How Many Air Miles Do You Need For a Free Flight?

The Air Miles loyalty program is a great way for Canadians to earn rewards by shopping at sponsor locations and using Air Miles Credit Cards.  You can cash in your Air Miles rewards for products like retail gift cards and free gas, or you can save up your points for that dream vacation that you’ve always wanted to take.

But how many Air Miles do you need for a free flight?  This table will show you how many Air Miles reward miles you’ll need to save up in order to claim your free flight rewards:

Air Miles Flight Rewards

*This chart is for flights departing from Ontario

Region Low Season High Season BMO Gold Air Miles MasterCard 25% Discount
British Columbia 3,125 4,225 2,343 3,168
Alberta 2,500 3,300 1,875 2,475
Saskatchewan 2,100 2,800 1,575 2,100
Manitoba 1,350 1,750 1,012 1,312
Ontario 950 1,125 712 843
Quebec 1,025 1,200 768 900
Maritimes 1,475 1,950 1,106 1,462
Nunavut 3,550 4,500 2,662 3,375
Northeast U.S. 1,150 1,400 862 1,050
Central U.S. 1,400 1,825 1,050 1,368
Northwest U.S. 3,375 4,500 2,531 3,375
Southwest U.S. 3,700 4,775 2,775 3,581
Southeast U.S. 2,375 3,000 1,781 2,250
Caribbean 3,800 5,050 2,850 3,787
Mexico 3,800 5,050 2,850 3,787
Hawaii 6,825 9,150 5,118 6,862
Central America 5,475 7,050 4,106 5,287
South America 6,050 8,125 4,537 6,093
Western Europe 5,475 7,050 4,106 5,287
Northern Europe 6,050 8,125 4,537 6,093
Eastern Europe 6,300 8,400 4,725 6,300
Africa/Middle East 9,350 12,600 7,012 9,450
Russia/China 9,000 12,475 6,975 9,356
Australia 14,175 19,125 10,631 14,343

As you can see, it costs a lot to redeem Air Miles for flights.  I like to break down the miles into dollars so that I can understand the true cost and value of the flight rewards.

Most sponsor locations offer 1 Air Miles for every $20 spent.  You can also maximize your Air Miles by using one of their reward credit cards.  Let’s say that you manage to earn 1 Air Mile for every $15 spent.  Here is a breakdown of what you would have to spend in order to earn flight rewards:

  • 1,000 Air Miles = $15,000 (one short haul flight)
  • 2,500 Air Miles = $37,500 (one medium haul flight)
  • 5,000 Air Miles = $75,000 (one long range flight)
  • 10,000 Air Miles = $150,000 (dream vacation, any season)

Best Value For Flights

Obviously it makes sense to take advantage of the discount for flying during low season.  Peak season (holidays and summer) flight prices are increased upwards of 35 percent.  Traveller’s are likely better off shopping for better rates online to take advantage of a seat sale.

I’ve talked about how I redeem Air Miles for products like free gas certificates.  For $20 in gift card rewards it costs 175 Air Miles, making each Air Mile worth approximately 11.4 cents.

If we look at a flight from Ontario to Alberta during low season, it would cost 2,500 Air Miles for a free flight.  That works out to costing you $285 for the redemption.  The lowest available fare that I found when searching a similar flight on Air Canada’s website was $229.  It looks like Air Miles is charging a premium to redeem your miles for flight rewards.

Using BMO Gold Air Miles MasterCard

So, if Air Miles is charging a premium for flight rewards perhaps we should look at the BMO Gold Air Miles MasterCard which gives you a 25% discount on booking flights.  Using the same flight from Ontario to Alberta we are able to reduce the mileage cost by 25%, making the flight worth $213.75 using your Air Miles.

If you like to collect Air Miles and travel frequently for business or leisure, using the BMO Gold Air Miles MasterCard can make a lot of sense.  There is an annual fee of $119, which can more than pay for itself with the benefits of using the card.

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