Perhaps you’ve noticed that we’ve been flying a few places lately — almost exclusively with Air Canada. Between Orlando, Punta Cana, Hong Kong and Turks & Caicos alone, the four of us have racked up quite a few Aeroplan rewards miles in the last couple of years.
But beyond those trips, I’ve flown Air Canada for years . So I’ve had occasion to earn enough miles along the way to buy some smaller rewards but never had the will power to hold out long enough for a flight.
For whatever reason, I thought the taxes on top of the rewards miles would be too much to make it worthwhile. Then I actually started checking out flights — and, boy, was I wrong. The taxes on some legs come to as little as about $30. I WAS WORRIED ABOUT 30 BUCKS?!
So when my husband’s employer announced that its 2016 convention would be in San Diego, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to tag along and take advantage of the free hotel room. My parents agreed to keep our darling children for a solid week, so I quickly checked how many Aeroplan reward miles I’d need to make it from Toronto to San Diego and back on the dates in question: just 25,000.
Fabulous. I parked that and went about my day.
When I returned the following day to book the flights, my jaw dropped to the floor. The same route, the same dates at the same time: 54,600 miles! Whaaa?
Turns out it must be a popular route, and all those Fixed Mileage routes (ahem, the “cheap” seats) were snapped up, leaving only the Market Fare Flight Rewards seats as an option. But at more than double the number of miles, I simply didn’t have enough in my Aeroplan bank.
When I asked the fine folks at Aeroplan if they had any suggestions, they told me I should keep checking because new flights can be added and seats do open up from time to time.
And that’s exactly what I did. I checked every single night; as soon as the kids were in bed, I’d log on and obsessively input the YYZ–>SAN–>YYZ route.
Day one: no change.
Day two: no change.
Day three: no change.
Day four: no change!
Day five: pardon me? What’s that? A new direct flight added to each leg of my journey! And seats were available for 25,000 reward miles for the return flight! But, oh…I was sharing rides with Big B to and from each airport. With a four-hour difference on the flight to San Diego, I figured it was doable. But with a 12-hour difference coming home, I couldn’t do it.
I hummed. I hawed. And then I remembered reading something about Aeroplan introducing one-way fare options for half of the required number of reward miles.
My fingers were nimble. The flight codes rolled off their tips.
Ah-ha! I could book a YYZ–>SAN leg for 12,500 points and suck up the four-hour delay between my and Big B’s departures, and book the same flight home as the hubs using the Market Fare option, which came to 28,050 miles. I had enough to make it work! Besides, the alternative was shopping by myself at an airport for 12 hours and taking a taxi home — so spending the extra miles probably saved my bank account from weeping.
The morals of this story are:
- Don’t wait. If you see the flight that works for you and it’s available for the Fixed Mileage rate (aka: the least number of miles) — GRAB IT and never let go
- If you don’t listen to point No. 1 and the only option remaining when you finally make up your mind is the Market Fare rewards, consider two things — first, what isn’t there today may pop up down the road; or, second, try one-way options and see if you can at least nab a Fixed Mileage route for half of your journey
- As far as travel rewards go, Aeroplan puts more people in more reward seats than any other loyalty program in Canada, so consider saving your miles for a longer term just in case you need some for those Market Fare routes. (This is important because Aeroplan Members have access to any available seat at a rate that reflects market fares at the time of booking — it’s basically your no-blackout alternative)
Oh, and if you manage to find your return flight at the Fixed Mileage rate, you should know that you can now use your miles for the premium economy cabin on applicable Air Canada flights. We upgraded to premium economy when we flew to Hong Kong earlier this year, so I speak from experience when I tell you that it’s worth every penny. Or mile.
Now if only July would get here so I can enjoy my nearly-free flight, that’d be just grand…
DISCLAIMER: Aeroplan generously provided some of the additional reward miles required to purchase the Market Fare leg, and I thought it was important to share my tips on snapping up the Fixed Mileage flights so you didn’t land in my situation!