I’ve spent a substantial amount of time over the past couple weeks figuring out how I should blow 240,000 Aeroplan miles. I was looking for a trip for my brother and me in August, and I was trying to make the journey just as fun as the destinations, and hopefully try out a few new airlines. Aeroplan is by far the most rewarding mileage program in the Star Alliance, and I would argue the best all around mileage program if used correctly.
Most Aeorplan award redemption levels are quite good, although nothing compares to a first class award from the US to Asia. At 120,000 miles per seat, Aeroplan allows you two stopovers (pretty cool), and most importantly allows you to route either via the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, or both. Also, while Aeroplan has fuel surcharges on redemptions for Air Canada flights, they don’t when you use a variety of Star Alliance airlines.
Before even doing much investigating I decided we would be going via Europe both ways, for two reasons. First of all, there weren’t any good redemption options via the Pacific. Singapore never releases two first class seats at a time, first class availability on ANA is non-existent for August, and Asiana just doesn’t excite me. Second, and more importantly, there are a couple of products I figured we should try out, which are only available via the Atlantic.
First, and most importantly, we want to try the new Swiss first class, which is featured on the Airbus 330-300, and as of August will be on the New York and Chicago routes. Second, we wanted to try out Turkish Airways between London and Istanbul as well as Istanbul and Asia. Turkish Airways currently leases several Boeing 777-300ER’s from Jet Airways, which is one of the finest airlines in the world. With eight first class suites and amazing award availability, it was a no brainer. Best of all, the ground services in Istanbul are phenomenal: You are literally escorted every step of the way on arrival and departure. If you choose to stay in Istanbul (which we decided to do, since it’s a city neither of us have visited), they even provide a complimentary car transfer to anywhere in the city in a Mercedes. Perfect!
As always, dreaming is the easy part, while actually piecing together an itinerary is the real challenge. My brother and I both had serious time constraints with this award, so we were unfortunately not very flexible. After a ton of research on the ANA tool, along with plenty of help from my friend Steven, we managed to find availability for the following itinerary:
Day 1, TPA-ORD, UA0859, 0909-1055, United First Class, 2hr46min, 752
Day 1, ORD-ZRH, LX0009, 1915-1100 +1, Swiss First Class, 8hr45min, 333
Day 2, ZRH-LHR, LX0332, 1205-1300, Swiss Business Class, 1hr55min, 321
Day 2, LHR-IST, TK1992, 1630-2220, Turkish First Class, 3hr50min, 77W
(Stopover, two days)
Day 4, IST-HKG, TK0070, 2350-1440 +1, Turkish First Class, 9hr50min, 77W
(Destination, three days)
Day 8, HKG-BKK, TG0639, 1845-2025, Thai Business Class, 2hr40min, 333
Day 9, BKK-MUC, TG0924, 0050-0715, Thai First Class, 11hr25min, 346
Day 9, MUC-ZRH, LX1101, 0930-1030, Swiss Business Class, 1hr, AR1
Day 9, ZRH-JFK, LX0014, 1300-1545, Swiss First Class, 8hr45min, 333
So you’re probably wondering why all the unnecessary connections, but I truly believe that this award maximizes every aspect of both and in-flight services. Let’s start from the beginning:
When we get to Zurich we can hang out in the Swiss First Class lounge for a while, and will likely be driven to our connecting flight (sorry, but the novelty of being driven on the tarmac never wears off for me).
The ground services are where Turkish really stands out. Upon arrival Turkish has golf carts waiting for first class passengers, as they’re escorted through immigration and to the awaiting car which will drive you anywhere in the city for free.
When departing Istanbul, they once again pick you up at your hotel for free, and when you arrive you’re literally escorted every step of the way, from check-in to the lounge to the plane. Once again the onboard service should be good.
On the return we connect in Bangkok and can use the Thai Airways Spa and First Class lounge. While Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal in Frankfurt is nice, it can’t compete with Thai’s offerings in Bangkok. First Class passengers can get an hour-long fully body massage before their flight. There is NOTHING more relaxing than a massage right before boarding an 11 hour redeye. The rest of the lounge is fantastic as well.
Upon arrival in Munich we’ll be able to use Lufthansa’s First Class Lounge (due to our same day Swiss first class ticket), which is nearly as good as the First Class Terminal in Frankfurt. Chances are we’ll also be driven to the plane.
Upon arrival in Zurich we’ll likely be driven from our arriving plane to the First Class lounge, and then if needed be driven to the plane for our connection, depending on where it departs from. What truly shines with Swiss, though, is the onboard product, especially with their new first class.
I figured I would have problems booking this, despite this routing being well within the maximum permitted mileage (MPM) for our city pair. I lucked out by getting a fantastic agent that confirmed all my flights in a matter of about 15 minutes, only to put my on hold for an hour while she calculated the taxes. The taxes ended up being $185, which is quite reasonable given that we’re transiting Germany and the UK, and plus there was a $30 ticketing fee, for a grand total of $215 per ticket. Very reasonable, if you ask me.
Anyway, I think I did a decent job of maximizing the routing as well as the trip overall, given the limited amount of time we have. My brother has never been to Hong Kong, so I’m excited to show him my favorite city, while neither of us have been to Istanbul.
So for those that like to refer to Aeroplan as “Errorplan,” I humbly ask what the hell you’re talking about. 😉