Air Canada’s website displays Star Alliance partners (like LOT and Singapore) that United.com lacks, and their award chart is reasonable relative to other carriers.
Air Canada only charges 90,000 Aeroplan miles roundtrip (45k oneway) for travel to Europe Zone 1 which represents quite a few countries.
Ninety thousand miles is 10k less than booking with US Airways or American Airlines miles. United charges 115k miles roundtrip for awards flying United’s own BusinessFirst product and a whopping 140k miles on Star Alliance partners. Delta begins charging 125k SkyMiles for business class awards to Europe for flights starting June 1.
Europe Zone 2 encompasses the rest of the continent. An Aeroplan award costs 105,000 miles (52.5k oneway) to the below countries.
Though the Aeroplan award chart pricing is favorable, there are certain Star Alliance carriers that Air Canada assesses dreaded fuel surcharges. Choosing to fly certain partners could cost over $1,000 per person in addition to the miles!
What are the Star Alliance carriers to avoid when booking with Aeroplan miles? Which are the best to get you to Europe? Are there any fifth-freedom flights you can take advantage of?
Aeroplan miles are incredibly useful for travel to Europe because:
- One way awards book at half the price (45k) of a roundtrip itinerary
- You are allowed two stopovers or one stopover + one open jaw on roundtrip awards
- Membership Rewards transfer instantly to Aeroplan, so you can locate your perfect itinerary, transfer the points, and then book the award
- Award change and cancellation fees are relatively mild ($90 CAD/ticket) [Note: this is why I speculatively booked a TAM first class award from New York to Brazil using Aeroplan miles]
As mentioned above, not all Star Alliance carriers are equal when booking Aeroplan awards. Air Canada levies some giant fuel surcharges on certain carriers, which you should avoid at all costs.
Star Alliance Carriers with Fuel Surcharges
Frustratingly, Air Canada collects fuel surcharges on their own flights. A segment from Toronto to London would be $400+.
Click on any screen shot to enlarge.
Though Slovenian carrier Adria Airways doesn’t have any transatlantic routes, they still assess fuel surcharges. Adria likely wouldn’t make sense for an intra-European award as the fuel surcharges are a major component of a paid ticket.
However if you flew across the Atlantic on a partner that didn’t have fuel surcharge (e.g. United), it would minimize the out of pocket costs.
Austrian is another airline to avoid when looking for Aeroplan award space. A oneway from Washington D.C. to Vienna in business class would cost 45k miles plus over $450. $428 of that total cost is dreaded fuel surcharges!
Lufthansa is no different. A flight from New York to Frankfurt would be the same amount out of pocket. After my experience from Frankfurt to Washington D.C. in Lufthansa’s business cabin, I wouldn’t be keen on spending miles and lots of cash for a similar trip.
Star Alliance Carriers with Low(er) Fuel Surcharges
LOT Polish flies to Warsaw on a 787 featuring flat-bed seats. Though there are surcharges on LOT flights, they are much lower than those incurred on Lufthansa or Austrian.
Air Canada also implements fuel surcharges on TAP Portugal flights. I wouldn’t hesitate to book a LOT flight with Aeroplan miles, but TAP’s fees would give me pause. They aren’t outrageous at $126 one way, but they aren’t minimal, either.
Star Alliance Carriers with NO Fuel Surcharges
The below airlines are the ones to book to Europe. You will only be charged taxes and fees as opposed to a hefty fuel surcharge.
Aegean Airlines doesn’t have any longhaul flights much like Star Alliance partner Adria Airways. Unlike Adria, they have no fuel surcharges on their flights. Great news for those who are looking to hit up the Greek Isles!
Brussels Airlines avoids fuel surcharges. My girlfriend recently had a great flight on them and enjoyed her flat-bed seat along with the Belgian chocolate gift box they distributed after landing!
Croatia Airlines is another small carrier like Adria and Aegean. Luckily they don’t have any fuel surcharges. If you want to go crazy and cliff dive in Dubrovnik, perhaps consider adding a stopover on Croatia Air?
Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) is an airline on which Air Canada only collects taxes.
Swiss Air is devoid of fuel surcharges, which is surprising given how cozy their relationship is with Lufthansa. I flew them from Boston to Zurich last fall and had a great experience.
Turkish Airlines flights feature only taxes. After my amazing flight from Washington D.C. to Istanbul, I’m excited to try them out again.
United flights also have only taxes. That’s incredible as using Aeroplan miles for United is cheaper than redeeming United miles for the same flights! For reviews of their flat-bed BusinessFirst check out here and here).
US Airways is departing the Star Alliance on March 30th. Until then, their flights are bookable with Aeroplan miles and don’t have fuel surcharges.
Interesting Fifth Freedom Flights with No Fuel Surcharges
It’s almost impossible to find Singapore Airlines premium cabin space on flights departing the US (unless booking with KrisFlyer miles), but they are another fuel surcharge-free carrier. Singapore flies between both New York-JFK and Frankfurt as well as Houston and Moscow en route to Singapore.
Air New Zealand flies a tag flight from London-Heathrow to Los Angeles en route to Auckland. I’ve never seen premium cabin award space on this flight, but it’s an interesting nonstop option. Airport taxes and fees are brutal in London which explains the pricing breakdown below.
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.
I love Air Canada Aeroplan miles. They are a direct and instant transfer partner with American Express Membership Rewards points. They belong to the largest alliance with the most robust route network to places I want to visit.
Their award chart to Europe is favorable and features one way awards for half the price of a roundtrip. They also have liberal routing rules, so you can include two stopovers or one stopover and one open jaw on roundtrip travel. This allows you to enhance the value of your miles with creative multi-stop itineraries.
Aeroplan miles aren’t the perfect solution to Europe, though. Air Canada assesses big fuel surcharges on their own flights and on partners like Lufthansa and Austrian.
The majority of Star Alliance carriers luckily don’t have this nasty little feature, but it’s important to note which airlines to avoid and which to book when constructing an Aeroplan award ticket.