How to Book Complex Trips with Aeroplan

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Travel

Aeroplan offers generous stopover and routing policies that allow you to book epic once-in-a-lifetime trips.

For those who wish to maximize their flying time and visit multiple destinations in one trip, a complex multi-stop Aeroplan redemption can be one of the best sweet spots that the program has to offer.

In this guide, we’ll walk through Aeroplan’s generous, albeit complex, fare combination logic and routing rules to help you book your own round-the-world trips. 

Examples of Complex Aeroplan Trips

To begin, let’s price out a few different multi-stop itineraries using the Flight Reward Chart. 

To keep things sufficiently aspirational, let’s focus on the business class pricing in our analysis. And to keep things simple, we’ll also exclude Air Canada’s dynamic pricing, assuming that travel takes place entirely on partner airlines or at the lower end of the dynamic range on any Air Canada flights.

(It’s true that dynamic pricing can negatively drive up the cost of award flights with Air Canada, but factoring it in to the below examples would result in additional complexity to an already complex situation.)

Before we get started with the examples of complex itineraries, make sure you’re familiar with the following basic facts about Aeroplan and how the program works:

  • Aeroplan prices itineraries based on one-way bounds.
  • Layovers are stays of less than 24 hours, while stopovers are stays of more than 24 hours.
  • One stopover outside of Canada and the US)is permitted on a one-way bound for an additional 5,000 Aeroplan points.
  • Open-jaws – flying into one city and out of another – can only take place between one-way bounds, not within one-way bounds.
  • You can customize your routing between any two given points, including scheduling layovers of up to 24 hours.
  • Each Aeroplan ticket can have a maximum of 12 flight segments if an Air Canada flight is included, and up to 16 flight segments if only partner flights are included.

Example 1: A Tour of the Asia-Pacific

  • Vancouver–Tokyo (layover) on ANA
  • Tokyo–Hong Kong (stopover) on ANA
  • Hong Kong–Bangkok (layover) on Thai Airways
  • Bangkok–Singapore (layover) on Singapore Airlines
  • Singapore–Perth (destination; open-jaw) on Singapore Airlines
  • Brisbane–Vancouver on Air Canada

Depending on whether long layovers suit your travel style or not, you can assume the layovers are either long layovers or convenient short connections – the cost breakdown is the same.

The first five flights will comprise a single one-way bound under the “Between North America and Pacific zones” chart. Since the total flown distance is 10,858 miles, this will cost 85,000 Aeroplan points in business class, plus 5,000 points for the stopover, for a total of 90,000 Aeroplan points.

Then, the Brisbane–Vancouver flight will form another one-way bound under the “Between North America and Pacific zone” chart. Since this flight’s distance is only 7,351 miles, this segment will only cost 75,000 Aeroplan points in business class.

In total, we’ll pay 165,000 Aeroplan points for this itinerary. Note that after September 1, 2022, the price for the outbound flights will increase to 87,500 points, bringing the total to 167,500 points for this same itinerary.

Example 2: A Classic Round-the-World Trip

  • Toronto–Lisbon (layover) on TAP Air Portugal
  • Lisbon–Rome (stopover) on TAP Air Portugal
  • Rome–Istanbul (layover) on Turkish Airlines
  • Istanbul–Bangkok (destination) on Turkish Airlines
  • Bangkok–Seoul (stopover) on Thai Airways
  • Seoul–New York (layover) on Asiana Airlines
  • New York–Toronto on Air Canada

The route through Europe and Asia, in either the westbound or eastbound direction, is widely regarded as a “classic” round-the-world routing.

It brings you to some of the world’s most famous tourist attractions, allows you to fly on some of Star Alliance’s best airlines, and gives you the satisfaction of having completed a true round-the-world journey by crossing the Atlantic and Pacific.

The outbound flights to Bangkok comprise a single one-way bound, while the return flights via Seoul and New York comprise a second one-way bound.

Both are priced under the “Between North America and Pacific zones” chart, and since the respective total flown distances are 10,249 and 9,525 miles, both one-way bounds would cost 85,000 Aeroplan points each.

Add 10,000 Aeroplan points for the two stopovers, and we arrive at a total price of 180,000 Aeroplan points. 

(After Aeroplan’s changes as of September 1, 2022, the cost of these same flights will increase to 185,000 points.)

Example 3: Suboptimal Subcontinent

  • Toronto–Lisbon (layover) on TAP Air Portugal
  • Lisbon–Rome (stopover) on TAP Air Portugal
  • Rome–Istanbul (layover) on Turkish Airlines
  • Istanbul–New Delhi (destination) on Turkish Airlines
  • New Delhi–Seoul (stopover) on Asiana Airlines
  • Seoul–New York (layover) on Asiana Airlines
  • New York–Toronto on Air Canada

This booking is almost exactly the same as in Example 2, except that New Delhi is set as the destination instead of Bangkok. As we’ll see, the pricing is drastically different.

The outbound flights to New Delhi comprise a single one-way bound, while the return flights comprise a second one-way bound. Both would be priced under the “Between North America and Atlantic zones” chart.

Since the respective total flown distances are 8,419 and 10,143 miles, both one-way bounds would cost 100,000 Aeroplan points each.

Add 10,000 Aeroplan points for the two stopovers, and we arrive at a total price of 210,000 Aeroplan points. As of September 1, 2022, these same flights will cost 230,000 Aeroplan points.

Example 4: North & South Atlantic

  • Montreal–London (stopover) on Air Canada
  • London–Abu Dhabi–Johannesburg (destination) on Etihad Airways
  • Johannesburg–Addis Ababa–São Paulo (stopover) on Ethiopian Airlines
  • São Paulo–Montreal on Air Canada

The ability to cross the North Atlantic in one direction and the South Atlantic in the other, while visiting Europe, South Africa, and South America all in one trip, has always been one of the possibilities that I find the most intriguing for an Aeroplan redemption.

In this example, the outbound flights to Johannesburg comprise a single one-way bound, while the return flights comprise a second one-way bound.

Both are priced under the “Between North America and Atlantic zones” chart, and since the respective total flown distances are 10,580 and 13,729 miles, both one-way bounds would cost 100,000 Aeroplan points each.

Add 10,000 Aeroplan points for the two stopovers, and we arrive at a total price of 210,000 Aeroplan points. As of September 1, 2022, these same flights will increase in cost to 230,000 Aeroplan points.

Example 5: A Five-Continent Combo

  • Toronto–Vancouver (layover) on Air Canada
  • Vancouver–Sydney (stopover) on Air Canada
  • Sydney–Singapore (destination) on Singapore Airlines
  • Singapore–Abu Dhabi–Johannesburg (stopover) on Etihad Airways
  • Johannesburg–Zurich (layover) on Swiss
  • Zurich–Toronto on Air Canada

The outbound flights to Singapore comprise a single one-way bound, while the return flights comprise a second one-way bound.

Both are priced under the “Between North America and Pacific zones” chart, and since the respective total flown distances are 13,749 and 16,812 miles, both one-way bounds would cost 105,000 Aeroplan points each.

Add 10,000 Aeroplan points for the two stopovers, and we arrive at a total price of 220,000 Aeroplan points. As of September 1, 2022, the cost of these same flights will increase to 240,000 Aeroplan points.

What’s the Best Sweet Spot for Complex Trips?

As we’ve seen in the above examples, maximizing Aeroplan’s routing and stopover rules can be very sensitive to the destination you choose.

Examples 2 and 3 are exactly the same, except that Bangkok has been swapped with New Delhi as the destination. These two cities aren’t that far apart geographically, but going to New Delhi ends up being 30,000 Aeroplan points more expensive than going to Bangkok.

Why? It’s all because of the differences between the North America–Atlantic zones and North America–Pacific zones charts.

If you run the numbers on these two charts relative to each other, you’ll see that the Pacific chart is significantly more generous in terms of how much distance you can fly for a given number of Aeroplan points.

Looking at the Atlantic chart’s maximum distance band, anything over 8,000 miles costs 100,000 Aeroplan points (110,000 points after September 1, 2022).

In comparison, the Pacific chart allows you to fly up to 11,000 miles and still pay only 85,000 Aeroplan points (87,500 Aeroplan points after September 1, 2022).

In fact, this particular cell on the North America–Pacific zones chart – the distance band of 7,501–11,000 miles in business class – is arguably the single best “sweet spot” in terms of booking a complex Aeroplan trip without paying an over-exorbitant amount of points.

11,000 miles will let you route from via Europe on your way to Asia from North America, or via Asia on your way to Australia.

If you can keep both directions of travel under 11,000 flown miles, you’d pay 180,000 Aeroplan points for a trip with two stopovers (185,000 points after September 1, 2022).

Unfortunately, if you want to book a multi-stop trip to Africa, the Middle East, or India (as seen in Example 4), you’re likely looking at a steeper cost, due to the fact that the North America–Atlantic zones chart is relatively less generous with its distance allowances.

How Are One-Way Bounds Determined?

Let’s further explore the logic behind where a one-way bound “breaks” and a new one-way bound begins.

After the entire itinerary has been sketched out by an Aeroplan call centre agent, the system applies “one-way bound logic” to the entire proposed itinerary to divvy it up into appropriate one-way bounds.

The system then calculates the price of each one-way bound individually (just like we did above), and adds it all up to arrive at the total points price.

So, what does that “one-way bound logic” actually look like?

Starting from the origin, the logic analyzes the entire trip segment-by-segment. After every segment, any of the following criteria, listed in order of priority, will mark the “breaking” of the one-way bound and the beginning of a new bound:

  1. A second stopover point (or a first stopover point within Canada/US)
  2. An open-jaw
  3. Backtracking to the same airport or country after already passing through
  4. Circuitous routing: As a general rule of thumb, this refers to flying 100% more than the direct distance between two points; however, there are also further rules on allowable transit regions (as we’ll discuss below).
  5. Reaching a maximum of six segments

Frankly, this is mind-numbingly complex stuff. Just as we did before, I think the easiest way to illustrate what’s going on is through a series of examples.

Example 1: Bound Breaks with Second Stopover

  • January 1: Toronto–Lisbon
  • January 5: Lisbon–Paris
  • January 12: Paris–Toronto

This one’s pretty straightforward. None of the bound-breaking criteria are triggered upon reaching Lisbon. Upon reaching Paris, the logic recognizes that there is a second stopover (a stay of extended duration), so the bound breaks due to Criterion #1.

The second bound is simply the Paris–Toronto return segment.

This trip will be priced on the basis of two one-way bounds: Toronto–Lisbon–Paris and Paris–Toronto.

(The pricing of this sample trip, as well as all the sample trips below, is left as an exercise to the reader.)

Example 2: Bound Breaks with Open-Jaw

  • February 1: Montreal–Frankfurt
  • February 4: Munich–Istanbul
  • February 9: Istanbul–Montreal

Upon flying into Frankfurt and flying out of Munich, the bound breaks due to Criterion #2.

The next bound starts at Munich and goes to Istanbul, where it doesn’t break. Upon reaching Montreal, the journey concludes. Munich–Istanbul–Montreal was not determined to be circuitous, as it’s only 50% above the direct distance between Munich and Montreal.

This trip will be priced on the basis of two one-way bounds: Montreal–Frankfurt and Munich–Istanbul–Montreal.

Example 3: Bound Breaks with Circuitous Routing

  • March 1: Montreal–Frankfurt
  • March 4: Munich–Abu Dhabi
  • March 12: Abu Dhabi–New York
  • March 12: New York–Montreal

Using the same logic as above, the first bound breaks at Frankfurt and the second bound begins from Munich to Abu Dhabi.

Upon adding the Abu Dhabi–New York flight, this routing now becomes “circuitous” due to Criterion #4, because Munich–Abu Dhabi–New York is 140.5% above the direct distance between Munich and New York.

The second bound therefore must break in Abu Dhabi, and the third bound goes from Abu Dhabi to New York (for a layover) and then to Montreal.

This trip will be priced on the basis of three one-way bounds: Montreal–Frankfurt, Munich–Abu Dhabi, and Abu Dhabi–New York–Montreal. It’ll definitely be more expensive than if a trip priced with only two one-way bounds. 

Note that the “100% over the direct distance” rule for circuitous routings is only meant to be an illustrative rule of thumb.

Indeed, who’s played around with a few different city combinations on the search engine will probably have discovered that this rule of thumb can turn out to be very flexible.

Take, for example, Taipei–Paris–Abu Dhabi via EVA Air and Etihad Airways on a single one-way bound, even though it’s 125% over the direct distance, pricing according to the “Between Atlantic and Pacific zones” chart.

These examples are few and far between, but serve to illustrate that the “100% over the direct distance” circuitous routing rule is not necessarily hard-and-fast.

Example 4: Bound Breaks with 6-Segment Limit

  • April 1: Vancouver–Tokyo
  • April 2: Tokyo–Seoul
  • April 3: Seoul–Beijing
  • April 4: Beijing–Hong Kong
  • April 10: Hong Kong–Bangkok
  • April 11: Bangkok–Ho Chi Minh City
  • April 12: Ho Chi Minh City–Singapore
  • April 13: Singapore–Perth

This traveller wants to do a bunch of long layovers, plus one stopover in Hong Kong, on their way to Perth.

The logic doesn’t run into any trouble in Tokyo, Seoul, or Beijing. In Hong Kong, we have a stopover, but it’s only the first stopover of the bound, so we’re still good. Bangkok is fine, too.

But then we get to Ho Chi Minh City, and Criterion #5 is triggered: we’ve already had six segments on this one-way bound. The bound therefore breaks in Ho Chi Minh City, and the remaining flights via Singapore form the second bound.

This trip will be priced on the basis of two one-way bounds: Vancouver–Ho Chi Minh City and Ho Chi Minh City–Perth. Sorry folks, you won’t be able to do 16-segment one-way runs with 15 long layovers!

Which Zones Can You Fly Through?

In addition to the “100% over the direct distance” rule for circuitous routings that we discussed above, let’s also look at how Aeroplan’s zonal restrictions work.

These restrictions specify the terms of which zones you can transit through, or have a stopover in, on your way from one location to another.

On this topic, Aeroplan’s Flight Reward Policy provides the following guidance:

To put these guidelines to the test, we’ve attempted to piece together various itineraries with the Aeroplan contact centre, with the following results.

North America to/from Europe: Must travel across the Atlantic Ocean

Proposed itinerary:

  • Los Angeles–Tokyo (stopover), on ANA
  • Tokyo–Frankfurt, on ANA

Not priced successfully. Some agents are able to put it on the same ticket as two separate one-way bounds, while others are not able to combine it on the same ticket at all.

North America to/from Middle East: Must travel across the Atlantic Ocean

Proposed itinerary:

  • Los Angeles–Tokyo (layover), on ANA
  • Tokyo–Abu Dhabi (stopover), on Etihad Airways
  • Abu Dhabi–Johannesburg, on Etihad Airways

Not priced successfully as a single one-way bound.

 

Note that both of the above examples are under 100% of the direct distance flown, so they shouldn’t be struck out on the basis of being a circuitous routing.

Instead, it’s the zonal transit rules at play here that prevent the itineraries from being priced as a single one-way bound. 

North America to/from South America: Must travel wholly within the Western Hemisphere

Proposed itinerary:

  • Toronto–Lisbon (stopover), on TAP Air Portugal
  • Lisbon–São Paulo, on TAP Air Portugal

Not successfully priced as a single one-way bound or indeed a single ticket.

 

Proposed itinerary:

  • Cancún–Lisbon (stopover), on TAP Air Portugal
  • Lisbon–Recife, on TAP Air Portugal

Not successfully priced as a single one-way bound or indeed a single ticket.

 

The first example here is only 67% over the direct distance, whereas the second example is 104% over.

The fact that neither can be booked as a one-way bound, nor even issued on the same ticket, indicates that travel between two points in the Americas needs to remain entirely within the Americas. 

North America to/from Asia: Can transit through Europe

After verifying the rules around which zones you can’t transit through, let’s now take a look at some zones that you can transit through from one place to another, which we’ve verified through further sample itineraries priced out via the Aeroplan website or contact centre.

As a general rule, transiting Europe on the way to Asia is perfectly fine, and this is indeed the basis of the “Atlantic/Pacific arbitrage” sweet spot.

Proposed itinerary:

  • Toronto–Lisbon (layover), on TAP Air Portugal
  • Lisbon–Rome (stopover), on TAP Air Portugal
  • Rome–Istanbul (layover), on Turkish Airlines
  • Istanbul–Bangkok (destination), on Turkish Airlines
  • Bangkok–Seoul (stopover), on Thai Airways
  • Seoul–New York (layover), on Asiana Airlines
  • New York–Toronto, on Air Canada

Priced successfully: 180,000 Aeroplan points in business class (85,000 points each for the two one-way bounds to Bangkok, plus 10,000 points for the two stopovers)

 

Europe to/from Asia: Can transit through North America

This one is very interesting: whenever you’re flying from Asia to Europe, Asia to Africa, Australia to Europe, etc., then transiting through North America is possible!

And although stopovers in Canada or United States are not permitted, stopovers in Mexico are. Consider the following successfully-priced itinerary.

Proposed itinerary:

  • Denpasar–Taipei (layover), on EVA Air
  • Taipei–Los Angeles (layover), on EVA Air
  • Los Angeles–Cancún (stopover), on United
  • Cancún–Lisbon, on TAP Air Portugal

Priced successfully: 105,000 Aeroplan points in business class (100,000 points for a Pacific–Atlantic award of 7,001+ miles, plus 5,000 points for the stopover)

 

If you’d like to string together multiple premium redemptions over the course of a year and don’t mind popping down to Mexico a few times per year, then the Mexico stopover on an Atlantic–Pacific award could be a very creative way to schedule some extensive globetrotting while saving yourself a fair chunk of points.

Travel within the Atlantic or Pacific zones: Can transit each other

Unlike the North America and South America zones, the Atlantic and Pacific zones seem to be more flexible in terms of whether a one-way bound between two points in one zone can cross into the other.

The most interesting consequence of this can be seen in a search for Seoul–Sydney, which returns a very fun routing on Etihad Airways via Abu Dhabi, even though it’s 127% over the direct distance!

Indeed, Aeroplan’s Flight Reward Policy states that transiting in a different zone on travel between two points in a single zone is generally not permitted, but also mentions that there will sometimes be exceptions to this rule.

Combining Up to Six One-Way Bounds

So far, our analysis has focused on one-way or round-trip bookings (or, in Aeroplan’s language, bookings that consist of up to two one-way bounds).

Here’s the final layer of intrigue: Aeroplan actually allows you to have up to six “one-way bounds” or “directions” on the same ticket!

The format would be A–B–C–D–E–F–A, or Montreal–London–Istanbul–Bangkok–Sydney–Tokyo–Montreal, to take a nice round-the-world example.

And within each of these one-way bounds, you’re allowed to add a stopover for 5,000 Aeroplan points, meaning that your number of extended stops can technically reach a maximum of 11.

So let’s allow our imagination to run wild: Montreal–Newark–London; London–Athens–Istanbul; Istanbul–Dubai–Bangkok; Bangkok–Singapore–Sydney; Sydney–Beijing–Tokyo; Tokyo–Chicago–Montreal. You’re able to stop for an extended period in all of those places.

You can count these up to make sure that there are six one-way bounds, or directions of travel, in total.

We can even go one step further and add open-jaws into the mix.

Consider this itinerary: Montreal–Newark–London; Paris–Athens–Kos; Istanbul–Dubai–Bangkok; Bangkok–Singapore–Perth; Sydney–Beijing–Osaka; Tokyo–Chicago–Montreal.

With open-jaws between several of the one-way bounds, you’ll be able to visit an additional four cities on your epic round-the-world trip – all while “connecting the dots” between your quartet of open-jaws with the Eurostar, the ferry across the Aegean Sea, the Indian Pacific train across Australia, and the Shinkansen, respectively.

Of course, this all sounds a little too good to be true. So what’s the catch?

Well, the catch is that each of the six one-way bounds is priced individually, and the costs for the total journey will therefore add up very quickly.

Let’s run the numbers on our most extreme example above, assuming fixed partner prices and the lower end of the spectrum for Air Canada’s dynamic prices:

  • Montreal–Newark–London: 35,000 points in economy class or 60,000 points in business class 
  • Paris–Athens–Kos: 12,500 points in economy class or 25,000 points in business class 
  • Istanbul–Dubai–Bangkok: 40,000 points in economy class or 60,000 points in business class 
  • Bangkok–Singapore–Perth: 25,000 points in economy class or 45,000 points in business class 
  • Sydney–Beijing–Osaka: 37,500 points in economy class or 60,000 points in business class 
  • Tokyo–Chicago–Montreal: 45,000 points in economy class or 75,000 points in business class 

Adding it all up, the entire redemption would cost a staggering 195,000 Aeroplan points in economy or 325,000 Aeroplan points in business class.

Add another 30,000 points for adding six stopovers, and you’ll get a total of 225,000 Aeroplan points in economy or 355,000 Aeroplan points in business class.

Don’t get me wrong, 355,000 Aeroplan points is incredible value for a business class round-the-world trip that lets you visit 15 different places, but it’ll certainly take a fair bit of work to rack up those 355,000 points in the first place.

One final note: this is where the true power of Aeroplan Super Elites’ Priority Rewards comes in to play.

If you’re a Super Elite who can redeem Priority Rewards on worldwide business class tickets, or if you can convince a Super Elite friend to spare you a Priority Reward voucher, then you’d be able to book this entire single award for a staggering 50% off: only 177,500 Aeroplan points!

That sounds like a killer deal all of a sudden, doesn’t it?

Conclusion

Complex multi-stop bookings, if you can pull them off, are one of the most outstanding sweet spots of the Aeroplan program.

For those of us who’d like to squeeze in even more flights and stops along our round-the-world trips, it’s important to familiarize ourselves with the “one-way bound logic” that underpins complex customized redemptions using Aeroplan points.

Sure, we might get a few migraines from trying to understand all the rules, but it’ll all be worthwhile when we’re sipping our Champagne on the journey to a maximum of 11 different extended stops or 15 different cites including open-jaws.

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