ticket.
I employ this trick a lot when flying home through Europe from Asia on a first class award. I’ll always book United business class (or first class when they had it) as a placeholder flight for my transatlantic segment (minimal taxes, good availability), and hope that Lufthansa opens up space anytime after I start the trip. They usually do, which has saved me from flying United numerous times.
A couple of considerations when using this technique:
- You will have to pay a change fee, which is $100 per direction (outbound or inbound, not per segment). This can still make sense if you’re potentially saving more than $600 in taxes
- The Aeroplan call centre is not open 24 hours a day, and you will need to call to have the changes made. Coordinating this from the other side of the world requires a bit of extra planning
- Space may not always open up on your preferred routing. Lufthansa first class is what most people want to fly and save the taxes, but you may need a bit of flexibility in your routing/dates to get your preferred flight. If you’re flying to Europe and stopping in Chicago, you won’t have as many flight options to consider compared to being in Frankfurt and flying to North America, with dozens of daily flights featuring first class
Aeroplan Mini Round-The-World Bottom Line
This is my favourite Aeroplan hack, and something I’ll be sad to see go when Aeroplan and Air Canada discontinue their relationship in 2020. Until then, though, I plan to take full advantage of the generous routing rules, and hope to book many round-the-world trips between now and then.
To get maximum value out of your Aeroplan mini round-the-world ticket, keep the following in mind:
- Aeroplan allows two stopovers in each direction, including the destination, so try to plan a trip where you can visit three destinations for the same price as one
- Try to book in business or first class for maximum CPP
- Aeroplan will charge the total award price based on the highest cabin class on any given segment, so try to book all segments in the same class
- Avoid airlines/airports that impose high surcharges, or consider the above trick to save taxes if wanting to fly a specific carrier
Ready to book an Aeroplan mini round-the-world ticket but short on miles? Consider applying for any of the following American Express Membership Reward Cards (transfer partner to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio) to help reach your travel goals sooner!
Apply now for the American Express Business Gold Rewards Card and earn 30,000 Membership Reward points as a welcome bonus.
Apply now for the American Express Platinum Card and earn 50,000 Membership Reward points as a welcome bonus, plus $200 in travel credits annually.
Apply now for the American Express Business Platinum Card and earn 40,000 Membership Reward points as a welcome bonus.
Apply now for the American Express Gold Rewards Card and earn 25,000 Membership Reward points as a welcome bonus.