Why Aeroplan is my favorite frequent flyer program

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There is no one perfect frequent flyer program. Savvy consumers should generally accumulate transferable point currency for their credit card spend, and then you have the flexibility to transfer your points to a variety of programs based on your exact travel needs.

That said, I think it’s fun every once in a while to think about what the most useful and valuable individual frequent flyer programs are. For example, Alaska Mileage Plan used to be my only favorite frequent flyer program, but I don’t understand the program’s direction anymore.

This got me thinking about what my favorite frequent flyer program is in terms of value and the process of redeeming points, and for me there is an obvious answer.

9 Reasons to Love Air Canada Aeroplan Points

Sometimes we criticize frequent flyer programs for making negative changes, but often we don’t give enough credit to programs that try hard and do good things. In the interest of positive reinforcement, in this post I would like to share nine reasons why I consider Air Canada Aeroplan to be the most valuable airline frequent flyer program currently when it comes to redeeming points.

Many factors come into play here – transparency, redemption value, partners, ease of earning and redeeming points, and more. The Aeroplan program was refreshed in late 2020 and over a year later I still consider these changes positive. Best of all, Aeroplan comes in handy even if you don’t plan on boarding an Air Canada plane.

To get that out of the way, below are some of the things I like most about Aeroplan.

Aeroplan Points are easy to earn

Aeroplan points are easy to get. Air Canada Aeroplan is a 1:1 transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One and Chase Ultimate Rewards. Transfers from all of these partners are generally instant, which is important as bonuses are often available, but then you find that a transfer takes several days, which can quickly ruin your plans.

In addition, in the United States there is the new Aeroplan® credit card (review) which offers a great bonus and some unique perks. Finally, Aeroplan often sells points at a reasonable price.

Aeroplan points are easy to get

Consistent, published premium costs

Transparency in frequent flyer programs is becoming increasingly rare, and this is an area where Aeroplan excels. The program publishes award tables for all “saver” redemptions, and the cost is the same regardless of which airline you’re redeeming with (which we all appreciate after the recent release of new Alaska Mileage Plan partner award tables, which show business class from Malaysia Airlines 2.5 times as much as Cathay Pacific First Class).

Aeroplan has uniform bonus tables for all partners

More airline partners than any other program

Aeroplan has more airline partners than any other frequent flyer program in the world. Not only is Air Canada a member of Star Alliance, but Aeroplan has been actively adding as many airline partners as possible, including some other airlines that otherwise have few partners.

For example, Aeroplan has all kinds of non-Star Alliance partners including Air Mauritius, Air Serbia, Azul, Etihad, Gulf Air, Oman Air, Vistara and more. Best of all, the list of partners keeps growing.

Redeem Aeroplan points for Oman Air first class travel

Stopovers for 5,000 points each way

There aren’t many frequent flyer programs that allow stopovers on one-way awards, and this is another area where Aeroplan has been innovative. Aeroplan allows stopovers on one-way awards for as little as 5,000 points, which is an incredible deal in so many situations, especially when you consider the ability to combine partners:

  • Flying to Mauritius from the United States? You could fly Air Canada to Paris, stop over for 5,000 points and then travel to Mauritius
  • Are you flying from Europe to the Maldives? You could fly Gulf Air via Bahrain and stop there for 5,000 points and then on to the Maldives
  • Flying to Singapore from the United States? You could fly United to Japan, stop over for 5,000 points and then travel to Singapore
The ability to schedule stops for awards is great

The cost of award redemption is fair and reasonable

There are some sweet spot award redemption programs that seem too good to be true and where you can be sure the redemption is ripe for devaluation. That’s not really the case with Aeroplan. I would say Aeroplan has very fair premium pricing across the board and that is reasonable.

Aeroplan won’t always have the lowest procurement costs, but it will be the most consistent and also have the most partners. That’s worth a lot.

I recently redeemed Aeroplan points for Lufthansa First Class

No carrier charges surcharges

One of the most frustrating practices in the world of frequent flyer programs is the concept of airline-imposed surcharges being levied on rewards, resulting in a huge cash co-payment on redemptions. Fortunately, Aeroplan does not pass these surcharges on to all partner airlines.

The only catch is that Aeroplan charges a CAD$39 partner booking fee, but that’s hardly a huge price for those of us who book first and business class awards.

No blocked availability

Aeroplan appears to have access to all Saver award seats provided by partner programs. That may sound small, but it really isn’t. Take the Alaska Mileage Plan, for example, where the program doesn’t have access to all award seats at Cathay Pacific, Qantas, and more. This can be extremely frustrating when there’s only one award seat in first class and you can’t redeem miles on it.

Aeroplan does not block in this regard and also invests in technology to ensure that members can see all availabilities. Sometimes we see phantom availability through other programs so I always refer to Air Canada’s website as I believe it to be the most accurate.

Aeroplan does not block availability of affiliate rewards

A great online shopping experience

There’s a lot to be said for the ease with which you can actually book your travel, and Aeroplan offers a great online shopping experience:

  • Awards at virtually all Aeroplan partners can be booked online, with exact availability displayed
  • At Aeroplan, you can select seats for virtually all partner airlines online, which is oh so nice and also rare
  • Aeroplan clearly displays partner airline confirmation codes
  • Aeroplan Awards can be canceled online and miles will be credited back immediately

This may all sound small, but it really does add up. Seriously, can anyone think of another frequent flyer program that lets you select seats on virtually any partner airline? I can’t imagine that was a small investment of time, but Aeroplan made it a priority.

In fairness, there’s still room for improvement here. Stopovers are not yet bookable online, nor are complicated itineraries. Thankfully, this is a feature set to launch in 2022, making the online experience even better. If this new feature is even half as good as advertised, it’s in a whole different league than any other program.

Select seats for Aeroplan partner awards online

A program run by Avgeeks dedicated to improvement

I’m pretty sure Aeroplan has more average geeks and mileage geeks than any other frequent flyer program. These are mostly people who have done mileage runs and who love to maximize their own mileage. They bring that passion to the design of the program and it’s worth something.

Let me give you a specific example: I once had a conversation with the head of another frequent flyer program about the airline’s lack of airline partners to redeem miles with and I asked them if they had considered more frequent flyer partnerships build on reciprocity. The answer? “It’s not a priority.” Meanwhile, at Aeroplan, it seems to me they’re knocking on almost every airline “door” to see what partners they can add.

There is a way for a program to be profitable while still providing a lot of value. Sometimes that can be a difficult balance, and not many programs get it right. I think that’s something Aeroplan is doing and deserves credit.

Is there a more rounded frequent flyer program?

I would like to pass this on to the OMAAT readers. Aeroplan isn’t perfect, but I think the program makes an effort and I think the program offers a lot of value to members. Is there a particular airline program that is so versatile and valuable when it comes to redeeming points across a variety of airlines? If so, I certainly can’t imagine it.

I’ll take it one step further – if I could ever collect just one airline point currency again, I would choose Aeroplan points. Of course, I don’t want to get into that situation (flexibility is the beauty of transferable point currencies), but I think it clarifies my point about the balanced value the program offers.

I’m curious as to what OMAAT readers think about this – if you could only collect one Airline Points currency for the rest of your life, what would it be?

bottom line

Air Canada’s Aeroplan program offers a lot of value when redeeming points and is an often-overlooked currency for redeeming points on partner airlines. I think positive reinforcement and recognition is due here as Aeroplan has done an amazing job of adding airline partners, offering excellent value for money, differentiating themselves with a generous stopover policy and a good online shopping experience to offer.

Best of all, the program just keeps getting better as Aeroplan promises to launch a better booking tool this year, with the ability to book layovers directly online.

How do you rate the value of redeeming Aeroplan awards? And I’m curious, does anyone think there is a single, well-rounded frequent flyer program for redeeming points? If yes, which?

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