Air Canada’s loyalty program, Aeroplan, has been involved in so much drama in the last few years, any telenovela would be jealous of the twists and the turns.

For about 25 years, Aimia Inc. operated Aeroplan independently of Air Canada. The Montreal-based carrier planned to launch a new program but eventually bought Aeroplan back from Aimia for 450 million Canadian dollars in 2018. Now that Aeroplan has returned to Air Canada, the program underwent many changes, and we have the final result.

The program has migrated to a new system, but luckily everyone’s miles are intact. If your account hasn’t been active, you might have to call Aeroplan to transfer it to the new system. The program’s new home is aircanada.com/aeroplan.

Air Canada’s Partners

Air Canada is a Star Alliance member who also has some non-alliance partners. Aeroplan miles can be used to book award flights on the following airlines.

  • Adria Airways
  • Aegean Airlines
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air Creebec
  • Air India
  • Air Serbia
  • Air New Zealand
  • All Nippon Airways
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Austrian Airlines
  • Avianca
  • Azul Brazilian Airlines
  • Bearskin Airlines
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Canadian North
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Copa Airlines
  • Croatia Airlines
  • EgyptAir
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • Etihad
  • EVA Air
  • Eurowings
  • First Air
  • Gol Transportes Aéreos (GOL)
  • Juneyao Air
  • LOT Polish Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)
  • Shenzhen Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Swiss International Air Lines
  • TAP Air Portugal
  • Thai Airways
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United Airlines

Aeroplan Miles’ Expiration Policy

Aeroplan miles expire after 18 months of inactivity. However, any type of activity, including earning, redeeming and donating miles, will reset the clock.

In the event of mileage expiration, you can buy back the miles at a rate of 1 cent per mile plus an administration fee of CA$30.

How to Earn Aeroplan Miles

The most obvious way to earn Aeroplan miles is by crediting Star Alliance or non-alliance partner flights to the program. A different and, perhaps, the easiest way is to transfer them from a transferable points program.

Aeroplan is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards (1:1) and Capital One Venture Miles (2:1.5). It also partners with Marriott Bonvoy (3:1), but we suggest doing a bit of math before going this route.

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How to Book Aeroplan Flight Awards

 Aeroplan’s new award chart is both zone-based and distance-based. It sounds confusing at first, but it’ll all make sense in just a minute.

The world is broken down into four award zones: Atlantic, Pacific, North America and South America. The number of miles required for a specific itinerary is calculated based on which zones you’re flying from and to and the distance between your origin and your destination.

Aeroplan Zones NEW

Essentially, Aeroplan has a separate award chart for each zone. Additionally, the final redemption rate is calculated based on whether a flight is operated by Air Canada or a partner airline.

Here’s an example of an award chart between the North America zone and the Atlantic zone.

Aeroplan North America to Atlantic

As you can see, the zones are huge. North America encompasses everything between Alaska in the north and Panama in the south. Many award programs break this region up into Alaska, the U.S. and Central America.

Same idea applies to the Atlantic zone, which covers Europe, Africa, Central Asia and South Asia. Again, these regions wouldn’t be considered one zone in any other airline award program.

So, let’s take a look at an example to help illustrate how the new award chart works.

Let’s say hypothetically that I want to travel from Salt Lake City to Istanbul. Actually, given that I’ve traveled to Turkey twice this year, none of it is really hypothetical, is it? But I digress. I plug in my city pairs, choose a travel date, and the results pop up on the next page.

Salt Lake City is located 6,272 miles from Istanbul, according to the Great Circle Mapper. Based on the award chart above, a one-way flight is going to require 55,000 Aeroplan miles in economy, 85,000 miles in business class and 120,000 miles in first class. The search results display the same number of miles.

Aeroplan SLC to IST NEW

You might have noticed that award flights on partners are fixed, but Air Canada’s own flights are priced in a range—dynamic pricing anyone? This can be good and bad. Although an Air Canada award flight can cost any number of miles within that range, the good news is there’s a cap. The program won’t be pricing awards at sky-high mileage rates just because it feels like it. Hmmm, where have I heard this before?

For a full list of Aeroplan’s many award charts, go here.

Combine Points + Cash for a Flight Booking

If you don’t have enough miles for a reward flight, you have the option to book it with a combination of miles and cash. Here’s an example of a flight from Salt Lake City to Montreal on a mix of United Airlines and Air Canada.

Aeroplan Cash Flight

The flight costs CA$189 or 12,500 Aeroplan miles + CA$47. In this instance, you end up with about 1.13 Canadian cents per mile. Not great, but it can be worse—way worse.

Here’s the same flight when redeeming Points + Cash.

Aeroplan Points Cash

If you redeem 10,000 Aeroplan miles and pay the rest in cash, your cent-per-mile value drops to ~0.97. If you redeem 7,500 miles and pay cash for the remainder of the ticket, your value drops again to 0.70 cents per mile. Make sure to do the math before redeeming miles at such a bad rate.

Add Stopovers to One-Way and Round-Trip Awards

Since the program’s relaunch, it’s possible to add stopovers to one-way and round-trip awards. A stopover is a stop longer than 24 hours on the way to your destination.

The new Aeroplan stopover rules are:

  • One stopover is allowed on a one-way ticket, and two stopovers are allowed on round-trip tickets.
  • No stopovers in North America are allowed.
  • Stopovers cost an extra 5,000 Aeroplan miles.
  • You must call Air Canada to book itineraries with stopovers.

Let’s say you want to visit Cairo, fly Turkish Airlines from Houston and stop in Istanbul for a few days on the way to Egypt. Easy-peasy. Because both Turkey and Egypt are in the Atlantic zone, all you have to do is calculate the total distance of your journey.

Go to GCMap for help and find out that a flight from Houston to Istanbul and then another flight from Istanbul to Cairo add up to 7,154 miles. That falls in the 6,001 to 8,000 column and costs 55,000 Aeroplan miles in economy, 85,000 miles in business class and 120,000 miles in first class.

Add another 5,000 miles to the total number of miles, and your multi-city itinerary now costs 60,000 miles in economy, 90,000 miles in business and 125,000 miles in first class. Adding extra flight segments for just 5,000 miles is a great way to see more of the world on one trip.

Be Aware of a Partner Booking Fee

Any time you use Aeroplan miles to book a partner flight, whether by phone or online, you’ll be charged a fee of CA$39 (about $22.25 at the time of writing) per ticket. Having said that, the program has dropped massive fuel surcharges it used to apply to certain partner awards (some as high as several hundred dollars per ticket). Only taxes and airport fees are included in the cash copay, so you still end up ahead with this new partner booking fee.

Pool Points with Family Members

Family members can link their Aeroplan accounts (up to eight members per pool) and share miles. This is a fantastic new addition to the program that allows family members essentially transfer miles to each other at no extra cost.

Aeroplan Family Pooling

Consolidating miles into a single account is beneficial to those with a few thousand or even hundred points in each account. Negligible point balances here and there suddenly can turn into a meaningful sum.

Earn Elite Status without Flying

Aeroplan program members who fly either 25 Status Qualifying Segments or 25,000 Status Qualifying Miles and spend at least $3,000 Status Qualifying Dollars will earn 25K Elite Status. This status level is the lowest tier that includes priority check-in, priority boarding, preferred pricing on Aeroplan awards, two free checked bags, four eUpgrade credits and two complimentary one-day Maple Leaf Lounge passes.

It’s now possible to earn Aeroplan 25K status without having to accrue qualifying segments or miles.

Program members who earn 100,000 Aeroplan miles during a calendar year will earn 25K Elite Status. There’s no longer a qualifying segment requirement to reach this status tier. Eligible point accruals can come from credit card spending, travel and shopping portals. Keep in mind that welcome points earned from credit cards or transfers from partner programs won’t count toward elite status qualification.

Final Thoughts

Aeroplan has changed quite a bit when Air Canada relaunched its own version of the loyalty program. Most award rates went up, and some went down. Fuel surcharges disappeared, and partner booking fees emerged.

Personally, I’m really curious about the stopover feature and can’t wait to play around with it when it becomes more realistic to book multi-city and multi-country itineraries.

Also, the option to pool points among family members is a great addition to the program. Other loyalty programs, take note.

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