Reader Question: Around The World Award In Business/First For Two Using Aeroplan Miles? (Very Difficult!)

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A LoyaltyLobby reader sent me an email about Aeroplan around the world awards that he would like to book for two in business or first class for late 2018.

Reader Question Air Canada Aeroplan

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You can access Aeroplan’s page for awards here.

Here’s the email from the reader:

I have been a member of Aeroplan (and a loyal customer and frequent flyer of Air Canada) for many years. I have been waiting for an opportunity to take advantage of the points I have collected for something special for my wife and I. We want to reward ourselves and kick off our retirement with first class around the world awards using Star Alliance partners. I decided to start doing some planning based on us starting our dream trip November of 2018 and found the Aeroplan site useless in trying to understand how to go about this; so, I called Aeroplan (I hold Diamond status with them) directly and didn’t come away from that exchange feeling any better. I should point out that what I am about to elaborate is a consistent experience I have had with Aeroplanrecently in trying to redeem for rewards travel.

  • Aeroplan advertises (if I can use that word) how many points are required to redeem for award travel in the various classes of service including business and first
  • Furthermore, supposedly the points can be redeemed for travel on any Star Alliance partner
  • Any time I have looked at the web site to try and book anything I have very rarely seen anything available with anyone other than Air Canada
  • Trying to book in the higher levels of service (business or first class) is even more scarce even in Air Canada Executive First and the number of points required rarely match the award chart
  • If I look at the United web site, I see far more opportunities for award travel in the higher classes of service; although, here it is also extremely difficult to find seats available with other Star Alliance partners (for example Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, ANA)
  • So, it has become evident an around the world first class award does not truly exist because as an Aeroplan member I would never have access to those seats

Does this not then constitute false advertising? What is the point of the Star Alliance if member airlines are not treated equally? Why publish something that cannot be delivered??

The award search engine on Aeroplan’s website is not the best. Theoretically what shows up on United’s and LifeMiles’ websites should be bookable in general using Aeroplan miles as well.

The reader should keep in mind that the relationship with the Air Canada and Aeroplan is going to change in 2020 and Aeroplan is likely going to lose access to those Star Alliance awards. Reader should have hundreds of thousands of Aeroplan miles sitting on his accounts if he is planning a trip like this for two.

Here are the issues that I see as a problematic:

– It will be extremely difficult if not impossible to find first class award availability for two. Most of the Star Alliance airline don’t even have first class cabin any more.

– Award availability nowadays can open up anytime. It used to be in the past that it was best far out. Nowadays the awards are often available very close to the departure date especially for first class.

– Aeroplan collect fuel surcharges for some airlines. You may end up paying a lot in YQs.

If I would do this for two, I would forget the first class and try to do it for business OR accept the fact that only some flights (perhaps Thai Airways that tends to have good first class award availability) will be in first.

The around the world award allows FIVE stopovers. You would need to plan where you would like to have them and then try to find the flights to accommodate those countries/cities.

Familiarize yourself with the Star Alliance hubs and long-haul flights that are perhaps not the most popular (means better award availability). Good map helps and the Star Alliance website.

Another option is to actually PAY for around the world ticket. I am currently traveling on a one issued in Egypt last year (read more here) when there were some currency fluctuations. These allow up to 16 segments and as many stopovers. Availability won’t be an issue (married segment sometimes is). Haven’t checked the current pricing but you were able to find them at starting around perhaps 6K USD/EUR for RTW in business.

There are also award booking services that would charge few hundred dollars for booking complicated award such as the one the reader is after. Could be an option.

Conclusion

The reader absolutely need to offload the Aeroplan miles before the partnership with Air Canada and Aeroplan changes in 2020. You can likely still use Aeroplan miles for Air Canada flights after that date but access to partner flights is gone for sure.

I have done two around the world awards (when they were still available) using American Airlines miles (were fantastic value) and once using promotional United Airlines award (when they were killing Independence Air). These were great way to see number of place. You need great flexibility, however, and it takes hours of research to find the availability and then to book them.

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