Complete guide to Aeroplan's stopover and routing rules
Air Canada relaunched its loyalty program — Aeroplan — with an updated award chart, earning structure and stopover rules in 2020. These changes have been largely positive, too. The airline kept a standard award chart with very reasonable redemption rates, giving members a break from the many devaluations we’ve seen.
That said, the most intriguing changes to Aeroplan's program involve its routing and stopover rules. You can add a stopover on a one-way itinerary for just 5,000 Aeroplan points and another stopover on the way back with a round-trip booking, costing another 5,000 points. As of September 2022, you can also do this online.
Taking a detailed look at Aeroplan’s current routing and stopover rules will help you maximize your points for longer trips that hit more cities. Also, check out the sample itineraries below for examples of ways to add more great destinations when you plan your next trip.
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Maximizing Aeroplan’s new routing rules
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 the possibilities 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's O’Hare International Airport (ORD) to Václav Havel Airport Prague (PRG) with your Aeroplan points, there’s a good chance you’ll book something like Chicago to Frankfurt Airport (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 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.
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 flights.
Now, Aeroplan lets you 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 also add an open jaw (arriving in one city and then departing from another) to your itinerary on round-trip tickets.
This means you can fly Houston to Frankfurt and Frankfurt to Oslo on the outbound. You could then find your own transportation from Oslo to Stockholm and return to Houston by flying Stockholm to Paris for a stopover and then flying home from Paris to Houston.
Again, you have flexibility in how you fly to your destination. This is where the routing rules come into play. Aeroplan permits 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 and Munich. This means you could have two long layovers (again, up to 24 hours) in these cities before your stopover in Paris. Just note that you'll have to call in to book these long layovers; an itinerary involving this many cities can't be booked online.
Unfortunately, you cannot add open jaws between stopovers or other connections. This means 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 remember when 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.
Also, you cannot backtrack through the same airport after you’ve already passed through. This is pretty standard and means you can’t fly New York to Frankfurt to Prague 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 to Abu Dhabi to Frankfurt isn’t bookable on a one-way ticket.
This is because the distance is more than twice that of a direct flight between New York and Frankfurt. On the other hand, something like New York to Abu Dhabi to Delhi is bookable as it’s considered a logical route. You can even book New York to Delhi via San Francisco and Singapore if you’d like, though San Francisco can’t be your stopover.
If you’re booking tickets within a single zone, they must stay within said zone. This means that you can’t fly from London to Tokyo to Madrid. You can, however, book London to Frankfurt to Madrid. You can even stop in Frankfurt for a few days with a stopover.
It's a little complicated, 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.
- You can stop over for up to 45 days.
- 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 that 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.
Note that Air Canada's system decides what can and cannot be booked. This means you could still run into issues on more complex itineraries. If this happens, you can try politely ending the call and calling back for another representative. In some cases, however, you may need to change your booking.
Related: How I booked a round-the-world ticket in business class for 170,000 miles
Pricing an Aeroplan itinerary
Pricing an Aeroplan itinerary is surprisingly simple. The award chart is broken into four regions: North America, Atlantic, Pacific and South America. Each region has a distance-based award chart for flights to and from North America and other regions. You can view 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 Europe, Africa, India and the Middle East.
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 to Johannesburg with a stopover in Zurich 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.
Related: Pros and cons of the new Air Canada Aeroplan loyalty program
Interesting Aeroplan itineraries
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 economy award 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 considered.
A tour of Europe
Interested in a trip to Europe? You can maximize Aeroplan’s routing and stopover rules for an excellent trip.
Here's a look at what I pieced together for 85,000 points and $240.49 in economy. Here, you can visit Lisbon, Madrid, Prague and Frankfurt on one itinerary. However, you will have to find your own transportation from Madrid to Prague. You can potentially maximize this trip even further by adding a couple of 24-hour layovers if award space allows.
A tour of Asia
If you prefer a trip to Asia, you can use Aeroplan’s pacific award chart to book a tour that includes stops in Seoul, Bangkok and Tokyo. In economy, this itinerary costs 130,000 points and $160.25 in taxes and fees.
Sweet spot: India via Asia, returning via Europe
Here’s where things get even more interesting. Delhi — and the rest of India — is considered a part of the Atlantic Zone. This has lower pricing across the board compared to the Pacific award chart. This means you’ll save points on longer trips while stopping in Asia and South Pacific.
With that in mind, you can book something like this for 150,000 points and just under $180 in taxes and fees. The above itinerary visits Seoul, Delhi and Warsaw. Again, you could further maximize this by adding in a 24-hour layover or two if you want to visit another city on your way to or from your final destination.
Related: The best ways to maximize Air Canada’s Aeroplan program
How to book complex Aeroplan itineraries
As of September 2022, you can finally book Aeroplan itineraries with a stopover online. You'll need to use the multi-city booking tool on Air Canada's website and enter the stopover airport you want to use. Just note that you cannot add your own layovers, so if you want to book specific connecting flights, you may need to call Aeroplan.
If you're having issues with this, it's a good idea to search for your flights one at a time for each segment and then try to compile them later on. You can do this on Air Canada's website or with your favorite Star Alliance search tool. After finding the flights you want, if you can't accomplish what you want online, you can call Air Canada to book.
My favorite search tool is United.com. Any Star Alliance partner award 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 if you call Air Canada to book your award ticket.
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.
Related: Ultimate guide to searching award availability for the major airlines
How to quickly earn Aeroplan points
Air Canada's Aeroplan program is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Capital One miles, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy. Other than Marriott, transfers from these other programs are at a 1-to-1 ratio and should occur immediately.
Transfers from Marriott Bonvoy to Aeroplan are at a 3-to-1 ratio and can take four days to finish. Additionally, you'll get a 5,000 airline mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points you transfer. This means that 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points equal 25,000 Aeroplan points.
If you're looking for a stash of Aeroplan points, consider applying for the Aeroplan® Credit Card. Applicants can earn 50,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. You can read our full review of the Aeroplan card here to learn more about its benefits.
Note that for applicants in Canada, Aeroplan has different credit cards, which you can learn about here.
Since Aeroplan has multiple points transfer partners, any credit card earning those points can effectively earn Aeroplan points. That includes the following popular travel cards:
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. Cardmembers earn 5 miles per dollar spent on hotels and car rentals booked through Capital One Travel, and 2 miles per dollar on everything else. The annual fee is $95.
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. Cardholders earn 10 miles per dollar on hotels and car rentals booked via Capital One Travel, 5 miles per dollar on flights booked via Capital One Travel and 2 miles per dollar on other purchases. The annual fee is $395.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases within three months from account opening. Cardmembers earn 5 points per dollar on travel booked through the Chase travel portal, 5 points per dollar on Peloton Bike, Tread and Guide purchases over $450, with a maximum earning of 25,000 points (through June 2022), 5 points per dollar on Lyft (through March 2025), 3 points per dollar on dining, select streaming services and online grocery store purchases (excludes Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs), 2 points per dollar on all travel not booked through the Chase travel portal and 1 point per dollar on everything else. The annual fee is $95.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases within three months from account opening. Cardholders earn 10 points per dollar on hotels and car rentals purchased through Chase Travel, 10 points per dollar on dining purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 5 points per dollar on flights purchased through Chase Travel, 3 points per dollar on all other travel (excluding the $300 travel credit) and dining purchases worldwide and 1 point per dollar on everything else. The annual fee is $550.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership. Cardmembers earn 5 points per dollar on airfare purchased directly with the airlines or through the Amex Travel portal (on up to $500,000 of airfare purchases per calendar year). Plus, you’ll earn 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked with Amex Travel. The annual fee is $695 (see rates and fees).
Related: How to redeem American Express Membership Rewards for maximum value
In this article, I gave you a look at 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 upcoming itineraries with Aeroplan. Now you can even book stopovers online, which can lead to incredible savings without spending valuable time waiting on hold for an Air Canada representative.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
Featured photo of Ybor City, Tampa, by Pgiam/Getty Images.