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Update: Aeroplan increased their award charts July 15, 2011
Air Canada is known for having a pretty flexible frequent flyer program, Aeroplan (which is actually a separately operating company). Some of the things I love about Aeroplan are:
1) 80,000 mile business class awards from North America to most of Western Europe
2) 100,000 mile business class awards from North America to Asia 1 (China, Hong Kong, Japan, North Korea, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam)
3) The ability to do a “Round the World” trip for 100,000 miles. That’s right- and you can stopover in two continents as well.
4) You can book these awards online. Aeroplan recently introduced a new online booking engine that includes a lot of Star Alliance partners.
5) Aeroplan is an American Express Membership Rewards partner, so you can transfer instantly at a 1:1 ratio. Most US card members are unaware of this and don’t leverage Aeroplan nearly enough. So for example, 80,000 Amex points = business class to most of Europe, with relatively low taxes/surcharges as long as you don’t fly on Air Canada flights. Yes, Aeroplan charges more when you redeem for Air Canada flights, so avoid them like the plague.
Some tips for the search engine:
1) Be slow- make sure when you enter an airport code that the system has a couple seconds to recognize it, otherwise it will error out
2) The system doesn’t allow co-terminals. So for example a JFK-FRA-NRT-JFK award is valid, however EWR-FRA-NRT-JFK is not- it won’t allow it to price out (and EWR results won’t populate when you do a JFK search).
3) Scroll down to see business and first class results
4) For some reason it sometimes doesn’t show nonstop options and it will make you connect. I haven’t been able to find a workaround, so if you only see options with 1 stop, try calling to see if something better exists.
So play around with the online search engine and try to push it to its limits. I did a sample New York to Munich (spend a couple days), Munich to Tokyo (spend a couple days), Tokyo to New York in Lufthansa and ANA first class class for 120,000 total miles. Not a bad deal!