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TPG reader Paul emailed me to ask about booking awards with airline partners:
“I’ve been booking award flights on Air Canada for years. However, I’ve seen your articles about using miles to book with other airlines. Does that mean I can bypass the Aeroplan site and use my miles to book travel directly with any Star Alliance partner?”
The process of booking awards on partner airlines is often confusing to new award travelers, but it’s a skill well worth learning. Alliances and other non-alliance partnerships give you more opportunities to redeem miles for high value, and can help you travel beyond the regions served by your airline of choice. Paul isn’t exactly a “new” award traveler (since he’s been using Aeroplan for years), but it sounds like he hasn’t fully discovered how far his miles can take him.
The first thing to understand is that the miles you use don’t have to come from the airline you fly. You can use the Aeroplan program to book awards not only on Air Canada, but also on Star Alliance partners like United, ANA, Singapore and more. As an example, last year I redeemed 62,500 Aeroplan miles (transferred from American Express) for a first-class flight to Europe on Lufthansa. However, if you’re redeeming Aeroplan miles, then you’ll still do the actual booking through Aeroplan, regardless of which carrier you use.
Another important concept is that while you might use miles from one airline to fly on another, neither of them necessarily offer the best way to search for award availability. For example, when redeeming Aeroplan miles for flights on another carrier, you might prefer to use United.com to browse your flight options, especially if you’re piecing together a complicated itinerary. Once your routing has been established, you can book through Aeroplan either online or by phone.
Using three different airlines to find availability, book your award and actually fly may seem like extra work. However, each program has its strengths and weaknesses, and learning how to navigate them will help you get the most value from your miles down the line.
For more information about booking awards with airline partners, check out these posts:
- Earning and Redeeming Miles on Non-Alliance Partners
- How to Search for Oneworld Award Availability
- How to Search for SkyTeam Award Availability
- Learning to Book Partner Awards — TPG Reader Success Story
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