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Did you know you can book airline award seats that don’t show on Air Canada Aeroplan’s website? Or that they offer one of the best infant ticket programs in the world?
You might already have access to Air Canada Aeroplan miles with transferable American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood points. So you don’t need to fly Air Canada or their partners to earn valuable miles.
I’ll give you an overview of some advanced tricks, tips, and issues to watch out for when using Air Canada Aeroplan miles.
Ultimate Guide to Air Canada Aeroplan Miles Series Index
Air Canada Aeroplan Booking Tips and Tricks
1. Book Select Flights on Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon
Air Canada Aeroplan has recently partnered with Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon, airlines in the oneworld alliance based in Hong Kong. This is a useful trick, because it’s not usually possible to book award flights on oneworld airlines using Star Alliance airline miles (or vice versa).
You can now redeem miles for award travel on specific routes to / from Hong Kong:
- Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Phuket, Thailand
- Bangkok, Thailand
- Cebu, Philippines
- Manila, Philippines
- Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Hanoi, Vietnam
You can book Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon in combination with other partner airlines or alone, but you need to call Air Canada Aeroplan at 800-361-5373 to book.
To find award seats on Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon, use the British Airways Avios award search engine. You can book any cabin that’s available, including First Class, but NOT Premium Economy.
2. Book Air Creebec, Bearskin Airlines, Canadian North, and First Air
While you can book most Air Canada Aeroplan partners online, some non-alliance Arctic airlines can only be booked by telephone.
You can see polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba with First Air, or see the Northern Lights throughout the Arctic!
You can book award travel on:
- Air Creebec
- Bearskin Airlines
- Canadian North
- First Air
These airlines all serve the Northern parts of Canada. Because tickets to remote parts of Canada can cost $1,000s, but award tickets only cost the rate for domestic Canadian travel, using miles on these airlines can offer terrific value. For example, a one-way discounted ticket from Ottawa (Canada’s capital) to Pond Inlet costs ~2,600 Canadian dollars (~$2,118)! Due to the remoteness of Canada’s North, these are some of the most expensive flights in the world!
However, with Air Canada Aeroplan, this ticket would only cost 12,500 miles and marginal taxes! There’s no better deal for miles anywhere in the world.
With the exception of Calm Air, which you can NOT book with other airlines on the same itinerary, you can book these airlines in conjunction with Air Canada or Air Canada Express flights. But you can NOT combine these airlines with other partner airlines. This means you could connect on Air Canada from the US to Canada, and then fly to Northern Canada on an Arctic airline. But you could NOT fly on United Airlines from the US and connect to an Arctic airline.
You can search for award seats on ExpertFlyer only for Canadian North. For the other airlines, you have to call Air Canada Aeroplan at 800-361-5373 and ask for them to manually request award seats from the airline. This can happen instantly, or can take up to 48 hours. These are old-school airlines!
3. Book GOL Award Seats
You can now book award seats on GOL, a Brazilian airline. You can book any available GOL flight that has a flight number that starts with G3.
To find award seats on GOL, use the ExpertFlyer tool. You can book coach or Business Class, which is called GOL Premium. GOL can be booked alone or in conjunction with other airlines.
Once you’ve found award seats, call Air Canada Aeroplan at 800-361-5373 to book.
4. Using the Multi-City Tool
When searching for Air Canada Aeroplan award seats online, you can use the multi-city tool to forcibly book flights that you would otherwise need to call to book (and pay the telephone booking fee for).
Say you want to book a flight from Los Angeles to Paris. Air Canada Aeroplan may only show a flight on Lufthansa or Air Canada, which will cost you lots of money in fuel surcharges. However, suppose you know award seats are available between Los Angeles and Zurich and from Zurich to Paris on SWISS, which doesn’t have fuel surcharges. You can force the system to book these flights online.
First, use the multi-city tool on Air Canada Aeroplan’s website. Then you’ll enter your first flight from Los Angeles to Zurich, followed by Zurich to Paris. You’ll then search your return from Paris to Los Angeles. Assuming the return results are what you want, you’re forcing the system to book the SWISS award seats that the website wouldn’t previously show.
You can use this trick to force the system to book flights that wouldn’t otherwise show online, saving you the telephone booking fee. However, this trick will NOT work if you’re booking a stopover or open-jaw.
5. Infant Tickets
Air Canada Aeroplan has one of the most generous infant ticket charges of any miles program. They charge a flat rate, in points or cash, for the infant ticket. Unlike many miles programs that charge 10% of the revenue fare, which can be over $1,000 for Business Class or First Class tickets, Air Canada Aeroplan will only charge a flat rate for an infant-in-arms ticket, regardless if it’s a one-way or round-trip ticket.
|Class of Service||$ Cost (Canadian Dollars)||Points Cost|
I recommend paying the infant ticket fee using cash, because the points equivalent is worth more than the cash rate.
To book an infant ticket, first book the adult ticket, then call Air Canada Aeroplan at 800-361-5373 at least 2 hours prior to departure to book the infant ticket.
Issues With Air Canada Aeroplan
1. Blocked Airlines
Air Canada Aeroplan frequently has “blocked” airlines. This means that these airlines have award seats available, and other frequent flyer programs can book these seats, but they are blocked on Air Canada Aeroplan. This usually happens due to technical issues.
Airlines that are currently blocked are:
Previously blocked airlines include Air China, COPA, and SWISS. When airlines are blocked, there’s nothing you can do to book those award seats with Air Canada Aeroplan – you just have to wait until the block is over, which in the case of Avianca, has been active for over a year!
2. Infant Ticket with Air China
Due to a technical issue with Air China, you can NOT book an infant ticket on an itinerary that includes an Air China flight. Even if Air China only operates a short flight, the entire ticket becomes ineligible for an infant ticket by Air Canada Aeroplan. In this case, you have to call Air China and pay for an infant ticket.
3. Phantom Award Seats
Sometimes award seats will show as available on Air Canada Aeroplan’s website, but when you go to pay for your ticket, the system returns an error. This is because of phantom award seats. These are award seats that appear to be available, but when you go to book, the operating airline does not confirm the ticket.
This issue is particularly prevalent with Lufthansa and, surprisingly, Air Canada. There’s not much you can do to bypass phantom award seats. All you can do is be aware of what they are, and understand why you may get an error when trying to book award seats that show as available. Air Canada Aeroplan agents are also unable to book phantom seats, so there’s no point in calling them to try.
Air Canada Aeroplan miles can be used on airlines outside Star Alliance:
- Cathay Pacific
- Cathay Dragon
- Air Creebec
- Bearskin Airlines
- Canadian North
- First Air
And while infant tickets can be expensive even when using miles, Air Canada Aeroplan has one of the best rates available, charging as little as 5,000 miles for an infant ticket in coach!
However, there are some problems to look out for. Air Canada Aeroplan has technical issues with some airlines, and they block award seats on those airlines. Further, you can NOT book infant tickets on Air China, and some award seats are “phantom” and can NOT be booked.
In the next post, I’ll explain how to transfer points from flexible transfer partners to Air Canada Aeroplan.
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