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Overview of Aeroplan Star Alliance Award Taxes and Fees

by on March 13, 2013 · 30 comments

in Aeroplan, star alliance

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Aeroplan is the frequent flyer program of Air Canada, which is a member of Star Alliance with 26 (for now) airline partners, and is also a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards – which you earn on cards like the Premier Rewards Gold and the Platinum – and Starwood Preferred Guest. It has also offered some very lucrative transfer bonuses and promotional bonuses in the past for things like converting other points to Aeroplan miles, a 75% mileage bonus for flying certain routes, and shopping through its e-store.

Aeroplan's award chart has some great redemptions like from North America to Europe.

Aeroplan’s award chart has some great redemptions like from North America to Europe.

Not only that, but the airline is flexible with their routing rules and you can build in stopovers to awards, it’s got some very well-priced awards including just 90,000 miles from North America to Western Europe in business class and 125,000 miles from North America to Asia in business (which you can route through Europe and thus construct a “round the world” itinerary), and it has a great engine for searching for Star Alliance availability.

On the negative side, though, Aeroplan levies fuel surcharges on a lot of Star Alliance carriers including Air Canada flights, as well as Star Alliance partner Lufthansa, ANA, Adria, Asiana Airlines, Austrian Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, TAP and THAI; and they don’t price one-way awards at half the price of roundtrips.

So with all that in mind, I wanted to take a closer look at Aeroplan and the taxes and fees it charges on various partner awards. I did not research specific itineraries – such as how to get from San Francisco to Paris – but rather I just looked at award availability for specific segments so that I could find how much the taxes and fees would be for domestic versus international or transoceanic flights on Aeroplan’s partners in various classes. For instance, with Air Canada itself, I looked at how much it would cost to redeem a domestic award in economy and business, and then transatlantic flights in economy and business as well as a transpacific flight in economy and business. Note, all mileage requirements will be quoted roundtrip and taxes and fees in US dollars.

The fee structure is similar on many of these awards whether you’re flying from Los Angeles to Chicago or to New York, for example, so this is really just a cross-section from which to extrapolate. By choosing which partner you fly carefully, you can save hundreds of dollars in taxes and fees – note the huge dollar difference between Lufthansa and Brussels Airlines redemptions. Once I find all these redemptions on Aeroplan’s Star Alliance partners, I’ll put together a handy spreadsheet with estimates of taxes and fees to help you plot out your next award.

For this installment, I’ve just done the redemptions and conversions for some of the most popular Star Alliance carriers including: Air Canada, United, Lufthansa, Brussels Air, Singapore Airlines (only economy internationally since they don’t normally release much advance business and first award space to partners), Air New Zealand (only economy), ANA and South African Airways and will do an update with further Star Alliance partners.

If you have real-life data based on your own past or upcoming award redemptions using Aeroplan miles, please share them in the comments below. Also, Aeroplan.com now shows taxes and fees- a nice change from their move to cloak these fees a couple months ago, so feel free to price out your own itineraries if you see any missing.

AIR CANADA

DOMESTIC
Route: Toronto – Vancouver
Class: Economy
Miles Required: 25,000
Taxes and Fees: $157 USD

Air Canada Toronto-Vancouver Economy Award

Air Canada Toronto-Vancouver Economy Award

Route: Toronto – Vancouver
Class: Business
Miles: 50,000
Taxes and Fees: $157 USD (same as economy)

Air Canada Toronto-Vancouver Busines Award

Air Canada Toronto-Vancouver Business Award

TRANSATLANTIC
Route: Montreal – Geneva
Class: Economy
Miles Required: 60,000
Taxes and Fees: $549 USD

YUL-GVA Economy

YUL-GVA Economy Award on Air Canada

Route: Montreal – Geneva
Class: Business
Miles Required: 90,000
Taxes and Fees: $910 USD (!!!)

YUL-GVA Business

YUL-GVA Business Award on Air Canada

TRANSPACIFIC
Route: Vancouver-Tokyo
Class: Economy
Miles: 75,000
Taxes and Fees: $642 USD

Air Canada Vancouver-Tokyo Economy Award

Air Canada Vancouver-Tokyo Economy Award

Route: Vancouver – Tokyo
Class: Business
Miles: 125,000
Taxes and Fees: $642 USD

Air Canada Vancouver-Tokyo Business Award

Air Canada Vancouver-Tokyo Business Award

UNITED AIRLINES

DOMESTIC
Route: Los Angeles – Newark
Class: Economy
Miles: 25,000
Taxes and Fees: $14.38 USD

United Los Angeles-Newark Economy Award

United Los Angeles-Newark Economy Award

Route: Los Angeles – Newark
Class: Business
Miles: 50,000
Taxes and Fees: $14.38 USD

United Los Angeles-Newark Business Award

United Los Angeles-Newark Business Award

TRANSATLANTIC
Route: Newark- Dublin
Class: Business
Miles: 90,000
Taxes and Fees: $87 USD

Aeroplan EWR DUB 87

United Newark-Dublin Business Award

TRANSPACIFIC
Route: San Francisco – Tokyo
Class: Economy
Miles: 75,000
Taxes and Fees: $88 USD

United San Francisco-Tokyo Economy Award

United San Francisco-Tokyo Economy Award

Route: San Francisco – Tokyo
Class: First
Miles: 175,000
Taxes and Fees: $93 USD

United San Francisco-Tokyo First Award

United San Francisco-Tokyo First Award

LUFTHANSA

INTRA-EUROPEAN
Route: Frankfurt – Munich
CLASS: Economy
Miles: 20,000
Taxes and Fees: $228 USD

Lufthansa Frankfurt-Munich Economy Award

Lufthansa Frankfurt-Munich Economy Award

Route: Frankfurt – Munich
Class: Business
Miles: 30,000
Taxes and Fees: $228 USD

Lufthansa Frankfurt-Munich Business Award

Lufthansa Frankfurt-Munich Business Award

TRANSATLANTIC
Route: New York – Frankfurt
Class: Economy
Miles: 60,000 Miles
Taxes and Fees: $698 USD

Lufthansa New York-Frankfurt Economy Award

Lufthansa New York-Frankfurt Economy Award

Route: New York- Frankfurt
Class: Business
Miles: 90,000 Miles
Taxes and Fees: $868 USD

Lufthansa New York-Frankfurt Business Award

Lufthansa New York-Frankfurt Business Award

SINGAPORE AIRLINES

INTRA-ASIAN
Route: Seoul – Singapore
Class: Economy
Miles: 20,000
Taxes and Fees: $54 USD

Singapore Airlines Seoul-Singapore Economy Award

Singapore Airlines Seoul-Singapore Economy Award

Route: Seoul – Singapore
Class: Business
Miles: 30,000
Taxes and Fees: $54 USD

Singapore Airlines Seoul-Singapore Business Award

Singapore Airlines Seoul-Singapore Business Award

TRANSPACIFIC
Route: Los Angeles – Tokyo
Class: Economy
Miles: 75,000
Taxes and Fees: $88 USD

Singapore Airlines Los Angeles-Tokyo Economy Award

Singapore Airlines Los Angeles-Tokyo Economy Award

Route: Los Angeles – Singapore
Class: Economy
Miles: 75,000
Taxes and Fees: $121 USD

Singapore Airlines Los Angeles-Singapore Economy Award

Singapore Airlines Los Angeles-Singapore Economy Award

BRUSSELS AIRLINES

TRANSATLANTIC
Route: New York – Brussels
Class: Economy
Miles: 60,000
Taxes and Fees: $95.90 USD

JFK-BRU econ

Brussels Airlines JFK-BRU Economy Award

Route: New York – Brussels
Class: Business
Miles: 90,000
Taxes and Fees: $95.90 USD

JFK-BRU Business

Brussels Airlines JFK-BRU Business Award

INTRA-EUROPEAN
Route: Brussels – Geneva
Class: Economy
Miles: 20,000
Taxes and Fees: $59.70 USD

BRU-GVA

Brussels Airlines BRU-GVA Economy Award

Route: Brussels – Geneva
Class: Business
Miles: 30,000
Taxes and Fees: $59.70 USD

Brussels Airlines BRU-GVA Business.

Brussels Airlines BRU-GVA Business Award

Route: Brussels – Nice
Class: Economy
Miles: 20,000
Taxes and Fees: $66.50 USD

Brussels Airlines BRU-NCE Economy.

Brussels Airlines BRU-GVA Economy Award

Route: Brussels – Nice
Class: Business
Miles: 30,000
Taxes and Fees: $102.60 USD

Brussels Airlines BRU-GVA Business.

Brussels Airlines BRU-GVA Business Award

ANA

TRANS-PACIFIC
Route: Los Angeles – Tokyo
Class: Economy (one leg ANA, the other Asiana)
Miles: 75,000
Taxes and Fees: $57.00 USD

LAX-NRT

ANA LAX-NRT Economy Award

Route: Chicago – Tokyo
Class: Economy
Miles: 75,000
Taxes and Fees: $684.40 USD

ANA ORD-NRT Economy Award

ANA ORD-NRT Economy Award

Route: Chicago – Tokyo
Class: Business/First
Miles: 175,000
Taxes and Fees: $691.40 USD

ANA ORD-NRT Business Award

ANA ORD-NRT Business Award

INTRA-ASIAN
Route: Tokyo-Beijing
Class: Economy
Miles: 20,000
Taxes and Fees: $200.00 USD

ANA NRT-PEK Economy Award

ANA NRT-PEK Economy Award

Route: Tokyo-Beijing
Class: Business
Miles: 30,000
Taxes and Fees: $200.00 USD

ANA NRT-PEK Business Award

ANA NRT-PEK Business Award

AIR NEW ZEALAND

TRANS-PACIFIC
Route: San Francisco – Auckland
Class: Economy
Miles: 80,000
Taxes and Fees: $95.60 USD

SFO-AKL econ

Air New Zealand SFO-AKL Economy Award

Route: Los Angeles – Auckland
Class: Economy
Miles: 80,000
Taxes and Fees: 208.10 USD

Air New Zealand LAX-AKL Economy

Air New Zealand LAX-AKL Economy Award

Route: Honolulu – Auckland
Class: Business
Miles: 90,000
Taxes and Fees: $95.60 USD

HNL-AKL in Business Class on Air New Zealand is only 90,000 miles and $95.60

HNL-AKL in Business Class on Air New Zealand is only 90,000 miles and $95.60

TRANS-TASMAN
Route: Auckland – Sydney
Class: Economy
Miles: 25,000
Taxes and Fees: 212.50 USD

Air New Zealand AKL-SYD Economy

Air New Zealand AKL-SYD Economy Award

Auckland – Melbourne
Class: Economy
Miles: 25,000
Taxes and Fees: $129.10 USD

Air New Zealand AKL-MEL Economy

Air New Zealand AKL-MEL Economy Award

South African Airways 

TRANS-ATLANTIC
Route: Washington (Dulles) – Johannesburg
Class: Economy
Miles: 100,000
Taxes and Fees: $120.10 USD

South African Airways IAD-JNB Economy Award

South African Airways IAD-JNB Economy Award

Route: Washington (Dulles) – Johannesburg
Class: Business
Miles: 150,000
Taxes and Fees: $120.10 USD

South African Airways IAD-JNB Business Award

South African Airways IAD-JNB Business Award

DOMESTIC
Route: Johannesburg – Capetown
Class: Economy
Miles: 40,000
Taxes and Fees: $34.40 USD

South African Airways JNB-CPT Economy Award

South African Airways JNB-CPT Economy Award

Route: Johannesburg – Capetown
Class: Business
Miles: 60,000
Taxes and Fees: $34.40 USD

South African Airways JNB-CPT Business Award

South African Airways JNB-CPT Business Award

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • http://twitter.com/keith_mar Keith Martin

    Other than Air Canada domestic/transborder (i.e. US/Canada) flights, the taxes and charges appear to be those charged on normal ticketed itineraries. Fuel surcharge (YQ) is the biggest one in most cases, and you can see that in advance by checking ITA or similar sources.

  • Jerry

    Thanks for this nice summary post. Although Classic reward to Asia 1 should only be 125K in Business in general (e.g. ORD-NRT).
    Nonetheless, it’s the crazy YQ that killed any Aeroplan rewards @@

  • David

    Air Canada charges outrageous fuel surcharges on their trans Atlantic flights (or their partners’ flights) which really devalues the loyalty that I have given them over the years. In a lot of cases it is about the same price to buy a ticket outright.

  • Yyztraveller

    Ridiculous!! I live in Toronto and I have stopped flying AC and stopped actively accumulating aeroplan for the above YQ reason. Domestic and us/can trans-border redemption is outrageous !! Way to go aeroplan ?!

  • Michael

    Does anyone know how to determine the taxes/fees associated with an itinerary without having the requisite number of miles? It’s very frustrating to try and price out an itinerary and not be able to because I don’t have 100k miles in my Aeroplan account. It’s understandable that I would want a total cost before transferring from Amex.

  • iv

    I also live in Toronto and I’ve stopped converting my Starwood points to Aeroplan. All my points go to USAirways (for now) as they do not impose fuel surcharges. Also in some cases even though the points required to redeem may be slightly higher with USAirways the fact that I don’t get dinged with the fuel surcharges more than makes-up for it.

    Only reason I still have points with Aeroplan? Last minute First Class award with Lufthansa which don’t release seats on USAirways any longer.

  • AceK

    Wow. Those fees in many instances equal or exceed the cost of a purchased low-fare ticket. This is a great reminder that for all our complaints, United really offers some outstanding benefits through Mileage Plus.

  • Alexis

    I used an award booking service for an upcoming trip leaving June 25 and returning Aug. 15. LAX-IAH-AMS-CDG-EWR-LAX. It took 90,000 miles each for my husband and me plus $185.30 in taxes and fees total for both tickets.

  • Alexis

    I forgot to say the tickets are in business.

  • Narayanais

    Brian –

    Is Swiss similar to LH in fuel charges or are they better?

    - narayana

  • srdshelly

    I appreciate your discussion on this. I think as we make comparisons it would be well to not think of “$50,000 miles plus $400 in fees”, but to simply call it a 90,000-mile- equivalent redemption, or whatever you value their miles at. “Fuel surcharges” are just a way to lie about prices, and turn a “nearly free” redemption into a “somewhat discounted (if that)” redemption.

  • Jonathan Boekhoud

    I’m curious about the LAX-NRT roundtrip on ANA/Asiana for $57.

    Why is there no fuel surcharge on this award but large surcharges on the other ANA routings? FWIW, I can’t seem to replicate that booking. All the ANA awards I pull up have fuel surcharges, be they one-way or roundtrip on ANA.

  • Corey Malone

    Thank you so much for this. Really puts things into perspective. And nice to see something Canadians can use.

    My girlfriend is Canadian and has Aeroplan miles but judging by this I wouldn’t suggest using them =/

    Is there another miles plan my girlfriend can get into being a Canadian and wanting to do transpacific flights? Would it be smarter to go for AMEX points?

    If only we were married, I would get her every American card there is >=D

  • Tyler

    Probably the easiest way is to get a rough estimate is something like matrix.itasoftware.com and at the end you’ll see taxes and fees, including fuel surcharge (YQ). You’d have to do it leg by leg (or if it’s just a stopover, find a trip that is similar and see the fees there). If you’re looking at doing a mini-RTW you can check out http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/air-canada-aeroplan/1094405-list-valid-booked-mini-rtw-itineraries.html where people post sample itineraries and the taxes & fees (though you should look at posts after Nov 2011 when fuel surcharges were introduced).

  • Michael

    It used to give you the full taxes/fees if you weren’t logged in, but it doesn’t anymore. Still looking for a way to show the taxes/fees on Aeroplan.com.

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  • Jonathan Boekhoud

    The point is not that she shouldn’t use them, but rather that she should use them strategically. As a Canadian and long-time Aeroplan collector, I can tell you there are still a lot of good values to be had.

    Domestic flights in Canada are quite expensive so even with the (modest) fuel surcharge you can usually get good value, particularly on short-haul tickets. For example, YXU-YUL roundtrip is selling for $770 in April, but I can get it for 15,000 points and $166. That’s 4 cents/point. Note that the 15K short-haul tickets also work for Canada-US flights but only on AC metal.

    If you’re going overseas, you can fly United, US, Swiss, NZ, or Singapore without fuel surcharges. Given the reasonably generous award chart and the lax routing rules, I would argue AC is one of the better options for getting to Europe or Asia (provided you’re willing to fly those airlines).

    Once you’re overseas, there are some good intra-regional options like Asia 1 (e.g. Tokyo-Singapore) for 30K and South Pacific (e.g. Auckland-Perth) for 40K, in both cases business class roundtrip with no fuel surcharges.

    Keep in mind that, as a Canadian program, Aeroplan points can be earned pretty easily north of the border at gas stations, grocery stores, etc. They’re also one of the few programs to offer fat credit card signup bonuses in Canada.

    Oh, and just FYI, the Amex MR program is much worse in Canada. You can only transfer 1:1 to Aeroplan and BA or 1:0.75 to a few others like Alitalia and Delta. Amex markets a lot of Aeroplan cards too, so it’s unlikely they’ll add more transfer partners anytime soon.

    If you’re set on her collecting something besides Aeroplan points, there’s a 20,000 point bonus for the Canadian Starwood Amex right now. That’s the biggest bonus we’ve seen on that card. Unfortunately, Amex is not as widely accepted up here as in the US, so she’s still going to need a Visa or MasterCard.

    The finance section on redflagdeals.com does a pretty good job comparing the different Canadian credit cards currently available, and greatcanadianrebates.ca offers an additional cash rebate for some if you enroll through their site.

  • Corey

    thank you for all that info
    I’ll let her know and we’ll do our best to maximize the usefulness of the aeroplan miles. seems to be the best bet now

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  • CZBB

    Air Canada’s fuel surcharge is not just high, in a lot of cases it can actually exceed the total fuel cost per seat. Why more people don’t bitch about it is a complete puzzle to me

    Here’s the math

    Published Distance YYZ-LHR-YYZ: 7112 miles
    Published Fuel Surcharge: $412.00
    Actual Fuel Cost to AC: $398.27 (method 1)
    Actual Fuel Cost to AC: $376.94 (method 2)

    How to calculate the fuel cost numbers from Air Canada’s own financials
    http://www.aircanada.com/en/about/investor/documents/2012_q4_release.pdf

    Method 1:
    Fuel/Available Seat Mile = CASM – Adj CASM = 17.4 – 11.8 = 5.6 cents/seat-mile. However the Adj CASM also includes a few other expenses, so…

    Method 2:
    Available seat miles (millions) (ASM) 67,269
    Fuel Litres (millions) 3,976
    Fuel Cost/Litre (cents) 89.7
    so it cost $3,566.4m in fuel last year to fly 67,269m seat-miles, or…

    3,976m * 0.897 / 67,269m = 5.3 cents/seat-mile

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  • Noel

    I’ve dumped my Aeroplan VISA card because it has proven to be almost impossible for me to get the flights even in economy. Aeroplan has devalued this plan so much that it’s just not worth it. Years ago Aeroplan announced they would allow you to get any seat on any flight (yeah right, if you want to redeem 275,000 miles to go to LA). But along with this they reduced the number of seats available on each flight at the lowest mileage value so it’s harder to get a flight at the lowest point value.

    Also it used to be possible to get a seat on a plane if you booked 364 days in advance and especially a business class seat because Air Canada used to allocate a certain number of seats per plane to the Aeroplan program (which is now a separate company). But now Air Canada only allocates Aeroplan seats on a per route, not per plane basis, so it’s harder to get an Aeroplan seat. Furthermore they are now allocating Aeroplan seats on a dynamic basis so that the availability of Aeroplan seats depends on the demand for the flight, ie the more demand for the flight by paying passengers the fewer Aeroplan seats available. So, first come first serve has gone out the window. A seat not available one day could become available the next, either 12 months before the flight, the day before, or somewhere in between.

    Aeroplan and their associated loyalty credit cards like to tout their bonuses, bonus points for shopping at certain types of retailers, etc. but in the end this is more than offset by the lack of Aeroplan seats available and the fact that when they are the mileage redemption required is often inflated way beyond the lowest redemption.

    I’ve discontinued all of my travel rewards credit cards and have the no-fee Aspire World Cash Back Mastercard which gives me 1.5% cash back on all purchases. That way I pay for the flight (on any airline through a travel agency or the web), get the 1.5% cash back for the payment and then get the reward mileage for the flight on any airline any time. You don’t get any reward miles for using reward miles for a flight btw, but you do when you pay by cash. I figured out the benefit of the reward miles and cash-back for paying for the ticket adds about another 0.3 cents for a total of of 1.8 cents per $ spent. That is worth way more than the average value of an Aeroplan mile IF you can use your Aeroplan miles. Also there is no fee and if you do pay a fee for a loyalty card then your first few thousand dollars worth of purchases each year really yield you nothing in benefits as their worth merely goes to pay for the annual fee.

    Also, I use the free MBNA Smart Cash Mastercard to get 2% back on grocery purchases (but you get 5% back on both gas and groceries in the first 6 months of having the card).

    The ONLY redeeming feature (no pun intended) to the Aeroplan program (which I keep but not the loyalty credit card) is that business class tickets are about a 50-60% premium in mileage redemption but a 300-600% premium in if you pay by cash. Problem is you simply can’t get them anymore. I have my Aeroplan membership tied to my Esso gas purchases so that I can earn at least the one mile required so that I don’t lose my Aeroplan miles if I don’t fly on Air Canada or a partner in the year.

    I am not sure why everyone doesn’t switch to cash back cards. They are worth way more than travel rewards points without all the restrictions.

  • Noel

    I meant to say business class redemption is only available IF you are very very lucky.

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  • http://twitter.com/Yogacan Yogi mogi

    Hey thanks a lot ! this is a great comparison. If you are looking for future ideas :) I would suggest doing a similar comparison on how the mile collecting works in different Star Alliance partners (I know it’d get really complicated with all fare classes but maybe a simplified approach could still clarify the process) Also a similar comparison for SkyTeam and Oneworld would be deeply appreciated :)

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