Aeroplan is by far the best airline rewards program for Canadian travelers. That’s in part due to the fact that it’s really easy to earn lots and lots of points, but also because it was completely revamped in 2020 and offers travelers a lot of value thanks to the many airline partners you can redeem your points with.
Aeroplan is already the airline rewards program with the most partners worldwide (there are 45+), and the list keeps growing.
Last Saturday, at the travel rewards conference I was speaking at, the 2 Air Canada VPs in charge of Aeroplan gave us an exclusive: 2 new airline partners would be announced before the end of the year (we shared this in our travel rewards updates post last week).
It’s happening a lot faster than we thought: the 2 new partners were just announced!
So you have so many airline options to use your Aeroplan points and go just about anywhere on the planet.
Here are the details of the addition of a Vietnamese full-service airline (Bamboo Airways) and a Turkish leisure airline (SunExpress).
I also added 6 essential concepts to know about the Aeroplan program at the end (while you await our ultimate guide coming soon; sign up for our free travel rewards newsletter to get all the pro tips)!
Addition of Bamboo Airways
Aeroplan members can now use their points for flights on Bamboo Airways, a fast-growing, full-service Vietnamese airline.
But Aeroplan is actually Bamboo Airways’ first-ever partner worldwide!
This airline just recently launched its first flights in 2019.
This is really rare because, in the last few years, almost all of the new airlines that have been launched have been ultra low-cost carriers or leisure airlines, as these have really been giving existing full-service airlines a hard time.
Bamboo Airways has grown very quickly, with 30 aircraft already in its fleet. It’s trying to position itself as an alternative to the already established full-service airline, Vietnam Airlines.
Although Bamboo Airways doesn’t yet offer direct flights to North America, they have big ambitions and have mentioned several times that they will launch flights to the US soon.
Until then, it still gives you plenty of new opportunities to get to Vietnam via a connection in one of the many destinations they serve in the Asia/Pacific region and even in Europe (London and Frankfurt), allowing for many more options to get to this beautiful (and affordable) country.
Their focus is on international connectivity, but Bamboo Airways also operates domestic flights in Vietnam and serves 20 of the country’s 22 airports. Its hubs are in the country’s 2 metropolises, Hồ Chí Minh City (SGN) and Hanoi (HAN).
Here’s a map of all routes served by Bamboo Airways.
And here’s an overview of their routes in Vietnam more specifically.
So maybe I’ll be able to test Bamboo Airways en route to the Marriott hotel where I can get 5 free nights for just 50,000 points (or maybe I’ll go to Indonesia and Malaysia to get 5 nights for just 30,000 points). The Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card‘s current welcome bonus gives you 53,000 points for just $120.
As far as using Aeroplan points on Bamboo Airways, it’ll work according to Aeroplan’s standard partner flight price chart, just like all partners.
Concretely, let’s say you take advantage of a flight deal that Flytrippers spotted a few weeks ago between Montréal and Vietnam in the $800 roundtrip range. Then, you could use 8,000 Aeroplan points per direction to go from there to neighboring countries. Often, intra-Asia flights are inexpensive in cash, but sometimes it’s a little more expensive.
So depending on the cash price, it can be a good use of Aeroplan points. I’ll come back to that.
Vietnam is one of our readers’ favorite countries, and we already have a few articles on this destination — and you can expect a lot more content on Southeast Asia soon, so sign up for our free newsletter to not miss out.
Vietnam is also among the 119+ countries without any COVID-19 restrictions for all travelers.
You can book Bamboo Airways flights on the Air Canada website and mobile app, just like all other partners.
I’ll explain a little bit more about Aeroplan, but first I want to mention the other new partner.
Addition of SunExpress
Starting November 8, Aeroplan members will be able to redeem points for flights on SunExpress, a Turkish leisure carrier named the “World’s Best Leisure Airline” at the 2022 World Airline Awards.
I flew SunExpress in August 2020, during one of my many trips to Türkiye, the country that was called Turkey up until very recently. The experience was very good.
The airline is actually a joint venture between Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines, 2 airlines that are already Aeroplan partners since they’re part of Star Alliance, 1 of the 3 global airline alliances.
While SunExpress doesn’t fly directly to North America, it offers Canadian travelers many options to travel to Türkiye through a connecting flight at one of its many European destinations, giving us a lot more options to get to this country that’s amazing (and soooo affordable).
SunExpress also operates some domestic flights in Türkiye. It has major hubs in Antalya (AYT) and İzmir (ADB).
Here’s a map of all the routes SunExpress serves.
And here’s an overview of their routes in Türkiye more specifically.
In terms of points redemptions, it will follow Aeroplan’s standard partner award charts, like all partners.
Concretely, let’s say you take advantage of a flight deal that Flytrippers often spots between Montreal/Toronto and Paris in the $400s roundtrip. You could use 12,500 Aeroplan points per direction to get from there to Türkiye. Often flights within Europe are cheap with cash, but from Europe to Türkiye sometimes it’s a bit more expensive.
So depending on the price in cash, it can be a good use of Aeroplan points. I’ll get back to that.
It’s also one of the 119+ countries without COVID-19 restrictions for all travelers.
You’ll be able to book SunExpress flights on the Air Canada website and mobile app, as is the case with all the other airline partners.
Before I talk about the basics like that, I want to mention the next new partner that will be announced next week.
6 important concepts to understand Aeroplan
I’ll take the addition of new partners Bamboo Airways and SunExpress as an opportunity to illustrate 6 important concepts about Aeroplan in a concrete way.
Our new ultimate guide to Air Canada’s Aeroplan program coming soon will have a lot more explanations if you’re interested.
Concept 1: The choice between simplicity and value
One of the most basic aspects of travel rewards has to be explained: the 2 types of points out there.
There are fixed value rewards and variable value rewards.
With travel — as with everything in life — the less complicated it is, the less value you get. If you want simple points that apply to any trip and are always worth the same, there are plenty of those!
(The CIBC Aventura® Gold Visa* Card gives you a simple $400 travel credit as a welcome bonus, with no annual fee the first year and 4 airport lounge passes and the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card give you $300 travel credit as a welcome bonus that can be applied to any travel expense, also with no annual fee the first year!)
But you’re going to get a LOT less free travel than with points like Aeroplan.
It’s still free travel, so it’s better than nothing. But it’s nearly not as much savings.
Aeroplan points are obviously variable value rewards.
So with Bamboo Airways or SunExpress, as with all Aeroplan partner airlines, you have to understand that not all uses are good!
It always depends on the cash price! It varies! That’s the most basic concept.
The value of a point is how much it saves you. And how much you save with variable value rewards like Aeroplan necessarily depends on the cash price (the next concept touches on how prices are determined).
If the Bamboo Airways or SunExpress flight is expensive with cash (and other carriers offering the same flight are expensive too), that’s a good use of Aeroplan points.
If the Bamboo Airways or SunExpress flight (and those of other carriers as well) is not expensive with cash, it’s not a good use of Aeroplan points.
It’s really that simple, but 90% of people have a really hard time understanding this principle.
Most people don’t understand the difference between variable value rewards and fixed value rewards. They are just used to bad fixed value rewards and they don’t bother to do the math!
Concept 2: Aeroplan’s 2 separate pricing systems
Another thing many travelers don’t know is that how to get the most value from your Aeroplan points is often NOT to fly with Air Canada, but rather with the many partner airlines.
Why is this? Because the new Aeroplan program is very unique and has 2 completely separate pricing systems:
- Flights on partners
- the price in points is guaranteed and fixed regardless of the price in cash
- available seats are necessarily limited
- Flights on Air Canada
- the price in points is dynamic and varies according to the price in cash
- so seats are obviously all available
So a Bamboo Airways or SunExpress flight is always going to be a fixed price decided by the Aeroplan award charts. But not all seats on Bamboo Airways or SunExpress flights are available of course.
That’s why the addition of new airline partners by Aeroplan is great! It gives us more availability and options; it makes finding seats easier!
Concept 3: The flexibility required to maximize points
If you don’t want the hassle or don’t want to be flexible, you can still earn Aeroplan points and use them on the hundreds of Air Canada routes where all the seats are available… but it’ll cost you more points in most cases.
(But not always, sometimes it’s the same price too; it’s just not guaranteed that you’ll get the lower fixed price like with partners!)
To really maximize travel rewards, there’s no secret and it’s as simple as what you have to do to save money when you pay with cash instead of points: it’s best to be flexible.
To find available seats on Bamboo Airways or SunExpress, as on all Aeroplan partners, it’s simple: book as far in advance as possible and/or have at least a little wiggle room on dates!
It’s not necessarily easy for everyone to be able to do that, but the concept itself is really simple to understand to find available seats.
The fact that the airline partners limit the number of available seats is precisely what allows them to offer fixed prices in points, regardless of their price in cash…
So that’s what makes it possible to get outsized value and unlimited value with your points.
Concept 4: Outsized value and unlimited value
Cashback or fixed-value rewards (like bank points that are less valuable) are always worth the same. You can’t get outsized value and the value is 100% limited.
It’s worth what it’s worth and that’s it. You can’t get a good deal with them.
(Again, it’s still free travel… it’s better than those who still pay by debit and throw money out the window. But still!)
Variable value rewards, on the other hand, can earn you a lot! No limit!
Let’s look at a flight to a small town in Mexico on the previous new partner addition, Mexican airline Aeromar, for example. It’s very niche, but this extreme example of a destination will more easily show the difference!
It’s worth $1,010 when paid in cash!!! (and even $1,147 to have just one stop like the points option).
That’s crazy, and I hope no one pays $1,00 to go to Mexico when we often spot those for $400 roundtrip on our cheap flight deals page.
But that’s just to show you the outsized value and unlimited value that are only possible with variable value rewards.
With Aeroplan points, this flight (on both Air Canada and Aeromar) costs only 25,000 points and $189.
That gives you a value of ≈ 3.3¢ per point!
The value calculation is always the same and is very simple, you don’t need to be a math genius: the dollar amount you save divided by the number of points you use.
So here we save $821 ($1010 – $189) and we use 25,000 points.
Instead of being worth ≈ 1.5¢ like our conservative Flytrippers Valuation of Aeroplan points, or a fixed value of 1¢ like most bank points that can’t ever be worth more… we just doubled or tripled the value!
Doubling or tripling the amount of free travel earned, with exactly the same number of points!
And there are thousands of examples where you can get outsized value and unlimited value with your Aeroplan points.
Think about it, that means the current welcome bonuses on the American Express Cobalt Card or the American Express Aeroplan Card, worth ≈ $700 according to our Flytrippers Valuation, could easily be worth $1,500 instead!
Best credit cards for Aeroplan points
American Express® Aeroplan®* Card
Bonus: spend $3k in 6 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $795
Card Fee: $120
American Express® Gold Rewards Card
Bonus: spend $3k in 3 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $745
Card Fee: $250
Platinum Card® from American Express
Bonus: spend $6k in 3 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $1190
Card Fee: $699
American Express® Aeroplan®* Reserve Card
Bonus: spend $6k in 6 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $1388
Card Fee: $599
American Express Cobalt® Card
Bonus: spend $500/mo for 12 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $900
Card Fee: $156
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Financial institutions are not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "See More" to see most up-to-date information.
In short, that’s the beauty of Aeroplan points and why they’re the best in Canada. Unlimited value.
Concept 5: Finding availability
As with all Aeroplan partner airlines, you can find available flights directly on the Air Canada website or their app.
I repeat: to have the most choice of partner airlines (like Bamboo Airways or SunExpress), and therefore guaranteed lower prices, you have to book in advance and/or be flexible on your dates.
Even for flights on Air Canada, those same 2 tips are also useful: they’ll allow you to find the seats that cost the lowest amount of Aeroplan points too!
Concept 6: Understanding “sweet spots”
Each rewards program has different rules of course, so each program has “sweet spots” that are different.
As a general rule, for almost all variable value rewards programs, the best uses of points are for flights that are expensive with cash (because of everything I just explained).
That means, among other things:
- Flights where there’s less competition
- Flights to smaller destinations
- Flights to less popular destinations
- Flights during peak periods
- Flights with very specific dates
- Flights with multiple destinations (multi-city)
- Flights in premium cabins (business class)
That’s why the Puerto Escondido flight on Aeromar example is so striking. It’s not a particularly popular destination, so it’s very expensive with cash.
With Aeroplan specifically, there are 3 major “sweet spots”:
- Short distance flights
- Flights with a stopover
- Business class flights
First, short-distance flights are often expensive, at least in many countries.
Since the Aeroplan program determines prices according to the distance traveled, very often, short-distance flights will be an excellent use of Aeroplan points (but obviously not all the time: you always have to do the math, it’s simple!)
All SunExpress flights are located in the Atlantic region of the Aeroplan award charts, so a short-distance flight costs as low as just 7,500 points one-way! Most Bamboo Airways flights are located in the Pacific region and start at 8,000 points.
This is a good example of one of the great uses of Aeroplan in general: buy a really affordable deal on our cheap flights page and then move around thanks to Aeroplan’ short-haul flights “sweet spots”, in many regions!
As long as the short flight is not super cheap in cash. If so, obviously you’re better off paying with cash and keeping your Aeroplan points for a better use.
It’s really simple: not all uses are good! It depends on the cash price, always.
Some Aeroplan uses are absolutely great, some are terribly bad.
Whereas with simple points, all uses are always very average. That’s better for those who want it simple… but not for those who want to maximize!
Flights with a stopover
With the Aeroplan program, you can add a stopover for just 5,000 points! This is great for those who really love to travel, because the definition of travel is visiting new places. This program benefit allows you to visit one more place for cheap!
So you could visit 2 Turkish destinations for just 11,000 Aeroplan points. It’s maybe not as interesting as in other regions (I used it to visit 2 countries instead of just 1 in Central America this winter), since domestic flights in Türkiye can be really cheap in cash, but it can still be great to explore this vast country that has plenty of variety!
In general, flights with a stopover paid with cash are usually more expensive, making it a good use of Aeroplan.
Business class flights
At Flytrippers, we want to help you travel more often; not necessarily travel in luxury at the expense of frequency.
But still, business class flights are the best use of Aeroplan points for those who want luxury. And by far.
I’ll be putting out more content on this subject in future updates, including a post about my 1st long-distance flight in a lie-flat seat last year (which happened to be from Türkiye on Turkish Airlines).
In the meantime, know that you can easily double our Flytrippers Valuation of Aeroplan points by using them for business class flights. Just not with SunExpress, since it’s a leisure airline with no business class. Bamboo Airways has one though, and it’s highly-rated!
Other recent Aeroplan partner additions
Aeroplan is really on a roll and has added many very cool and unique partners outside Star Alliance.
In recent months, they’ve added:
- Aeromar (Mexico)
- Oman Air (Oman)
- Air Mauritius (Mauritius)
- Etihad (United Arab Emirates)
- Azul (Brazil)
- Vistara (India)
- Air Serbia (Serbia)
- Air Dolomiti (Italy)
- Virgin Australia (Australia)
- Gulf Air (Bahrain)
And as Mark Nasr, Air Canada’s senior vice president, told me at Aeroplan’s July 2020 launch event, we can expect even more additions because they really want to stand out with their rewards program.
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Aeroplan’s rewards program is the best for Canadian travelers, thanks in part to its many partners (no other program in the world has as many). And they’ve just added another one. More options for your points!
What would you like to know about Aeroplan’s airline partners? Tell us in the comments below.
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Featured image: Antalya, Türkiye (photo credit: Erik Karits)