Booking an Aeroplan award seat is not always free or even cheap. The airlines may not stipulate it clearly in its terms and conditions but you are also liable for taxes and surcharges when you book an award seat with Air Canada or some of its partners. This can range anywhere from $100 to $900 depending on the route travelled and the class booked. Some of the Aeroplan airlines are notorious for charging unusually high surcharges for award seats while others charge nothing or very low fuel surcharges that customers can find bearable.
Aeroplan Fuel Surcharges on Star Alliance Member Airlines
There is a wide variation in the amount of surcharges that you will pay when you travel with a Star Alliance member airline-Air Canada partners. However, some of these airlines do not impose Aeroplan surcharges at all on award seats. These include airlines such as the following:-
- Ethiopian Airlines
- Air China
- Turkish Airlines
- US Airways
- Singapore Airlines
- EVA Air
- Brussels Airlines
- Adria Airways which is part of the Aegean Airways
In some of the Star Alliance airlines, the surcharges can be quite low. Such is the case with the LOT Polish Airlines which can be an excellent choice for someone trying to book an award ticket to Europe from Canada or the United States.
How Fuel Airline Surcharges Work
Very few travellers understand how fuel surcharges work, especially when they are booking a supposedly “free” award seat. Some are even unaware that the surcharges exist and you can’t blame them. The airlines that charge hefty surcharges will go out of their way to obfuscate this information as much as possible. It will be difficult for just anyone to figure out the amount of surcharges just from the fare calculation. On Air Canada flights, it will simply be listed as combined fees, charges, taxes and surcharges so you are really not sure which of these is contributing the most to your hefty bill after you have paid the cost of the ticket with your Aeroplan miles.
Fuel surcharges do not apply on all routes
If you want to save money on the Aeroplan fuel surcharges, there are two things to keep in mind. Not all airlines will charge you the surcharges if you book their flights with the Aeroplan miles; and two, the airlines that charge fuel surcharges will not do it on all routes. So you will be pursuing your savings based on these two factors.
There are also certain routes where the fuel surcharges can be rolled into carrier surcharges. Many airlines say they charge fees to offset the volatile costs of operating their flights but many passengers see it simply as greed or worse, theft.
When you are using a particular airline’s miles to fly on another airline, you may pay a surcharge or you may not, depending on the airline’s policy, as we shall see in a chart below. For example, when using Aeroplan miles to pay for Air Canada flights, you will have to pay a certain dollar amount on fuel surcharges but on certain flights, you will not pay anything. This sounds a bit confusing but we will clarify this in a moment.
Avoiding Fuel Surcharges When Booking With Aeroplan
Remember that you don’t always have to pay the surcharges. There are certain award ticket booking hacks that you can deploy to ensure you pay zero surcharges every time you fly.
Or if you want to save money, you can use a service such as Awarding Canada. If you don’t have the time or don’t want to go through the hassle of searching for award ticket flights that have lower fuel surcharges, you can learn our little hack of avoiding the fuel surcharges.
As the loyalty program for Air Canada, Aeroplan allows you to book your flights with close to 30 partner airlines in the Star Alliance because Air Canada is also a member of the alliance. That means you will have access to award seats in all these partner airlines even if you are booking with your Aeroplan miles. However, the surcharges that you pay with these airlines will vary from zero to really hefty.
However, it is important to keep in mind that even in the airlines that do not charge the fuel surcharges, you will still be liable for the airline fees and taxes but now the costs will be much lower.
The table below shows the fuel surcharges for various airlines that you will incur when you pay with your Aeroplan. There are some key terms that you need to know when navigating the table:-
YQ: This is a short code that is used to denote “fuel surcharges”.
ITA: The airline’s official or usual pricing for the fuel surcharges.
|Airline||ITA YQ||Aeroplan YQ||LH YQ||UA YQ|
|Air New Zealand||30||30||30||0|
|South African Airways||386||0||504||0|
From the chart, you can tell the airlines with which you are likely to pay zero or very low fuel surcharges when booking award seats with your Aeroplan miles, Lufthansa miles or even United Airlines MileagePlus. Avianca Airlines and United Airlines, for example, do not pass on any fuel surcharges to the passengers. You pay zero.
Best Aeroplan Award Seats on Flights to Europe
One of the main reasons why Aeroplan has always had a bad rap for European flights is the amount of taxes that the loyalty program tacks up. A redemption flight from Canada to Europe could cost you as much as 60,000 miles along with up to $800 in taxes and surcharges which wouldn’t make financial sense for many travelers considering you can buy a ticket to Europe for about the same price!
If you are flying to Europe from Canada, you can book any of the myriad airlines that do not levy fuel surcharges and hefty taxes on reward flights. We have listed these above. They include airlines such as Brussels Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Swiss, Scandinavian, Croatia and Adria Airways. If you have Air Canada’s Aeroplan miles, the best use for these miles will actually be booking award seats on Air Canada’s partner airlines and not Air Canada itself!
Another airline that you can consider for the European flights is the LOT Polish Airlines. The fuel surcharges are not zero but they are fairly low you wouldn’t feel like you are being ripped off. The Air Canada Aeroplan is a great option for flying to Europe, Africa and Asia on the Star Alliance partner airlines’ award seats. Avianca Airlines is another great option for European flights where the surcharges are not necessarily free but they are fairly low.
Many of the Asian Airlines on Star Alliance also connect via Europe and some of these do not levy fuel surcharges or charge a very small fee so they could also be an excellent option for Aeroplan reward flights to Europe. Instead of sticking to Air Canada for Aeroplan reward flights, the savvy traveler will always be looking for reward availability with many of these partner airlines in order to save big bucks on taxes or fuel surcharges.
Best Aeroplan Award Seats on Flights to South America
For South American flights, Avianca Airlines would still be a great option. You can see from our chart above that the airline levies zero surcharges when you book your flights with Aeroplan miles.
For great savings, look at the table above and build your itinerary to South America by flying with any of the Air Canada partners. It also helps that Aeroplan has some of the most generous routing policies so even with a single award ticket, you can see lots of destinations in South America.
Booking Flights to South America Using Stopovers
- In order to redeem Aeroplan reward flights to South America, log in to the Aeroplan website and hover over “Use Your Miles” and then click on “Travel”.
- Check on “Multi City” and the provide your flight information.
- On the Aeroplan website, it is possible to book an itinerary with up two stopovers. Another option is to book a round trip on Aeroplan with a single stopover as well as a single open jaw. In case you need two stopovers on your trips, you need to call the Aeroplan customer care team.
- The best path is to build your South American travel itinerary online. You could even do this segment by segment so that you can visualize the routes which are available for you.
- Compare the Aeroplan taxes and surcharges and see where you will make the most savings.
Best Aeroplan Award Seats on Flights to Asia
With flights to Asia, you can get great deals with Singapore Airlines and Air China which do not have any fuel surcharges on Aeroplan award seats. Asian or Asia Pacific airlines such as Asiana, Air New Zealand, THAI and ANA do charge varying rates with ANA having the highest fuel surcharges on Aeroplan reward flights.
For flights to Asia Pacific, you can also book a US airline like United Airlines with your Aeroplan miles. These can connect you to Asia via US airports and do not carry any fuel surcharges. The taxes are also relatively low so you will make great savings. On Air Canada, you would probably be paying over $1000 in fuel surcharges on top of the tens of thousands of Aeroplan miles for flights to Asia.
Additional Tips to Help You Avoid Paying the Extra Surcharges
Apart from using the above chart to choose the cheapest airlines and route options, here are some additional tips that you can incorporate to avoid paying hefty surcharges on your reward flights with Aeroplan:
Give them a call
If you are looking for the low-fee Aeroplan redemption or free, sometimes working the phone can score you some great deals. Like with most airline loyalty programs, there is so much about Aeroplan that is not included on their website (www.aeroplan.com) or the terms and conditions and you can get some valuable information that will help you save money by talking to the customer service representatives.
Calling the Aeroplan customer service agents will be especially beneficial if you have a tough travel itinerary and are having a hard time finding free or low cost flight rewards on the Aeroplan website. They can always advise you about the best options from their end and book for you some low cost reward flight options from their end for a cost of $30. Just give it a try.
Pick a Destination With No Aeroplan Fuel Surcharges
Well, it may seem ridiculous to plan your holiday destination around Aeroplan surcharges but if you are torn between two travel destinations one of which involves paying steep airline surcharges and taxes and one that doesn’t, it would make financial sense to choose the destination where you wouldn’t have to dig deeper into your pockets. A classic case would be travel to South America or Asia Pacific versus travel to Europe where you are most likely to grapple with expensive surcharges with Air Canada and some airlines. If you are travelling with your family and booking reward flights, it would make sense to choose cheaper travel destinations where you will not spend a fortune on airline taxes and surcharges.
Pick a Route With No Fuel Surcharges
If a direct flight from Canada to Europe will cost you several hundred dollars or even $1000 in fuel surcharges, it makes sense to book a flight that connects via the US and charges zero in fuel surcharges such as United Airlines. Reward flights from Canada to Asia connecting via a US airport are generally cheaper because you pay zero or very low fuel surcharges but it is important to research this before booking your flight.
Rerouting and Asking for a Refund
There are instances where you might be stuck with a reward flight that carries some surcharges. You could still negotiate your way out of having to pay the steep costs by attempting to change the flight to one that does not carry the Aeroplan fuel surcharges or which carries very low surcharges and then get a refund.
If you have booked an Aeroplan award sea, you can still change travel dates, your flight route, the airline carrier that you will be flying and even the class of flight without paying anything or by paying a low fee as long your departure and arrival airports remain the same.
Alternatively, you can also maximize on the greater availability of reward flights in order to reschedule your flights. Sometimes, the weather or mechanical delays can come to your rescue, allowing you to get refunds for the fuel surcharges and taxes and then go ahead and book award flights with zero or very low surcharges.
Departing From Brazil
This may not be practical for a lot of people but if you are a travel hacker looking for maximum savings on your longer flights, you could use this option. If you are going on a long haul flight that connects via Brazil, you can book a flight to Brazil and then book another flight from Brazil using your Aeroplan miles to your longer destination. This will result in significant savings because Brazilian law prevents airlines from levying fuel surcharges on award seats. If you can put up with the inconvenience of flying to Brazil first and then originating your long haul ticket from Brazil and saving tons of money, then use this option. You could even book a flight from Canada to Brazil via an airline with low or zero fuel surcharges before booking the award flights in Brazil for the second leg of your journey.
Lowering Your Tax Burden on Aeroplan Reward Flights
Other ways in which you can save money on Aeroplan reward flights is by returning via flights to low tax countries. In Europe, these include countries such as Poland and Ireland. Some of the countries that charge high fees and taxes on reward flights including the UK and Germany.
The arrival tax is different from the departure taxes in most airports. So flying into certain countries could be cheaper while departing the same country would be much more expensive. If you are flexible with your travel plans, and that is always the case with many travel hackers, it might be advisable to go through the numbers and determine destinations that will cost you less fees and taxes.
To avoid fuel surcharges when booking your flights with Aeroplan miles, the best airline option for you would be United Airlines. They don’t charge any surcharges on all of their flights and on partner flights.
Other great options include American Airlines and Alaska Airlines. Keep in mind countries where it is cheaper to fly through such as Brazil, Poland and Ireland. There are countries you should avoid routing through in order to avoid paying high fees and taxes such as the UK and Germany.
Finally, run the fuel surcharge numbers listed in the table above to check out the airlines that will offer you best value on award seats.
What is your strategy for avoiding the Aeroplan surcharges? Please share with us in the comment section.