After Aeroplan’s summer 2013 devaluation, its award chart for travel to Africa and the Middle East (especially) became expensive relative to other carriers.
American’s chart is decently priced for business class travel to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent. In fact, I used 67.5k AAdvantage miles for my one way award from Washington D.C. to the Maldives in business class on Etihad. Their African award chart nearly mirrors Air Canada’s.
US Airways has by far the best pricing for premium cabin travel to Africa (110k miles roundtrip in business, 150k in first), and you can still use Dividend Miles for awards on Star Alliance carriers until March 30th.
Air Canada charges 165,000 Aeroplan miles roundtrip (82.5k oneway) for travel to the Middle East and North Africa comprised of the countries below.
82,500 miles is slightly more expensive than United’s inflated Star Alliance partner award chart. United charges 70k miles oneway for awards flying United’s own BusinessFirst product and 80k miles on Star Alliance partners.
Air Canada’s second African award chart (East/West/South Africa) encompasses the rest of the continent. An Aeroplan business class award costs 150,000 miles (75k oneway) to the below countries.
This is a better region to use Aeroplan miles over United miles, as Aeroplan business class awards will cost 5k less miles (75k oneway) than using United’s Star Alliance award chart (80k oneway).
As mentioned in previous posts, not all Star Alliance carriers are the same when redeeming Aeroplan miles. Air Canada assesses fuel surcharges on their own flights and certain partners. Luckily, most Star Alliance airlines in the African region don’t incur these fuel surcharges.
What are the Star Alliance carriers to avoid when booking with Aeroplan miles? Which are the best to get you to Africa and the Middle East? Are there any fifth-freedom flights you can take advantage of?
Star Alliance Carriers with Fuel Surcharges
Click on any screen shot to enlarge.
I won’t run through the whole European list again, but definitely steer clear of Austrian, Lufthansa, and TAP Portugal if connecting in Europe. Their fuel surcharges really add up in a hurry.
Star Alliance Carriers with NO Fuel Surcharges
I’ve written in the past about Brussels Airlines impressive African route network. Their flights don’t thankfully don’t have fuel surcharges.
EgyptAir is a dry airline for those who care (I don’t). They don’t have fuel surcharges, either.
Ethiopian Airlines has recently been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Their flights don’t have fuel surcharges.
South African is one of the most requested carriers at the Award Booking Service given their convenient nonstops from New York-JFK and Washington D.C. If you manage to snag award seats, you will only have to pay taxes on each ticket. Check out Scott’s trip report of his South African flight from Buenos Aires to Johannesburg.
United, like Air Canada, serves very few Middle Eastern and African countries. Unlike Air Canada, there aren’t silly fuel surcharges when flying United.
Interesting Fifth Freedom Flights with No Fuel Surcharges
Swiss Air flies a quick hop from Dubai to Muscat. No fuel surcharges there!
Turkish flies a Bahrain to Muscat route. I very much enjoyed my two longhaul flights on Turkish as well as the CIP Lounge in Istanbul. Having a stopover in Istanbul before continuing to Africa would be a great award!
United also has a quick Dubai to Doha route that is surcharge-free.
Getting Aeroplan Miles
Aeroplan is a transfer partner of Starpoints and Membership Rewards.
You can earn Starpoints from the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express.
Both cards offer 25k bonus Starpoints after spending $5k in the first six months. Meet both spending requirements and you’d have 60k Starpoints (50k bonus + 10k for spending), which transfer to 75k Aeroplan miles. Aeroplan often runs promotions in which you get a big bonus for transferring in hotel points. During the last promotion, 60k Starpoints would have become 85k Aeroplan miles.
Membership Rewards can most quickly be earned from the American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card or The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN.
Both cards offer huge category bonuses. I especially love the category bonuses on the Business Gold card.
- Get 25,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership
- Built with business-sized purchasing power and fast rewards
- 3X points on airfare purchased directly from airlines
- 2X points on US purchases for advertising in select media, shipping, at gas stations, and made directly from select computer hardware, software, and cloud computing providers
- Up to $100,000 in each category per year, then 1 point
- Use points to entertain clients, reward employees, reduce travel costs, or just offset the everyday expenses of moving your business forward
- Terms and limitations apply
Application Link: The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN
Membership Rewards transfers are instant, and you can transfer to anyone’s account. Starpoints transfers take days to post, and names must match between Starwood and Aeroplan accounts.
The Air Canada Aeroplan award chart is roughly in line with other frequent flyer programs for travel to the Middle East and Africa.
Though their award chart to Africa and the Middle East is much more expensive than US Airways and slightly more than the American Airlines chart, Aeroplan allows one way awards for half the price of a roundtrip (something US Airways lacks). Aeroplan awards also have liberal routing rules, so you can include two stopovers or one stopover and one open jaw on roundtrip travel.
After United’s devaluation, it makes sense to book many premium cabin itineraries to Africa and the Middle East with Aeroplan miles, as you can save up to 5k miles on business class awards and 25k miles on first class awards.
Air Canada assesses fuel surcharges on their own flights, so avoid them when flying to the Middle East. Flying European carriers like Lufthansa or Austrian means equally inflated fuel surcharges.
Thankfully, most Star Alliance carriers don’t feature fuel surcharges to Africa/the Middle East including EgyptAir, Ethiopian, South African, and United. You can also add segments on a fifth freedom route on Swiss or Turkish without fear of a big cash outlay.