Sweet Spot Sunday: Add a stopover to your Aeroplan award ticket for just 5,000 miles

Dec 26, 2021

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Did you know that it’s possible to turn your upcoming vacation into two completely separate adventures for a paltry 5,000 points?

When you book flights using Air Canada Aeroplan points, you can parlay one destination into two — for just 5,000 points. Air Canada’s stopover rules are some of the most generous in the industry. If you know what you’re doing, you can circumnavigate the earth for many tens of thousands of points less than you’d pay when booking through other airline programs.

What makes this deal even sweeter is the ease with which you can earn Air Canada Aeroplan points. For example, Air Canada partners with the following transferable points programs:

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The abundance of transfer partners (not to mention the official Aeroplan credit card) makes this sweet spot extremely accessible to anyone holding one of the best travel credit cards. If you’ve got a stash of any of the above currencies, you’ve got a wealth of Aeroplan points!

There are a handful of rules to note before booking your flight, however. Here’s what you need to know about maximizing Aeroplan points.

In This Post

Why it’s special

(Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

Even if you have no intention of flying on Air Canada, you should be earning Aeroplan points. Air Canada possesses a long list of valuable partners, and it offers more sweet spots than many other airline loyalty programs.

One of the biggest draws of the Aeroplan loyalty program is its “stopover” allowances:

  • When you book a one-way flight with Aeroplan points, you can add a stopover at a different destination for just 5,000 points.
  • When you book a round-trip flight with Aeroplan points, you can add a stopover on your outbound flight and another stopover on your return flight for 5,000 points each.

You can book a stopover to just about anywhere on earth. As an example, for 105,000 points, you can book a flight from San Francisco to Abu Dhabi — with a stopover in Tokyo! This same itinerary when booked through most competing airline programs costs significantly more. United Airlines charges 159,500 miles for the same route. In other words, you’re saving 54,500 points by booking with Air Canada instead of United.

There are a few restrictions to keep in mind when building stopovers with Aeroplan points:

  1. You can’t build a stopover in North America
  2. Your connecting flight must be less than double the mileage cost of a nonstop flight
  3. You cannot backtrack through the same airport you’ve already visited
  4. Your stopover cannot exceed 45 days in length

Stopovers are a great way to take a chunk out of your bucket list during a single vacation.

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

How to book this award

Let’s book that aforementioned flight from San Francisco to Abu Dhabi — and throw in Tokyo as a stopover. You’ll want to have the Air Canada award chart page open while you book your flight.

Step 1. Determine your origin and destination “zones”

Air Canada breaks the world into four “travel zones.” To properly price your award, you must note the zone you’re departing from and the zone your destination is in. For our example trip, our flight from San Francisco is in “North America,” and our destination in Abu Dhabi is “Atlantic.”

Aeroplan Award Regions
(Screenshot courtesy of aircanada.com)

Step 2. Refer to the applicable award chart

You’ll find a corresponding award chart to price your flight. Below is chart for flights between the North America and Atlantic zones. You’ll be charged based on the distance you fly.

North America to Atlantic Aeroplan Award Chart
(Screenshot courtesy of aircanada.com)

Step 3. Price your flight on the Air Canada website

It’s important to search for award seats between your origin and destination on the Air Canada website because you’ll want to see how cheap your ticket will be after accounting for connections. An itinerary with one stop can cost more than a nonstop flight if it bumps you into the next distance band.

As you can see, our flight from San Francisco to Abu Dhabi prices at 70,000 points in coach (plus taxes and fees) and 100,000 points in business class (plus taxes and fees). That’s because the flight (including connections) is a distance of more than 8,000 miles. In this case, we are routed through Zurich.

SFO to AUH Aeroplan award ticket
(Screenshot courtesy of aircanada.com)

Step 4. Use Great Circle Mapper to learn your flight distance

Depending on the award zone you’re using, you may need to keep the distance of your journey within a specific range to prevent yourself from being charged extra points. Our San Francisco-Abu Dhabi itinerary isn’t encumbered by this, as we are traveling 8,813 miles — and the award chart reveals that any travel to the Atlantic zone farther than 8,001 miles costs the same. You can check your flight distance with Great Circle Mapper.

SFO to AUH via ZRH flight map and distance
(Screenshot courtesy of gcmap.com)

Step 5. Choose a stopover (and search for availability on each leg)

Again, you can add a stopover just about anywhere.

Remember that you won’t be able to book this trip online — but you’ll need to make sure there are available award flights for the legs you plan to fly. You’ll also want to see which airports the site will route you through – so you can better understand the distance of your trip.

We’ll search our first segment from San Francisco to Tokyo. This flight is nonstop.

SFO to TYO Aeroplan award
(Screenshot courtesy of aircanada.com)

We’ll then search our second segment from Tokyo to Abu Dhabi. Looks like we’re being routed through Delhi.

TYO to AUH award ticket
(Screenshot courtesy of aircanada.com)

Step 6. Find your new flight distance with your stopover

This step is only necessary if you’re trying to keep your flight inside a certain distance band.

Now that we know the exact route we’ll be flying, we can look up its distance with Great Circle Mapper. This stopover in Tokyo forces Air Canada to book us the other way around the world. We can spend a week or two in Japan, and then continue to Abu Dhabi via Delhi for a distance of 10,226 miles.

SFO to AUH map
(Screenshot courtesy of gcmap.com)

Step 7. Call Air Canada to book your flights

Once you’ve noted your flight number, dates, and times from step 5, it’s time to call Air Canada at 800-361-5373. As long as you can see available seats, the customer service representative should be able to see them, too. Just specify that you’d like to book a flight with a stopover. Air Canada will waive their normal $30 fee for booking via phone for stopover requests, as they’re impossible to reserve online.

Booking this trip with separate Aeroplan reservations online would cost:

  • 100,000 points in coach
  • 155,000 points in business class

But thanks to Air Canada’s stopover rules, you’ll only pay:

  • 70,000 points in coach + 5,000 points for a stopover
  • 100,000 points in business class + 5,000 points for a stopover

That’s a savings of between 25,000 and 50,000 miles.

Pro tip: If you’re planning a trip with a stopover from North America that includes both the Atlantic and Pacific zones, try to make the Pacific zone your destination. Most of its zones cost fewer points, so your ticket may price significantly cheaper than making a country in the Atlantic zone your destination.

Related: The best ways to maximize Air Canada’s Aeroplan program

How to earn points for this award

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Air Canada Aeroplan points are among the easiest rewards to earn in the points and miles world.

Air Canada recently unveiled its new Aeroplan® Credit Card which comes with a “Welcome Flight Rewards” (worth up to 50,000 points) when you spend $3,000 on purchases with the card in the first three months of account opening. These are effectively 50,000-point certificates that can each be applied toward a single passenger award flight. If your flight costs more than 50,000 points, you can pay the remaining portion with Aeroplan points. Plus, you can earn 10x total points on travel and dining purchases up to 51,000 points in the first six months of account opening.

You can also transfer the following points currencies to Air Canada Aeroplan:

That means the following card bonuses can be converted into Aeroplan points:

Check out our guide to the best travel credit cards to see all the other cards that earn rewards that transfer to Aeroplan.

Related: Why the new Aeroplan card is surprisingly a great choice for everyday purchases

Bottom line

The Aeroplan loyalty program is a globetrotter’s dream. Thanks to their advantageous stopover policies, you can hopscotch around the world for significantly fewer points than most other airline programs would charge.

Even if you have zero Aeroplan points, there are plenty of bank points that transfer instantly to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Amex Membership Rewards points, and Capital One miles.

Feature photo by THOMAS CHENG/AFP via Getty Images

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