An Aeroplan Sweetspot: Hopping Around Eastern Canada

As I mentioned previously, over the coming days and weeks you’ll see the occasional post from a fellow reader who has applied to write for OMAAT on an ongoing basis. It’s possible that posts will still be in the publication queue after we’ve announced our decision, so we’ll be publishing these anonymously. We hope you enjoy the different perspectives!


Aeroplan miles are often touted as an attractive redemption option for intra-Canada flights, domestic U.S. travel on Star Alliance partner United, and for reasonable cost Star Alliance business class flights to Europe.

Those are all fine uses; just make sure you avoid carriers on which Aeroplan imposes fuel surcharges! But the Aeroplan rewards chart also offers a unique value proposition on a perhaps under-appreciated travel destination, Eastern Canada.

In particular, Aeroplan has reasonable award options for travel to Quebec and — further East — to Atlantic Canada, consisting of the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia (NS), New Brunswick (NB), Newfoundland and Labrador (NL), and Prince Edward Island (PEI).

Apart from Montreal and perhaps Halifax, this region mostly lacks bustling urban hotspots. Nature-lovers and fans of quieter, more off the beaten path will find plenty to love.

The area’s relative remoteness (as well as Canada’s relatively monopolistic national airline, Air Canada) can make purchasing cash tickets prohibitively expensive. I’m here to show you how to avoid those nasty cash prices by using a little bit of know-how and a minimal outlay of miles.

Why it works

There are two aspects of Aeroplan’s rewards chart and redemption rules that combine to offer particularly favorable travel award options within Eastern Canada (excluding Ontario).

Specifically:

  • All intra-Canadian travel on Air Canada either within or between Quebec and Atlantic Canada is classified as “Short-haul,” and therefore costs only 15,000 miles round-trip
  • Mileage redemptions for round-trip award travel can include one free stopover (or an open jaw), provided that all flights on the itinerary are flown on Air Canada

If we combine that with the previously examined Aeroplan rewards chart, we see that it would be possible for someone originating anywhere in the U.S. or Canada to visit up to four destinations in Quebec and/or Atlantic Canada, for as long as they want, for a maximum of 40,000 Aeroplan miles, plus taxes and fees.

How? By booking two round-trip itineraries and strategically utilizing the stopover of the first round-trip itinerary as the origin of the second round-trip itinerary.

For example, suppose your home airport is Orlando, and you want to visit Montreal (YUL) and Halifax (YHZ), visit the bay of Fundy, near Saint John, NB (YSJ), and — needless to say, of course — there’s your pesky, Lucky-inspired, bucket-list worthy, not entirely explicable, compulsion to explore Fogo Island, near Gander, NL (YQX).

You could book the following:

Itinerary #1 (“Long-haul,” 25,000 mile cost):
MCO – YUL (Stopover) – YSJ (Destination) – MCO (Home)

Itinerary #2 (“Short-haul,” 15,000 mile cost):
YUL – YHZ (Stopover) – YQX (Destination) – YUL

Wait, it gets better

I demonstrated above how someone can book travel from anywhere in North America to four separate destinations in Eastern Canada for just 40,000 Aeroplan miles round-trip. But Aeroplan also considers many itineraries between Eastern U.S. airports and either Quebec or Atlantic Canada as “Short-haul” for mile redemption purposes, again provided all flights are on Air Canada.

Here is their chart showing exactly which combinations qualify:

Note especially that many U.S. airports are subject to “Short-haul” pricing on flights to or from the province of Quebec. Even flights from as far away as Atlanta and Minneapolis qualify!

Don’t like connections? If we restrict our list to airports with nonstop Air Canada service to Montreal, there are still plenty of options, with flights originating in ORD, IAD, LGA, BOS, PHL, BDL, PIT, or BWI that cost just 15,000 Aeroplan miles round-trip.

Putting it all together, this means while the above “Itinerary #1” originating in MCO would cost 25,000 miles (and 40,000 miles total, when combined with Itinerary #2), it could be modified slightly if originating from a “Short-haul” qualifying airport to yield an all-in cost of just 30,000 miles. For example:

Itinerary #1A (“Short-haul,” 15,000 mile cost):
ORD – YUL (Stopover) – YGR (Destination) – ORD (Home)

Itinerary #2 (“Short-haul,” 15,000 mile cost):
YUL – YHZ (Stopover) – YQX (Destination) – YUL

Note that I replaced the initial destination, YSJ, with YGR (Magdalen Islands), which is in the province of Quebec in order to get the 15,000 mile cost (for travel from Illinois). Subsequent flights completely within Quebec or Atlantic Canada will still price at 15,000 miles regardless.

Some Potential Stops and Destinations

In Quebec:

  • YUL – Montreal
  • YQB – Quebec City
  • YGR – Magdeline Islands
  • YGP – Gaspe

In Atlantic Canada:

  • YHZ – Halifax, NS
  • YQY – Sidney, NS
  • YSJ – Saint John, NB
  • YQM – Moncton, NB
  • YYG – Charlottetown, PEI
  • YYT – Saint John’s, NL
  • YQX – Gander, NL

Hints And Caveats

To find direct flight award availability, I recommend searching United for individual flight segments using the “show only nonstop flight availability” feature. Then use Aeroplan’s multi-city trip planner to build your itinerary, confirm pricing details, and ultimately book your travel.

Keep in mind that, while the intra-Canada flights in the sample itineraries in this post are all available direct, some of the routings between airports in Eastern Canada do require connections and/or stops. Award availability may also be much better utilizing a connection. Please check Air Canada’s flight map for possible routings when planning your travel.

Air Canada does have carrier surcharges on these flights, and Canadian airport taxes and fees are also relatively high, so these flights are going to require a modest cash outlay. Cash prices for the same tickets, however, are much, much higher.

For the ORD-originating itinerary outlined in this post, the cash component of an award booking totaled $420 CAD all-in ($320 USD) for a late-summer trip booked almost six months in advance. By comparison, the cash price for the same flights totaled $1,946 CAD ($1485 USD).

This represents a cash redemption value of nearly 3.9 cents (US) per Aeroplan mile, an outstanding value for an economy booking.

How To Get Aeroplan Miles

Aeroplan is a transfer partner of both Amex Membership Rewards and of Starwood Preferred Guest, so you can transfer points from either of those programs.

It is worth noting, however, that now through April 16, Aeroplan is offering a 25% points bonus on point transfers from hotel loyalty partners, including Starwood. Thus, while Amex Membership Rewards points currently transfer (as they do typically) 1:1 to Aeroplan, Starpoint transfers will earn you an extra bonus (on top of the standard 5,000 mile bonus for transferring 20,000 points).

During this promotional offer, 20,000 Starpoints will get you 31,250 Aeroplan miles, enough for one four stop Eastern Canadian adventure from many major cities!

Have you been to Eastern Canada? Any favorite destinations?

Comments

  1. The surcharges are a killer unless you want to fly to one of the small airports. If you want to go to Halifax, obviously you’re better off avoiding Air Canada. For New Brunswick, an option may be to fly into Maine and rent a car.

  2. Useless because of the YQ – unless one is truly wanting to go visit those places, else who would pay that theoretically $1.5K cash ticket to all the 4 places?

    Theoretical comparison is good on paper but without practical usefulness is truly misleading just to show how these could be classified as “sweet spots”. They are not for those places many of them could be more effectively visited via a road trip. Yes we have done one a few years ago. Save your $300+ YQ for a rental car and save the time to and from the airports You would still need a car once you get off the plane. Else just how you are going to enjoy the nature?
    It is rare to see you write worthless article but sorry this one is squarely in the worthless camp.

  3. 1. The article doesn’t explain why you would want/should go to Eastern Canada and doesn’t seem to know much about the area
    2. Grammatical errors (Sidney, NS???)
    3. Poor and convoluted writing style – even as an Atlantic Canadian I was befuddled!

  4. Great post – new subject matter, positive writing style, practical, knows what they are talking about. Much, much better than the Australian anti-BA/London blogger before.

  5. Lost it through the article with this one. And fails to mention the high YQ only till the end of the article.

  6. I am a reader from Halifax! I will say that summer is by far the best time to come here, as the weather is generally good, and there’s always something going on downtown. Perhaps the thing that sets Atlantic Canada apart most is the people. The hospitality here is, generally speaking, among the best in Canada/North America.

  7. Tough crowd. I read the whole article and thought it was fine. Agree the high YQ should be mentioned earlier though, and more info on the destinations would be welcome.

  8. Quite informative… Didn’t know I can fly BWI-CAN for 15K. Otherwise, I agree with most comments, I don’t think anyone would find the proposed itinerary inspiring and the writing style needs much improvement. I had a really hard time following.

  9. Most comments here are probably coming from outside Canada, hence clueless on how much it actually costs to fly intra-Canada. Hint: it’s sometimes cheaper to fly to US or even to Europe or Asia. So yes, even with the hefty YQ on AC, this still makes sense for most Canadians.

    Although I feel the author should have mentioned that the short-haul rewards (which costs 15k miles) is also available on all provinces flying to/from the adjacent state/province. Flight to/from Eastern Canada are generally expensive but the sweet spot is not limited to these locations.

  10. There is quite some room for perfection in writing style, but overall I liked the post! It’s a welcoming change from all of the sensation/news/industry articles, with which is nothing wrong, but, besides trip reports, I prefer more tips&tricks like this. It’s a good sweet spot which I reckon will be helpful to some people.

    This article could use some explaining what to do in Eastern Canada. Maybe you have been there yourself? Make us excited about the destination!

  11. Maybe I feel a bit more positively about this article than others. The author wrote about a topic that has not received a lot of coverage from other bloggers. It is far more original than another article on BA bashing. Please don’t let the next author write about the Park Hyatt Maldives.

    Also, I am not Canadian but I’ve visited Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax, Sydney, St. John, Moncton and Charlottetown, along with quite a bit of the rest of Canada, and don’t have a lot of sympathy for the argument that the author didn’t tell me why I should go there. Canada is a gorgeous and amazing country. Maybe it is just me, but I don’t need an explanation why I should visit Eastern Canada, and hopefully others don’t either.

    However, I definitely do agree that the article needs to be studied and can’t simply be read (that is a negative, not a positive), and the really serious issue for me is the lack of granularity about the high YQ for various routes (as opposed to a throw-away paragraph at the end).

  12. I am surprised that experienced frequent fliers seem to be clueless about Air Canada/Aeroplan and YQ. Have they never read a blog by Lucky where he states over and over that you use Aeroplan on Swiss/United/EVA/SAA etc to avoid the incredibly rotten YQ fees? Welcome to Canada and taxation!

    However – visiting Atlantic Canada is a blast. I personally have rented a car in Montreal and done the entire loop through Atlantic Canada and down to Boston crossing between Nova Scotia and Bar Harbour Maine on the ferry so would probably not bother flying. However, visiting St. Johns Nfld is a great stop and not worth the long drive from the Port Au Basque ferry so air makes sense for some stopovers.

  13. Dang! Angry Sunday afternoon crowd!!! (Maybe some lost their brackets in the NCAA pool)
    Having visited friends in Halifax recently in the fall, my wife and I can attest that the activities and pace of life makes NS and PEI an excellent vacation spot. While we didn’t score via points/miles, we flew in from DTW via BOS into YHZ. We spent a few nights in a nice B&B in Digby, went whale watching in the Bay of Fundy, ate lobster off the coast in Hall’s Harbor (go early in the day, then return later to see the effect of the tide rolling out…a 20-30 drop!). We also went to Charlottetown for a day (should have planned for 2-3), enjoyed walking around there, lots of Irish bars and restaurants in both Charlottetown and Halifax. A good way to spend 4-6 days at there, and longer if you prefer to go farther away.

  14. Did a similar thing with Miles and More. It’s 15k anywhere in East and Central Asia, so I booked an Astana-Beijing flight, which would otherwise be ~$700 one way. Sweet deal, because Central Asia is considered another region in most award charts. Could have probably gone all the way to Tokyo if I wanted too.

    The flip side is that an Astana-Novosibirsk flight would be 40k miles, because Novosibirsk (and the rest of Russia) is in their Europe region. (and you’d have to fly through Warsaw, or pay for a 3 region award if you wanted to fly through East Asia)

  15. Very complicated article but, for those with unusual needs, this is a fantastic way of seeing Eastern Canada.

  16. Informative, and good use of maps and charts, but didn’t care for the writing style. We need more humor — like Tiffany, Lucky, and Travis provide!

  17. Really interesting topic (much better than the standard “save up for ages then fly here in business” suggestions – trips like this are exactly how I get value from my miles) but like the others I found it quite hard to follow.

    Granted that could be as I read the post pretty quickly (but then that’s the “house style” I’ve become accustomed to here!).

  18. Personally, I liked this article better than the last one. Yes, it’s much more technical and therefore requires more concentration to follow, but I thought it was much more logically laid out, and I thought the writing was better and clearer than the BA piece. But I guess I am in the minority here.

  19. I found this super informative and more information rich than some of the more opinionated articles. In fairness, I am reading it from Newfoundland where I fly several times a year to visit family from my home in NYC with my United miles. So maybe the relevance made it appealing to me, but I was a fan and didn’t find it difficult to follow at all. (But please fix the spelling of Sydney!)

  20. Aeroplan short-haul awards are a great use of miles – when availability is there of course. It seems like every time I look up availability to Gaspe or Iles-de-la-Madeleine, it’s either non-existent in one direction or so far spread out that I can’t make a realistic trip out of the award inventory.

  21. I will pass with that scam surcharges. Aeroplan is going down hill and will be worst after Air Canada dump them in two years.

  22. So the two guest posts from today provide a (semi) interesting take on a subject, but I feel like the writing doesn’t really have a strong narrative or personality. They’re more like a wikipedia article. The thing about this blog is you click on some trip report with an airline you’ll never travel (e.g. Taag) because of the story and entertainment factor. If it’s just-the-facts, then what’s the point?

  23. Content: 8.5/10 (Pretty original content, and quite deep in thinking. Could be valuable as his/her train of thought can help discover new valuable contents)
    Writing: 6/10 (Granted not the easiest piece to articulate, given how deep the topic is, but could improve the expression to make it easier for readers to digest. Perhaps could have drawn tables or diagrams to illustrate the ideas.)

    Original thinkers are harder to come by. Continue to work on expression, to get clear and concise points across. I would rate this as good potential.

  24. (I saw a comments that this is unoriginal given another blog has covered it. If this is true, then the content scores have to be adjusted much lower- since it was the content that was impressive)

  25. I like the level of detail, however isn’t Aeroplan going to be useless soon since Air Canada is splitting off from it in the next year or two?

  26. I like this.

    While Eastern Canada isn’t at the top of my travel list, I’d like to visit eventually and this strategy does intrigue me.

  27. Here’s a better use for Aeroplan miles: 15k + $40 roundtrip from Winnipeg to Churchill, MB (polar bear country). Typical cost of the flight is 1300 Canadian dollars.

  28. I think the writing style is a bit advanced (in a good way), and while the previous author had a much smoother overall article, the information in this one was really great. This kind of inexpensive (mile-wise), yet really fun/exciting ideas for admittedly niche markets is cool. It’s more interesting than just TPAC and TATL flight stuff we hear about all the time.

  29. Although I thought the material was useless, (not a fan of that redemption at all)I do like this kind of content more than the BA stuff. It would be nice to have someone like this on staff since everyone else writes articles comparable to BA guy.

  30. Aeroplan sweet spots is a great concept. I learned a lot. This is the type of article I find useful and don’t see enough of anymore. To me bloggers seem over infatuated with pretty pictures of luxury services and not enough with creative ways to get a lot of travel from miles programs.

    The writing is a bit uneven, but i’m all for the ideas.

  31. It reads fine ( and if it had posted under a known byline the pickiness in the responses wouldn’t be there).

  32. Much better/clearer writing than the last one, albeit on a more technical subject, and offered some interesting new information rather than the same old BA/UK bashing.

    Big improvement from the last guest article.

  33. YQ is waived for all Altitude members travelling within Canada so this can be a great use of miles for us AC elites.

  34. The fees on transborder flights are truly insane. Both countries consider them fully international, so it’s not uncommon for these 15k pt flights to have higher fees than actual ticket costs — I’ve never considered these flights a particularly good use of miles because the fare component (the part you get for “free”) isn’t typically a lot. By contrast, you can fly porter from IAD/EWR/BOS through YTZ for ~US$250 during sales and then use aeroplan for the intra-canada portion.

    I like the graphics with the examples, and the “short haul” intra-canada cities can def be a value for those interested in seeing atlantic canada. Just be warned that — thanks to the high fees — tickets can often be much cheaper to the closest US airport. For example, BGR and BUF are only about a 3 hr and 2 hr drive to Toronto and Fredericton, respectively.

    tl;dl I’m all about sweet spots for economy flying, but there are often cheaper ways of doing transborder travel.

  35. @Terry First time I’ve seen this particular topic. Having a topic posted/published elsewhere does not automatically mean everyone has seen or read it.

  36. i tink that the riting of dis artikal is cuite bed. The guy/gal kant even spel corectly.

  37. This is the type of article I like to see on this blog: sweet spots for different mileage plans. I do find this particular Canadian sweet spot useless for most people so perhaps author can write something more useful like going from West coast to New Zealand/ Australia in first class. It’s impossible to find even one award business class ticket on Qantas. So what are the other sweetspot alternatives? I know many Americans see Australia/ New Zealand as a bucket list item so if you can come up with something good, then it will be very helpful to many of us. Be creative but remember flights with too many connections/ long layovers isn’t realistic for most readers who work and have limited holiday days.

  38. I do know about the short haul award, but I never thought of going to YGR or YGP. (I have been to other major canadian cities. so my interest is more obscure places.)
    In fact, I just google this article as I am searching for space to book a ticket of the form
    NYC – YGR/YGP – YUL (stop) – NYC. i guess for August.

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