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Here's how stopovers work with the new Aeroplan program

Nov. 11, 2020
10 min read
Air Canada 777 at Frankfurt Airport
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Air Canada relaunched its Aeroplan loyalty program earlier in the week. This new program brings a slew of positive changes, including the removal of fuel surcharges, family points pooling and — perhaps most exciting — open-ended stopovers on both round-trip and one-way tickets.

This new program lets you add stopovers without too many restrictions — for example, you can fly from New York-JFK to Bangkok (BKK) and stop in Frankfurt (FRA) on the way. This makes it extremely easy to book mini-round-the-world trips on the cheap, letting you stretch your points to see more of the world on the cheap.

That said, Aeroplan hasn't shed much light on how these stopovers work or how to book them. So in this article, I'll give you the full scoop on how to price stopover awards, find award space and book. It's a bit more complicated than you might think, but it's not difficult once you know what to look for.

Let's get started!

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An overview of Aeroplan stopovers

Aeroplan's new stopover program is one of the best in the points and miles world. (Photo by Heather Dunbar/Shutterstock)

Air Canada made waves in the points and miles world when it revamped its stopover program. It had previously offered stopovers, but they were much more restrictive. Nowadays, you can add stopovers anywhere (except within North America) on both one-way and round-trip tickets.

You're limited to one stopover on one-way tickets and two stopovers on round-trip tickets. You'll pay 5,000 Aeroplan points per stopover, which is a small price to pay compared to booking separate one-way tickets on longer routes.

Just how open-ended are these stopovers? You can book Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) to Munich (MUC), stay a few days, and then continue on to Cape Town (CPT) on one ticket. Or, you could book Los Angeles (LAX) to Sydney (SYD) and continue to Bangkok (BKK). This is a huge deal for those seeking an adventurous trip around the world.

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Unfortunately, these stopovers aren't bookable online as of writing this article, so you'll need to book flights with stopovers by calling Air Canada. Air Canada has said that it plans on making stopovers bookable online in the near future, so this hassle isn't here to stay.

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

Pricing an Aeroplan award with stopovers

So, now you know how much it costs to add a stopover on an Aeroplan award ticket, but what about the flight?

Aeroplan opted to keep a standard award chart for partner awards after the revamp. This means you'll pay a predictable number of points for every ticket you book. This is in stark contrast to Delta SkyMiles, United MileagePlus and other programs that have switched to dynamic award pricing. These programs change award ticket prices by day, route and even flight frequency.

This new award chart is distance and zone-based. There are Atlantic, Pacific, South America and North America zones. You can view the breakdown of the zones in the image below. Awards are priced based on the zones you're traveling between and the distance between your origin and destination. The full award chart is published on the Aeroplan website (warning: PDF link)

(Image courtesy of Air Canada)

To calculate the cost of your stopover award, simply find the total distance between your origin and final destination, including the stopover. You can do this using GCmap — a tool that lets you map out air travel itineraries. Once you have this, find the total cost of your ticket by matching the total flight mileage to the correct Aeroplan award chart.

For example, a flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Hong Kong (HKG) with a stopover in Sydney (SYD) clocks in at 12,069 miles. This falls under the "North America and Pacific" award chart and would cost 75,000 points in economy, 105,000 in business and 140,000 in first class, plus 5,000 points for the stopover in Sydney. This means you'd pay 110,000 points for a business class ticket.

The Aeroplan award charts for flights between North America and the Pacific regions. (Image courtesy of Air Canada)

You can also book awards that have a stopover in another zone. This is what makes complex itineraries like North America to Europe with a stopover in Asia possible. To price one of these awards, use the award chart for your origin and final destination. For example, use the North America to Atlantic award chart to price an award from San Francisco (SFO) to Istanbul (IST) via Seoul (ICN).

The Aeroplan award charts for flights between North America and the Atlantic regions. (Image courtesy of Air Canada)

This flight is 10,593 miles with the stopover. On a partner airline, you'd pay 70,000, 100,000 and 130,000 points for economy, business and first class, respectively. With the stopover, a business class itinerary costs 105,000 points.

Optimize your routing to save points

In some cases, you'll come out ahead by using the North America to Pacific award chart instead of the North America to Atlantic award chart. For example, the flight from New York-JFK to Tokyo-Haneda (HND) via Stockholm (ARN) is 9,008 miles total, so it would cost 90,000 points under the North America to Pacific award chart.

On the other hand, New York-JFK to Stockholm via Tokyo is 11,860 miles, so it would cost 105,000 points under the North America to Atlantic award chart.

With that in mind, always switch the stopover and final destination and compare the total length of your trip before you book. You could save a ton of points if you properly optimize your route.

Related: 11 of the most innovative and exciting changes coming to Air Canada’s Aeroplan

How to find award space and book stopovers

(Photo by EQRoy/Shutterstock)

Now for the not-so-fun part: actually booking stopover tickets.

As discussed earlier, Aeroplan is still in the process of making stopovers bookable online. This means you'll have to find award space online first and then call to book your ticket.

You can find award space using your favorite Star Alliance search tool. I find that I have the best results with United's website as it tends to show the most accurate award space. It had a problem with showing "phantom" award space in the past, but that's been mostly resolved over the years.

That said, if you plan on booking with a non-alliance Aeroplan partner — like Air Serbia or Etihad — you'll need to search with another tool. You can use Aeroplan's website for most non-alliance partners.

If using, search for the flights you want to book separately. To do this, head to United's website, select the "Book with Miles" box and enter your search criteria on the home page. You can use the "Flexible Dates" option to see multiple days' worths of award space at once if your travel dates are flexible.

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

(Image courtesy of United Airlines)

Look through the search options and find flights operated by a Star Alliance carrier and have the "Saver Award" label above your class of service of choice. These flights are bookable with Aeroplan points. Note the date and flight number of the flights you'd like to book and you can then call Aeroplan to book the tickets.

(Image courtesy of United Airlines)

When on the phone, make sure to note that you want to book your flight with a stopover. This will ensure that you get the correct pricing for your ticket and aren't charged for two one-way tickets instead.

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

Earn Aeroplan points with a credit card

The easiest way to earn Aeroplan points is by spending on American Express cards. (Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

There are many ways to earn Aeroplan points, but your best bet is spending on an American Express card that earns Membership Rewards points. These points transfer 1:1 to Aeroplan, so you can quickly rack up points with your everyday spending.

Here's a look at some of our favorite Amex cards and their current offers:

  • American Express® Green Card: 45,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership. Earn 3x points on dining, travel and transit, 1x points on all other purchases, $150 annual fee (see rates and fees).
  • American Express® Gold Card: 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; 1x points on all other purchases, $250 annual fee (see rates and fees).
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: 60,000 points after using your new card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first three months of account opening. Earn 5x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines or Amex Travel (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, $550 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

Aeroplan's new stopover rules are excellent. They let you stretch your points even further and make it easier than ever to book mini round-the-world tickets. This is especially true now that Aeroplan no longer adds fuel surcharges to award tickets. Carriers like Austrian and Swiss used to be extremely expensive to book with Aeroplan points. Thankfully, this is no longer a problem with the new program.

As discussed in the article, these tickets with stopovers aren't bookable online yet. We'll update this piece when it's eventually possible to book online. But until then, use this guide to book your next stopover ticket over the phone.

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.

Feature photo by Vytautas Kielaitis/Shutterstock

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.