Frustrations with Aeroplan… What to do about it!

This is a continuation of Avery’s post (Aeroplan has a little problem…) from DTCA about problems with Aeroplan. 

Normally, I prefer not writing any negative posts because this blog is about maximizing rewards with tips and tricks. But when there are too many roadblocks, it may feel like our suggestions are not even useful.

For instance, when it comes to Aeroplan, we have written many posts about how to avoid the infamous high taxes and fuel surcharges by leveraging miles with Star Alliance partners. What makes Aeroplan miles so valuable is the ability to redeem reward flights with other Star Alliance members. But this is a moot point if there is no partner availability.

No Swiss Award Availability

However, the challenges arises when there is no award availability to speak of. As mentioned in Avery’s post, I can confirm that I was having trouble with Swiss flights, which caused me to select an unfavourable option instead.

A few months ago, I was just browsing around for some Swiss flights, and I found a fair amount of award availability in August and September; however, a few weeks ago, the availabilities for the entire months of August and September completely disappeared. Eventually, I found a one return flight on Swiss back to Canada in October. I have a hard time believing that there was so few award availability. But let’s just give Aeroplan the benefit of the doubt for this issue.

No United Airlines Award Availability

Screenshots have been updated.

Now, check this out instead. I was looking for a flight from Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport (YOW) to Portland International Airport (PDX). When you search with United Airlines MileagePlus, there is clearly is award availability.

a screenshot of a computer
Now do the search with Aeroplan… and pouf! No United Airlines reward flights.

a screenshot of a flight schedule
The explanation that I received is that award space is released to United Airlines MileagePlus members first. About 3 months before the flight, if there is leftover award space, it may be released to other Star Alliance partners. Granted, this is not necessary an Aeroplan issue, as it is probably more of a United Airlines issue for not releasing the availability to Star Alliance partners as readily, but the point remains that it significantly devalues Aeroplan miles.

What to do about lack of award availability with Aeroplan?

As I mentioned earlier in this post, we want to be a blog that focuses on maximizing rewards, rather than bashing reward programs. What I strongly recommend is the following steps:

  • As frustrated as I am with Aeroplan, there are still many options to collect miles easily without flying with Air Canada. So I suggest collecting Aeroplan miles only if it is convenient; like signing up for co-branded credit cards or earning with retail partners.
  • If you insist on flying with Star Alliance, I strongly suggest banking your flying miles to another member with more award availability that suits your travel needs. For example, if you fly United Airlines often, it would make more sense to earn United MileaguePlus miles instead of Aeroplan miles. You can refer to our post on how Canadians can stockpile MileagePlus miles.
  • Consider flying with other airline alliances (i.e. Oneworld or SkyTeam) instead. Personally, I especially collect American Airlines AAdvantage, British Airways Executive Club and Delta SkyMiles.
  • As a Canadian, definitely look into WestJet, Porter or Alaska Airlines (due to its valuable code-share partners) depending on your travel habits. For example, if you live in Calgary, Alberta and are a RBC client, you should definitely look into taking advantage of what WestJet has to offer.
  • Redeem Aeroplan miles if it works out (e.g. if you happen to find award availability that suits your travel needs), otherwise, if you follow some of my suggestions listed above, you should have plenty of other options to choose from instead.

This is why we constantly emphasise the importance of diversifying your miles and points portfolio.

What are your experiences with Aeroplan? Love it? Hate it? Please let us know in the comment section below!


  1. I am just not using them anymore as it is not worth it. There is never any availability and the fees are too high. We are planning a trip to israel and I would rather fly through europe, save most of the fees then use aeroplan – it just doesn’t make sense anymore. perhaps westjet will figure out a way to undermine them

    1. Thanks for sharing scott. I would love to see WestJet step it up as well! They have an opportunity right now, hope they take advantage.

  2. Your screenshot of United Mileage Plus shows only Air Canada flights at the saver level. Not sure what you’re getting at…

    1. Yes, I noticed that. I just updated the pictures now. Seems like award availability is back up for the most part.

      I will probably write another post on this matter in the future as it definitely warrants more monitoring of the situation.

  3. Just to clarify, in the options you provided (United vs. Aeroplan), the United site doesn’t seem to be showing any purely United flights for award availability… I don’t see the disconnect between the United results and the Aeroplan results. Finally, it’s not that United gets award seats before Aeroplan – award inventory is award inventory which is loaded to Starnet for all Star Alliance partners to see (with some exceptions… Aeroplan actually has more Air Canada space than other carriers).

    The Aeroplan search engine uses a different logic to spit routes off, but can often be “tricked” by using the multi-city search, or at the end of the day, can be built over the phone with an agent for a $30 fee. United isn’t being blocked like Swiss, Avianca, etc., but the Aeroplan search engine isn’t using the right logic to pull the flights up. They’re there and bookable, you just have to trick the system.

    1. Thanks for the clarification Avery, definitely another post on this matter is probably warranted later on…

      I also update the pictures. Just the fact that we need to trick the system makes it a hassle for users looking for a customer friendly service.

  4. Hi Matt, I don’t mind redeeming Aeroplan miles for booking hotels. May not be same value as flights, however don’t have to worry about taxes as they’re included. For example, 15 k bonus points from Aeroplan Visa can go towards 1 night hotel stay in US!!

  5. Try to search for star alliance flights on ANA and Avianca and then check in Air Cananda

  6. Your United screenshot is all operated by air Canada. The last one is at double miles which is their standard award and not saver.

    1. Yes, thanks for the heads up. I did the search a few months ago and ran into the issue. Seems better now. Such a hit and miss.

      Anyway, I updated the photos.

      I will plan to write another post on this matter again in the future as this seems to be a sensitive topic.

  7. I’m an Aeroplan fan. Have used it extensively for AC and partner flights with little to no trouble. Key is to have flexibility in dates and times (even airports) and have some time to play around in their system until you see something that suits you well. If you don’t see what you want today, try again tomorrow. An agent once told me that 3 out of 5 calls they take, are people re-arranging flights.
    The best was Business class Newfoundland to Hawaii including a sky suite for 60,000 points, for fees and taxes of less than $300.
    Before or after I book with Aeroplan I do the same itinerary on the AC site to get a good idea of how much those same flights are worth.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience Rob. Glad you found a way to get value with Aeroplan, and yes, the key is to have flexible dates as there are sweet spot.

  8. Suggesting flying with SkyTeam is all fine and dandy… but like it or not… much of Canada is all Star Alliance. WestJet is slowly making inroads as Canada’s second carrier, but it’s slow-going.

    I’d be curious, what SkyTeam points plan do you like best? I’m thinking of booking a revenue flight with AeroMexico and only have a about 13,000 Delta pts in SkyTeam. Suggestions?

  9. we have one more big trip with Aeroplan and the points are used up! We hve strategy going frward that, in most cases, will not include aeroplan and air canada… strictly due to rouge. Thanks for your tips though.Always appreciated.

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