A guide to the new Aeroplan’s award routing and stopover rules

Dec 3, 2020

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Air Canada recently relaunched its loyalty program — Aeroplan — with a new award chart, earning structure and stopover rules. These changes have been largely positive too. The airline kept a standard award chart with very reasonable redemption rates, too, giving us a break from the many devaluations we’ve seen this year.

That said, the most intriguing part of the new Aeroplan is — at least for me — its routing and stopover rules. The new program allows members to create extremely flexible itineraries that can be maximized to see multiple destinations on one trip. On paper, this seems easy enough to do with the program’s new stopover rules: you can add a stopover on one-way tickets for a 5,000-mile fee.

But it goes deeper than that. Aeroplan has opened up its routing rules to allow customers to make complex routing that maximizes 24-hour layovers on international flights. This is great for travelers who like to make short stops on longer trips or want to split up their long-haul flights with a night in an airport hotel.

In this article, I’ll give you a complete look at Aeroplan’s new routing and stopover rules, giving you a look at how to maximize your points for longer trips that hit more cities. I’ll also give you a few sample itineraries that can be booked without issue.

Let’s get started!

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In This Post

Maximizing Aeroplan’s new routing rules

Air Canada 777 at Frankfurt Airport
(Photo by Vytautas Kielaitis/Shutterstock)

Routing rules are — in short — the rules that dictate how you get from your origin to your destination. This isn’t so important when it comes to nonstop flights, but it helps you understand when you’re booking connecting itineraries.

More often than not, you’ll want to book the shortest itinerary possible. So if you’re flying from Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to Prague (PRG) with your Aeroplan points, there’s a good chance you’ll book something like Chicago to Frankfurt (FRA) to Prague. This is quick and easy.

So what’s the point of learning about these rules? Simple: you can use them to book trips to destinations with limited award space, and you can maximize them by adding in long layovers (up to 24 hours) that give you a day in a new city.

Aeroplan’s new routing rules are extremely powerful and surprisingly simple. This starts with the program’s loosely defined award chart — four regions are shown in the image below. Awards are priced (more on that soon) based on the regions you’re traveling between and the total flight distance, including layovers and stopovers.

Aeroplan Award Regions
(Image courtesy of Air Canada)

Air Canada has confirmed that there is no Maximum Permitted Mileage. Likewise, you can transit via another region — whether for a layover or a stopover. This means you can fly from New York to Delhi via Sydney if you’d like. That said, you’ll pay the mileage required for the total distance of the flight.

As discussed in the intro, you can add one stopover to a one-way flight and two to a round-trip flight for 5,000 points each. All awards are priced as one-way tickets, so you can add an open-jaw to your itinerary too.

This means you can fly Houston (IAH) to Frankfurt (FRA) and Frankfurt to Oslo (OSL) on the outbound. You could then find your own transportation from Oslo to Stockholm and return to Houston by flying Stockholm (ARN) to Paris (CDG) for a stopover and then flying home from Paris to Houston.

Again, you have flexibility in how you actually fly to your destination. This is where the routing rules come into play. The new Aeroplan allows up to six segments on a one-way ticket operated by a partner airline. According to the airline, Air Canada operated tickets will be subject to the airline’s internal routing rules.

So if you wanted, you could creatively route your flight home to Houston with flights through Copenhagen (CPH) and Munich (MUC). This means you could have two long layovers (again, up to 24 hours) in these cities before your stopover in Paris.

ARN CPH MUC CDG IAH Routing
(Image courtesy of Great Circle Mapper)

Unfortunately, you cannot add open-jaws between stopovers or other connections. This means that you can’t stopover in Tokyo and fly out of Osaka to your final destination. The open-jaw must take place after you’ve reached your final destination.

There’s no limit on the number of carriers you can fly with, from what we can tell. Likewise, it looks like non-alliance carriers like Etihad Airways and Air Serbia can be combined.

Related: Why Aeroplan’s generous stopover option adds even more value to Amex cards

Restrictions to keep in mind

There are a couple of restrictions to keep in mind when you’re booking Aeroplan award tickets with stopovers and layovers. The first is that you cannot add stopovers within the U.S. or Canada. Likewise, you’re limited to 12-hour layovers in these countries, so tours of the U.S. are out of the question for Aeroplan rewards.

Likewise, you cannot backtrack through the same airport after you’ve already passed through. This is pretty standard and basically means you can’t fly New York-JFK to Frankfurt (FRA) to Prague (PRG) and back to Frankfurt. In most cases, this isn’t a big deal.

Additionally, your routing needs to stay logical. As first noted by Prince of Travel, this means you can’t book itineraries that have connections that are 100% longer than the direct distance between two cities. This means something like New York-JFK to Abu Dhabi (AUH) to Frankfurt (FRA) isn’t bookable on a one-way ticket.

This is because the distance is over twice of a direct flight between New York and Frankfurt. On the other hand, something like New York-JFK to Abu Dhabi to Delhi (DEL) is bookable as it’s considered a logical routing. You can even book New York-JFK to Delhi (DEL) via San Francisco (SFO) and Singapore (SIN) if you’d like, though San Francisco can’t be your stopover.

JFK to DEL Routing Options
(Image courtesy of Great Circle Mapper)

Additionally, if you’re booking tickets within a single zone, they must stay within said zone. This means that you can’t fly from London (LHR) to Tokyo-Narita (NRT) to Madrid (MAD). You can, however, book London to Frankfurt (FRA) to Madrid. You can even stop in Frankfurt for a few days with a stopover.

If you break one of these rules, you can still book your desired itinerary on one ticket. Just note it will price as two one-way tickets and cost more points as a result.

Quick takeaways

That’s a lot of text, so here’s a quick breakdown of the routing rules. It’s worth noting the airline hasn’t published these rules to the public, but we’ve confirmed these with the airline:

  • Stopovers cost an additional 5,000 points
  • You can add one stopover per one-way ticket
  • No stopovers in the U.S. or Canada
  • You can have up to six segments per one-way ticket
  • You cannot book tickets that are 100% or more physical miles over the direct distance between two cities
  • Itineraries within a single region must stay within said region.
  • There are no Maximum Permitted Mileage restrictions for flight rewards on partners
  • Open-jaw tickets are only permitted between one-way tickets, not between connecting cities or stopovers
  • All flights are priced on a one-way basis

Related: How I booked a round-the-world ticket in business class for 170,000 miles

Pricing an Aeroplan itinerary

Air Canada Express Q400
(Photo by Heather Dunbar/Shutterstock)

Pricing an Aeroplan itinerary is surprisingly simple. As discussed, the award chart is broken into four regions: North America, Atlantic, Pacific and South America. Each of these regions has a distance-based award chart for flights to and from North America and other regions. You can view all of these award charts on the Aeroplan website (warning: PDF document).

Here’s a look at the North America to Atlantic award chart. Remember, the Atlantic region covers all of Europe, Africa, India and the Middle East.

North America to Atlantic Aeroplan Award Chart
(Image courtesy of Air Canada)

You’ll notice that Air Canada flights have price ranges. This is because Air Canada now allows Aeroplan members to book all seats on a flight, so if you’re booking last-minute on a busy flight, you’re more likely to pay at the upper end of the range. Flights with standard “Saver” award space will price at the low-end of the pricing spectrum.

To price an award, use a tool like GCmap to find the total distance of your flight and compare the total miles flown to the award chart. For example, a partner flight from Newark (EWR) to Johannesburg (JNB) with a stopover in Zurich (ZRH) clocks in at 9,157 miles. Under the North America to Atlantic award chart, this would cost 105,000 points in business class when you factor in the 5,000 point surcharge for adding a stopover.

EWR to JNB via ZRH Map
(Image courtesy of Great Circle Mapper)

Related: Pros and cons of the new Air Canada Aeroplan loyalty program

Interesting Aeroplan itineraries

Swiss Air 777 Business Class
You can try a ton of excellent business class products with Aeroplan’s new routing rules. (Photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy)

Excited yet? I know I am.

Here are a few examples of bookable itineraries to illustrate just how powerful Aeroplan’s routing rules are. These itineraries are bookable according to what we know about Aeroplan’s routing rules.

We’ve listed the pricing for each of these awards underneath the itinerary’s summary. These prices are for partner flights, so Air Canada’s dynamic pricing doesn’t need to be taken into account.

A tour of Europe

Europe Tour Aeroplan
(Image courtesy of Great Circle Mapper)

Interested in a trip to Europe once the region reopens? You can maximize Aeroplan’s routing and stopover rules for an excellent trip.

This trip maximizes the outbound and inbound flight with a single stopover and 24-hour connection. Of course, you can add more connections if you can find award space too. Here’s a look at the breakdown:

Outbound:

  • Leg 1: Newark (EWR) to Amsterdam (AMS) – Layover, United Airlines
  • Leg 2: Amsterdam to Frankfurt (FRA) – Stopover, Lufthansa
  • Leg 3: Frankfurt to Prague (PRG) – Destination, Lufthansa

Total distance: 4,138 miles

Price: 75,000 points business class, 45,000 points economy

Inbound:

  • Leg 1: Prague to Vienna (VIE) – Layover, Austrian Airlines
  • Leg 2: Vienna to Istanbul (IST) – Stopover, Turkish Airlines
  • Leg 3: Istanbul to Newark – Destination, Turkish Airlines

Total distance: 5,948 miles

Price: 75,000 points business class, 45,000 points economy

A tour of Asia

Tour of Asia Aeroplan
(Image courtesy of Great Circle Mapper)

If you prefer a trip to Asia, you can use Aeroplan’s pacific award chart to book a tour that looks like this:

Outbound:

  • Leg 1: Seattle (SEA) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND) – Layover, ANA
  • Leg 2: Tokyo-Haneda to Hong Kong (HKG) – Stopover, ANA
  • Leg 3: Hong Kong to Singapore (SIN) – Destination, Singapore Airlines

Total distance: 8,195 miles

Price: 90,000 points business class, 65,000 points economy

Inbound:

  • Leg 1: Singapore (SIN) to Bangkok (BKK) – Layover, Thai Airways
  • Leg 2: Bangkok to Seoul (ICN) – Stopover, Thai Airways
  • Leg 3: Seoul to Seattle (SEA) – Destination, Asiana

Total distance: 8,369 miles

Price: 90,000 points business class, 65,000 points economy

Sweet spot: India via Australia and Asia, returning via Europe

Round The World Aeroplan
(Image courtesy of Great Circle Mapper)

Here’s where things get interesting. Delhi (DEL) — and the rest of India — is considered a part of the Atlantic Zone. This has lower pricing across the board when compared to the Pacific award chart. This means you’ll save points on longer trips while still stopping in Asia and South Pacific.

Here’s a look at a quick example:

Outbound:

  • Leg 1: Los Angeles (LAX) to Sydney (SYD) – Stopover, United Airlines
  • Leg 2: Sydney to Bangkok (BKK) – Layover, Thai Airways
  • Leg 3: Bangkok to Delhi (DEL) – Destination, Air India

Total distance: 13,981 miles

Price: 105,000 points business class, 75,000 points economy

Inbound:

  • Leg 1: Delhi (DEL) to Frankfurt (FRA) – Layover, Lufthansa
  • Leg 2: Frankfurt to Dublin (DUB) – Stopover, Lufthansa
  • Leg 3: Dublin to Newark (EWR) – Layover, United
  • Leg 4: Newark to Los Angeles (LAX) – Destination, United

Total distance: 10,135 miles

Price: 105,000 points business class, 75,000 points economy

Related: 19 things you need to know about redeeming with the new Aeroplan

How to book complex Aeroplan itineraries

Actually booking these itineraries is slightly complicated. For the time being, they can’t be booked online. Instead, you’ll need to find award space using your favorite Star Alliance search tool and then call Air Canada to book. My favorite is United.com — any Star Alliance partner award that’s listed as having “Saver Award” space on the United site is bookable with Aeroplan points.

Note the flight number, operating carrier, and travel date for the flights you’d like to book. Have these on-hand when you call Air Canada to book your award ticket.

United Website Showing Saver Award Space
(Image courtesy of United)

You’ll need to use another search tool when booking tickets on non-alliance partners. For example, you can use American’s website to find Etihad award space. Alternatively, you can use ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures) to find award space on various airlines. The program even lets you set award space alerts for hard-to-find tickets.

Thankfully, this process isn’t permanent. Aeroplan will roll out the ability to book more complex itineraries online over the coming months. You’ll be able to see if your itinerary fits all the rules without having to call a phone representative to confirm, making the process a lot easier.

Related: Ultimate guide to searching award availability for the major airlines

How to quickly earn Aeroplan points

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

The easiest way to earn Aeroplan points is by transferring points from American Express Membership Rewards. These points transfer instantly to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio, so 1,000 Membership Rewards points are worth 1,000 Aeroplan points.

You can earn Membership Rewards points by spending on select American Express cards. Here’s a look at some of our favorite cards and their current welcome offers:

  • American Express® Green Card: Earn 30,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Earn 3x points at restaurants, travel and transit, 1x points on all other purchases, $150 annual fee (see rates and fees).
  • American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first six months of account opening. Earn 4x points on dining at restaurants; 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year; then 1x points); 3x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines or via amextravel.com; 1x points on all other purchases, $250 annual fee (see rates and fees).
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases within the first 6 months of account opening. Earn 5x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines or Amex Travel (earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year, starting Jan. 1, 2021), 5x hotels booked through Amex Travel and Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts; 1x on all other purchases, $695 annual fee (see rates and fees).

The information for the Amex Green Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: How to redeem American Express Membership Rewards for maximum value

Bottom line

In this article, I gave you a look at the new Aeroplan’s routing and stopover rules. Using the information presented here, you can create complex itineraries that let you stretch your Aeroplan points to see more of the world. Bookmark this article and refer to it when booking your first post-coronavirus trip — after all, there’s a lot of traveling to catch up on.

The new Aeroplan program is jam-packed with awesome features — and creative routing is just the beginning. Make sure to the rest of our Aeroplan coverage for a look at all the changes.

Featured photo by Joel Serre/Shutterstock.

For rates and fees of the Amex Green, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.

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