Nothing fills my inbox faster than publishing an article about Aeroplan. What is arguably the most popular (i.e. most utilized) travel points program in the country is also a source of deep frustration for its customers – especially when it comes to booking and redeeming their points.
This mailbag highlights some of those frustrations with the Aeroplan program, from fuel surcharges to seat availability, but also offers a few more positive tips on how to get the most out of your Aeroplan points.
Recently I was looking at Aeroplan points requirements for a round-trip ticket from Toronto to Norfolk, Virginia and came across something interesting you might consider when you do your next article on points programs.
For economy the lowest point redemption offered was 50,000 with fees and taxes of $165.79. I clicked over to the business class options and lucked out – for the same flights as the economy option I could travel in business class for 50,000 points and taxes of $129.56 – a savings of $36.23, plus my two pieces of luggage were checked free for a savings of $100.
I saved a little more than the equivalent of the taxes/fees with the bonus of priority check-in and baggage tags, free access to the Maple Leaf lounge prior to departing Toronto and the United lounge in Newark. (screenshots attached)
Sometimes it pays to look at the other options.
Related: So you’re ready to dump Aeroplan – Now what?
Over the past few years I’ve had several other instances within Aeroplan where a business class redemption required more points than economy but the taxes and fees were less, which didn’t make sense.
So one way to look at this is a potential opportunity for great savings when booking a reward ticket – the other way is to ask Aeroplan why taxes and fees cost them less if they carry the passenger in business class rather than in economy. I’m thinking everyone riding in economy has been getting hosed!
One thing that may help overtaxed Canadians wanting to use Aeroplan miles without all the excessive fees, surcharges and taxes is to check out flying out of any nearby U.S. city.
Here in Vancouver it’s easy to drop over the border to Bellingham to fly to the continental U.S., Caribbean, Hawaii and many other destinations. Because U.S. airport fees are substantially cheaper than those in Canada (especially Vancouver) and with much more competition among U.S. carriers, fuel surcharges and other expenses are either much lower or do not exist at all.
You may be interested to comment on Air Canada’s policy on non-refundable flights. When you buy a non-refundable ticket the taxes and surcharges are included in the price. If you cancel the flight then obviously you lose the cost of the air fare. That is what you agreed to when buying a non-refundable ticket. However the taxes and surcharges are also not refundable. Why not? Does Air Canada submit these taxes to the airport or do they keep them?
Related: Why Aeroplan collectors are fed up with their rewards program
Similarly arguments can be made with respect to fuel surcharges and other add-on charges from the airline. By cancelling the ticket and not flying you are not incurring these charges. This is worth investigating.
Incidentally, I had exactly the same experience with taxes as your reader did trying to go Business Class to Glasgow. I wanted two Business Class tickets from Halifax to Heathrow using Aeroplan points. The taxes would have been $2,200.
In the end I flew economy and the taxes were $1229.22. Same flight, same fuel used, same airport taxes. So why were the taxes and surcharges nearly $1,000 more when travelling Business Class?
I went through similar pain with Aeroplan in the summer of 2012 when I took my wife and son to London, England from Toronto. Three economy class tickets cost us a lot of points, plus about $1,800.
Air Canada has split their fares into a “fare” portion and a “fuel surcharge” portion. Of course, the fuel surcharge portion isn’t covered by Aeroplan and basically renders their points redemption incentive as useless.
Related: One Aeroplan member’s somewhat satisfying update
I too spent years collecting points and was left quite disappointed that our supposedly free flights cost us a ton of money. I’ve since changed a lot of our buying habits so that we buy for price and not for point collection.
What really aggravates me is that nowhere in the constant bombardment of advertising that Aeroplan and Air Canada throw at us do we see that fuel surcharges are extra. The fuel surcharge only shows up when you go to book the tickets. I just looked at flights similar to when we travelled in 2012 – the fuel surcharge is $432 per ticket and the total with taxes for 3 tickets is over $2100 – a terrible amount for something supposedly free!
To say the least I wish more people knew about the fuel surcharge BEFORE they spend valuable time and money collecting Aeroplan points. Hopefully your article inspires some anger with the public.
I just booked a return flight to Thunder Bay in March using Aeroplan points. I paid $174.00 including taxes, surcharges. Their website showed surcharges applicable – taxes, fees and charges (as required) but during my booking – by telephone – I was told there were extra charges due to my use of Aeroplan. I was told that the posted charges were not accurate, and Aeroplan redemption fares always had “higher” taxes, fees and charges – I think this would be a great follow up to your article.
Aeroplan also provides very few seats, no matter how forward you are booking.
Fuel surcharges highlight only one of the problems with Aeroplan. We tried to book four business class flights, three international and one domestic, 12 months in advance – only the domestic flight was available!
We purchased tickets for two of the flights, one had empty seats and other seats were occupied by Air Canada employees. The other flight we booked through an offshore carrier.
You would do a great service by comparing Aeroplan, BMO World Elite Master Card, CIBC Aventura and American Express Cards. As of now, understanding how their points relate is a conundrum.
Good afternoon Robb
In my career I have accumulated a large number of Aeroplan points, so last summer I decided to book a round trip to Paris or Rome. In my experience you need to be flexible in order get a decent flight, e.g. non-stop.
After finding a satisfactory return flight for two – for 100,000 points – I was prepared to book it and to my surprise the two free economy class tickets were going to cost me approximately $1,000!
As you discuss these charges are defined as tax and service charges. I did not bother to book the tickets but did check on the ticket prices if I were to pay for them directly instead of using Aeroplan.
Related: Aeroplan “Rewards” More Expensive Than Cash Fare
The ticket prices, including service charges, were approximately $1,400 each – including all tax and service charges. What annoyed me was the value of the service charges and tax identified on a ticket you paid for were much less than on an Aeroplan points ticket. (Cash grab if you use your rewards?)
I appreciate many of the positive tips we receive, such as using a U.S. carrier and flying out of a U.S. airport, or redeeming the points for business class tickets, because perhaps it will help alleviate frustration for many Aeroplan members by helping them understand how best to use their points.
Readers, do you have anything positive or negative to share about your experience with the Aeroplan points program? Thanks for sharing.