Membership Rewards is the points currency of some American Express Cards which I think is one of the most valuable points in Canada.

Membership Rewards

Membership Rewards

Earning Membership Rewards

The American Express Gold Card is at the moment the only card that gives you Membership Rewards points as a signup bonus essentially free. This card offers 25,000 points after a $500 minimum spend, with a waived annual fee for the first year.

The American Express Platinum Card both offers 60,000 points after $1000 in minimum spend. While there is a hefty annual fee, the travel benefits on the card is unsurpassed. See my review for more details.

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Aeroplan has had problems booking EVA Air award space for the past few weeks, which was a major source of frustration for many members, as they had excellent fuel surcharge free transpacific award space access.

Availability is now back online and bookable by the phone on aeroplan.com for all routes, including transpacific and intra-Asia flights.

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Starwood has been sending out targeted offers for free nights and/or points, which I find incredibly lucrative for those targeted yet penalizing on non-targeted members.

Starwood Exclusive Rewards Promotion

I received this in an SPG email for one of the accounts I manage.

Exclusive Offer

Exclusive Rewards

That led me to the Exclusive Rewards Promotion website. Loyalty Lobby says that there’s three version of the offer, which is targeted and thus not public.

Starwood Exclusive Rewards Offers

1. Free Night Cat 1-6 Certificate After A Stay (Max 3 Certs After 3 Stays)

Eligible member must register by August 31, 2014, 11:59 p.m. EDT. Members can earn one (1) Free Night Award after they book and complete one (1) eligible stay, a second Free Night Award after they complete their second (2nd) eligible stay, and a third Free Night Award after their third (3rd) eligible stay from July 15, 2014, through October 15, 2014 (the “promotion period”). This promotion is not transferable. Bookings made prior to the promotion period are eligible, but only eligible stays consumed during the promotion period will earn a bonus.

An eligible stay is a stay with at least 1 eligible paid night at any of the over 1,100 participating Starwood hotels and resorts paying an eligible paid rate during the promotion period.

2. Free Night Cat 1-6 Certificate After Two Stays & Additional Certificate After 3rd And 4th Stays (Max 3 Free Night Certs After 4 Stays)

Eligible member must register by August 31, 2014, 11:59 p.m. EDT. Members can earn one (1) Free Night Award after they book and complete two (2) eligible stays, a second Free Night Award after they complete their third (3rd) eligible stay, and a third Free Night after they complete their fourth (4th) eligible stay from July 15, 2014, through October 15, 2014 (the “promotion period”). This promotion is not transferable. Bookings made prior to the promotion period are eligible, but only eligible stays consumed during the promotion period will earn a bonus.

An eligible stay is a stay with at least 1 eligible paid night at any of the over 1,100 participating Starwood hotels and resorts paying an eligible paid rate during the promotion period.

3.Maximum Of 7,500 Bonus Starpoints After 3 Stays

Eligible member must register by August 31, 2014, 11:59 p.m. EDT. Member can earn 1,500 bonus Starpoints® after one (1) eligible paid stay, 2,500 bonus Starpoints after the second (2nd) eligible paid stay, and 3,500 bonus Starpoints after the third (3rd) eligible paid stay. As part of this promotion, member may earn a maximum of 7,500 total bonus Starpoints for three eligible stays from July 15, 2014, through October 15, 2014 (the “promotion period”). This promotion is not transferable. Bookings made prior to the promotion period are eligible, but only eligible stays consumed during the promotion period will earn a bonus.

The above offers were originally on Loyalty Lobby’s post.

My Thoughts

If you are targeted for the first two offers, that is an amazing deal, and in my opinion, worth mattress running. It has been a long time since a promotion has been “mattress runnable” where the benefits from completing an promotion will be worth more than the value of the hotels. Most likely, this is a promotion to target inactive members or those that may consider SPG (and don’t use it as their primary chain). It’s highly unlikely that elite members who earn their status from stays will receive this offer, unfortunately.

A Category 6 hotel goes for 20,000 SPG points or 25,000 SPG points in the peak season. Most people would value a Starwood Point at a minimum of 1.5 cents per mile, so this means each night you stay gets you a return of at least $300. Even if you don’t normally pay that much, for a hotel night, I’m fairly sure that’d there’s no other offer where you can pay around $100 for a cheap hotel near you (or if you head down for a weekend trip somewhere), and get a free hotel night to use in Paris, Sinagpore, Mauritius, and many other outstanding locations.

For example, the Westin Paris is going for over 550 euros for some dates later this year.

Westin Paris

Westin Paris

If you were targeted for the third offer, it’s a nice bonus if you were planning travel and might be worth switching chains for, but doesn’t justify mattress running as much. This offer should also stack with the Earn Away double/triple points promotion that SPG is also running as their Q2 chain-wide promotion.

The best credit card to accrue SPG points in Canada is the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express which offers 1 point per general spend plus a 25% transfer bonus when you transfer 20,000 SPG points to airline partners. Currently the card also offers 10,000 bonus points after $500 spend within the first three months, at an annual fee of $120.

Check if you are targeted here. (I hope you are!)

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You can earn 100 miles from a free SMS subscription with a chance to win 50,000 miles.

Update: Only Canadian phone numbers seem to be eligible.

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I have a confession to make.

I’m a trust fund baby who has 16 million dollars to spend on first class suites thanks to sending a Nigerian prince a wire transfer and getting quite a bit in return.

Okay, I’m joking, but I think I definitely have been brainwashed by miles and points. Let me tell you why I think that.

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Lifemiles is one of my favourite frequent flyer programs, and while I’d like to think that they are, it seems that they continue to deteriorate the value of their miles.

Changes in the Star Alliance Award Chart

Effective October 15, Lifemiles is modifying their award chart for regions including Europe, South America, and North America.

Those changes are partially posted on their website, but the fact that they don’t disclose exactly what will happen concerns me.

The website mentions the following changes to Star alliance awards:

As for changes in air ticket redemption with Star Alliance member airlines, these include increases up to 13.000 miles in Economy Class and up to 26.000 miles in Business Class. Both cases apply for roundtrip flights from North America.

For roundtrip flights from Mexico, there will be reductions up to 15.000 miles and increases up to 14.000 miles in Economy Class, also reductions up to 20.000 miles and increases up to 28.000 miles in Business class.

Current rates on Lifemiles for travel to Europe from North America on Star Alliance partners are 60,000 miles and 105,000 miles roundtrip, in economy and business respectively. The devaluations raises the price slightly. I really don’t like that they’re not disclosing any changes to any other regions, such as North Asia, and for first class redemptions as well.

The best redemptions on Lifemiles are long-haul international first class routes, as well as heavily discounted routes (although that’s another story). If Lifemiles isn’t disclosing the changes those charts (if any), that means there could be a significant devaluation to those redemptions.

Lifemiles Blocking Lufthansa First Class

Recently I’ve noticed that Lifemiles has been blocking Lufthansa First Class redemptions on their website. I’m hoping it’s a temporary issue, but at this point nobody really knows what’s happening. Up to this point, Lifemiles was one of the cheapest ways to fly Lufthansa First, and a 1.5 cents per mile during the transfer promotion and purchase promotions, that made a first class ticket only ~$1200-1300.

I suspect that this happened because there was a trick that was available for Lufthansa First Class that allowed you to fly it for under 20,000 miles per segment, which many people (including myself) took advantage of. In fact, I can count six bloggers who flew it and kept it a secret. ;) Given how many bloggers have flown it, I can only imagine how many FTers and other people have.

Strangely enough, some routes involving connections with Lufthansa First Class is still available, although it’s nothing I’d want to fly alone. Ironically you’d still get fairly significant discounts on those routes too.

Lifemiles Tricks and Strategies

I still have a fair amount of Lifemiles in my account, which I can’t do anything with, because most of the good redemptions are gone. However, if you’re not aware, there are still options to fly to Asia, Europe, and the Middle East for only 25,000 Lifemiles. As well, there are other one-way redemptions which reduce the cost normally required for the miles.

Still, Lifemiles for the most part has lower award redemption costs than United, and no fuel surcharges on all airlines unlike Aeroplan. If you don’t have much of the either, buying Lifemiles at 1.5 cents (and soon to go up) may still be a good value, although you’d want to redeem immediately given the changes that have occurred and will occur.


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While the Middle East is one of Oneworld’s stronger focus areas, service to Israel tends to be more scarce, especially in the premium cabins. British Airways and Iberia offer service to Tel Aviv, but high fuel surcharges often make award travel unattractive. One of the lesser-known non-Oneworld partners of American Airlines is El Al Israel Airlines, the flag carrier of Israel and arguably the best AAdvantage redemption for award travel to Israel.

Using American AAdvantage for travel on El Al

El Al AAdvantage Redemption Routes

In addition to a comprehensive network to Europe, El Al offer long haul service out of Tel Aviv to/from the following destinations:

  • Los Angeles
  • New York
  • Toronto
  • Mumbai
  • Beijing
  • Bangkok
  • Hong Kong
  • Johannesburg

El Al Israel Long Haul Route Network

Aircraft and Service

El Al operates Boeing 747-400 aircraft featuring fully flat beds in business class on their routes to/from New York-JFK and London Heathrow.

Fully flat beds on El Al 747-400 Business Class to New York JFK and London Heathrow

Fully flat beds on El Al 747-400 Business Class to New York JFK and London Heathrow

However, on Boeing 747-400 routes to BarcelonaParis-Charles de Gaulle and Bangkok, El Al offers an angled flat business class product, identical to the SpaceBed seats formerly found on Singapore Airlines business class.

Fully flat beds on El Al 747-400 Business Class to Barcelona, Paris-CDG and Bangkok

Fully flat beds on El Al 747-400 Business Class to Barcelona, Paris-CDG and Bangkok

Angled flat seats are also offered on all Boeing 777 aircraft which currently serve Los Angeles, Newark, London-Heathrow, Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Hong Kong. While they are not as conducive to sleeping as fully-flat seats, angled flat seats still offer a decent amount of comfort for lounging.

All other routes operated by El Al will feature recliner-style seats in business class – a throwback to the olden days indeed (but not in the good way!) Routes operated by the Boeing 767 do offer iPad entertainment in business class, these aircraft serve the remaining long-haul routes including Toronto.

Booking El Al AAdvantage Awards

The well publicised “transit through a third reason rule” that AAdvantage has essentially ensures that El Al award travel is only practical if you are terminating/originating in Tel Aviv. If you wish to transit/stopover in Tel Aviv onwards to a connecting flight on El Al, two awards must be purchased instead. Note that AAdvantage awards are not available for El Al First Class.

One way AAdvantage award prices for travel on El Al out of Tel Aviv to/from:

  • Los Angeles, Toronto and New York – 45,000 miles in Economy Class or 67,500 miles in Business Class
  • Europe – 20,000 miles in Economy Class or 30,000 miles in Business Class
  • Johannesburg – 30,000 miles in Economy class or 45,000 miles in Business Class
  • Beijing, Hong Kong and Bangkok – 22,500 miles in Economy Class or 30,000 miles in Business Class
  • Mumbai – 17,500 miles in Economy Class or 25,000 miles in Business Class

Award travel on El Al is combinable with other AAdvantage award partners. That means you can add on free positioning segments on American or US Airways to your North American gateway city, or other combinations with other partners on the one award ticket.

Adelaide to Tel Aviv via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific and El Al for 45,000 AAdvantage miles in Business Class

Searching El Al Award Space

The “conventional” way of searching for El Al award space is via ExpertFlyer, but as the saying goes – the best things in life are free. So again I recommend the FlightStats Seat Availability Tool for searching award seats on El Al.

The fare bucket for business class award seats is X and economy class award seats is E. El Al tends to release a maximum of two business class seats on North American routes, while up to nine on all other routes. Economy class award space is plenty, with nine seats across the board.

Two business class and nine economy award seats on El Al from Toronto-Pearson to Tel Aviv

Two business class and nine economy award seats on El Al from Toronto-Pearson to Tel Aviv

The best credit card to accrue AAdvantage miles in Canada is the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express which offers 1 point per general spend plus a 25% transfer bonus when you transfer 20,000 SPG points to American AAdvantage. Currently the card also offers 10,000 bonus points after $500 spend within the first three months, at an annual fee of $120.


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I’ve talked about the benefits of the American Express Platinum Card before such as American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts which offers some great value hotel deals, but the overall value of the Platinum Card is still hard to beat for any serious traveler. I think there are two main questions – is the card worth signing up for, and is it worth keeping?

American Express Platinum Card

American Express Platinum Card

Highlights of the American Express Platinum Card

  • Special Offer: Earn 50,000 Bonus Membership Rewards® 60,000 Miles after you spend $1,000 in your first three months of Card membership.
  • Earn 1.25 Membership Rewards Point for every $1 in Card purchases up to $10,000
  • The Platinum Card gives you access to exceptional benefits such as Canadian Platinum Lounge Benefit, Airport Club Program, complimentary and discounted companion tickets and upgrades, and lodging benefits at a collection of over 700 Fine Hotels & Resorts around the world.

The current public offer is 50,000 miles, but through my application link you will receive 60,000 miles after your first $500 of purchases. The annual fee is $699 and not waived, which is steep, but I hold it because I value the travel benefits immensely. You have to decide whether your travel patterns justify the card.

Is the American Express Platinum Card Worth Signing Up For?

The answer to that question is a definite yes. If you qualify for the card (the annual income requirement is $40,000) and travel on any kind of semi-regular basis, the card is definitely worth signing up for, and let me tell you why.

Signup Bonus

The current sign up bonus on the American Express Platinum Card is 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards points. At a minimum, these are worth $600 in travel credits as you can redeem them for the rate of one cent per point, and sometimes with a 25% promotion, they’ll be worth at least $725. Since the annual fee on the card is $699, this one benefit alone essentially credits back almost the entire annual fee for the first year.

Redeeming American Express Membership Rewards points for travel credits

Redeeming American Express Membership Rewards points for travel credits

Of course, if you’re smart (which I hope all of you are), you won’t want to do this, because there are far greater values to be had. For instance, since American Express Membership Rewards points transfer to Aeroplan at a 1-to-1 ratio, if you combine the Platinum Card sign-up bonus with another 30,000 bonus from the American Express AeroGold Card (which has the first year annual fee waived) you will have enough miles to travel round-trip to Europe in business class when using Aeroplan - which I assume anyone here would value far more than $600.

$200 Travel Credit

The Platinum Card offers a $200 travel credit per calendar year when booking travel through the Platinum Travel Service. This can be redeemed, for example, for Fine Hotels and Resorts rates. This credit is given per calendar year, meaning the first year travel credit essentially doubles to $400 - one $200 credit immediately upon signup, and one more at the start of the next calendar year. Combined, the first year travel credit and the signup bonus is valued at a minimum of $1000, meaning you will come out $300 ahead at the very worst. Of course, in most circumstances you will end up earning thousands if not tens of thousands of value from the bonus points alone.

Is the American Express Platinum Card Worth Keeping?

Now that you have the card and the signup benefits are come and gone, let’s take a look at the other benefits to see if the card is worth keeping. My answer to this question is less definitive – it will depend on your travel patterns. Let me explain what I mean by this.

Platinum Card Status Benefits

The Platinum Card offers SPG Gold, Club Carlson Gold and Le Club Accorhotels Platinum status to cardholders. While this is a useful perk, the benefits of mid-tier elite status is fairly limited in reality. SPG Gold for instance, only offers 4pm check-out and “enhanced” room upgrade to its Gold members. Definitely useful if you happen to be staying at a SPG property, but hardly mind-blowing. Conversely, if you already maintain top-tier hotel status and/or stick to your preferred hotel chains, mid-tier status another chain is hardly going to be of much use.

Airline Lounge Access

The Platinum Card offers access to Plaza Premium, Servisair and Priority Pass lounges. Some of these lounges are nice (such as the SATS Rainforest Lounge in Singapore Changi) while others offer little more than seating, bagels and chex mix. Either way, they are better than being gate lice, so definitely a benefit worth considering. I personally love the Plaza Premium Lounges in Canada (especially the new international one at YVR which is STUNNING). What’s great about them is that they tend to be much less crowded than the MLL, which is really nice. Priority Pass membership as a standalone normally would cost $399, over half your annual fee. It is essential however to consider whether such a service suits you. If you predominantly travel in economy class (perhaps through Avios redemptions using the sign up bonus), or low-cost carriers (not that we have many here… WestJet anyone?) then lounge access can be invaluable in these circumstances. If you’re like me and not too keen on flying on a 737 from St John’s to Dublin though, and predominantly fly in business class long-haul then the value of the benefit diminishes significantly, especially since most business class lounges are superior to the generic “contract” lounges. This also applies if you have lounge access through elite status, such as Star Alliance Gold.

Insurance

The American Express Platinum Card offers comprehensive range of insurance for its cardholders, that include:

  • Emergency Medical Insurance(Out of province/country)
  • Car Rental Theft Damage Insurance
  • Flight Delay Insurance
  • Baggage Delay Insurance
  • Lost or Stolen Baggage Insurance
  • Hotel/Motel Burglary Insurance
  • $500,000 Travel Accident Insurance
  • Travel Emergency Assistance
  • StandbyMDSM* Travel Medical Concierge
  • Trip Cancellation Insurance
  • Trip Interruption Insurance

The Canadian Kilometers Ranking

Score for the sign-up bonus – 9/10, as the 60,000 points signup bonus is one of the best in the field, and requires a fairly low amount of spending to unlock the bonus.

Score for on-going earning – 7/10. The 1.25 points earning rate for all categories is good although there could be improved category bonuses. The points are at least worth something as you can either redeem them for a travel credit or transfer them to Aeroplan or Avios.

Score for benefits – 10/10. I’ve generally found that American Express service to be better than other issuers, although that may vary. The Platinum Card is probably as good as it gets for benefits, with an unrivalled amount of lounge access, elite status, and insurance benefits compared to other competitors in the market.

The American Express Platinum Card is no doubt hands-down the best travel credit card in Canada but unfortunately (somewhat) this is also reflected in its steep annual fee. Nevertheless, the bonuses are definitely great enough for everyone eligible to sign up. If you personal travel patterns result in top-tier status and loyalty with one airline or hotel chain, or you fly exclusively in premium cabins the other cardholder benefits may not be enough to entice you to keep the card for a second year. If you are a semi-frequent traveler and don’t have the luxury of top-tier status or premium class travel then the perks can be invaluable.

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Air India and Star Alliance have had a somewhat coloured relationship, but looking past that they have finally officially joined as a member of the Star Alliance today. Star Alliance has historically been weak in the Middle East/Subcontinent Area compared to Oneworld and SkyTeam, but now we finally have another option to redeem Star Alliance miles to/from/via India.

Air India Aircraft and Service

Air India operate Boeing 777 aircraft in a three-cabin service – fully flat (but non-enclosed) seats in First, angled flat seats in business and well… seats in economy. They also have Boeing 787 aircraft in a two-cabin service – fully flat seats in business class (similar to the 787 seats on LAN, Ethiopian, China Southern and Hainan) and economy class.

Air India 777 First Class

Air India 777 First Class

Air India 777 Business Class

Air India 777 Business Class

Air India 787 Business Class

Air India 787 Business Class

Service tends to be hit-and-miss on Air India – it definitely lacks the refinement of the more “polished” airlines but at the same time (as with many/all airlines) if you do get a good crew it definitely does compete with the top echelon of carriers. Here‘s an example of that, flying economy class no less.

While the first class product isn’t top notch, it is as exclusive as it gets with only four first class seats per flight, on par with TAM and China Southern A330′s. I believe they have a similar seat to the China Southern A330, which while it doesn’t offer closing doors or curtains, still have a great degree of comfort.

If you are looking for business class, of course the 787 is the way to go. Currently, Air India flies the 787 out of Delhi to/from:

  • Amritsar
  • Bangalore
  • Mumbai
  • Kolkata
  • Dubai
  • Singapore
  • Birmingham
  • Paris-Charles de Gaulle
  • Rome-Fiumicino – Milan-Malpensa
  • Frankfurt
  • Hong Kong – Seoul-Incheon
  • Hong Kong – Osaka-Kansai
  • London-Heathrow
  • Melbourne – Sydney
  • Tokyo-Narita
  • Shanghai-Pudong
  • Mumbai to/from London-Heathrow

Air India Award Travel Using Aeroplan

As with all “new entrant” airlines to the Star Alliance, Aeroplan does not charge fuel surcharges on Air India awards. A business class award to India is 150,000 miles round trip, and a first class award is 210,000 miles round trip. They may not be the most ideal airline to redeem award travel on, but currently (as is the case with most new alliance entrant airlines, such as Garuda or EVA) award space is generally great across the board.

Currently they appear to be releasing one first class seat and one business class award seat on all long-haul flights to North America (so, the US). Space is generally fairly consistent, except for a few weeks at a time where they have no space for some unknown reason. Overall, if you are looking to use Aeroplan miles to travel to India, Air India offers good award availability for one passenger in both first and business class.

On domestic and regional (intra-Asia) routes, as well as on economy class across the network, there is plenty of economy class award space across the board. In all circumstances, it matches the current award space on offer to its own members.

Other Air India Redemption Opportunities

Since the United MileagePlus devaluation, Air India awards book at the “partner” rate, meaning 160,000 miles round trip in business class or 240,000 miles round trip in first class to Asia. Definitely not a recommended option, doubly so as Aeroplan currently do not charge fuel surcharges on Air India.

Avianca LifeMiles offer the best redemption rates on Air India from a miles perspective, charging 130,000 miles round trip in business class or 185,000 miles in first class. If you have a sizable LifeMiles balance, definitely something to consider. There are also tricks that can reduce this even further, which people familiar with the matter should be aware of.

Conclusion

It may not be the most anticipated alliance entry in history, but Air India does offer some good value redemptions for travel to India and/or the subcontinent region. Award space is good and the 787 hard product doesn’t lag behind industry standards.

Air India Boeing 787

Air India Boeing 787

The American Express AeroplanPlus Gold Card is useful for Air India redemptions, offering a limited-time bonus of 30,000 miles upon signup and $500 spend within three months, and the first year annual fee waived.


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A few days ago I shared a great trick to remove certain fuel surcharges when using Aeroplan miles to fly from the US or Canada to Europe on Lufthansa. If you are a fairly astute reader, you would have also noticed that certain applications of the same trick can be very useful when it comes to paid fares. Thanks to the trans-atlantic metal-neutral joint venture within the Star Alliance, you can also book United flights under a Lufthansa codeshare if you are looking for a nonstop flight to/from cities other than Frankfurt or Munich. Since you guys liked the last post so much, let’s see what I’m talking about.

Since we’re talking paid fares, let’s look at economy class for the time being (which is what most mileage running is all about… unless you’re one of the lucky few heading to Seoul for $1700 in GlobalFirst). We’ve already established than an open jaw saves a few hundred in fuel surcharge compared to a normal round trip, so let’s see what this looks like in practice.

Standard round trip New York to Frankfurt on Lufthansa

Standard round trip New York to Frankfurt on Lufthansa

Let’s take a look at a “simple” open jaw first.

Open jaw New York to Frankfurt to Vancouver on Lufthansa

Open jaw New York to Frankfurt to Vancouver on Lufthansa

Not a bad saving at all, especially for the West Coast.

Now the things I talked about before – namely creating an open jaw where, on the return leg, you route via your point of origin works again for a paid fare. Suppose you wish to travel from New York to Frankfurt – the standard fare would be $950. But how about…

Open Jaw on Lufthansa routing via New York

Open Jaw on Lufthansa routing via New York

Over $250 is saved on this round trip with a simple open jaw, but this time you route back via your home city. This is a form of hidden city ticketing, where you simply throw away the last leg. I’ve also included a clever airport switch here so you can claim your bags too, if you plan to check any. So if you live in a city with more than one airport- take note!

Back when I first introduced fuel dumping on Aeroplan I talked about the difference between Aeroplan and paid fuel dumps. Paid fuel dumps have two variables – the base fare and the fuel surcharge, where Aeroplan dumps only have the surcharge variable. So what if you could simultaneously reduce both the base fare and the surcharge?

Suppose this time, I’m looking for a round trip from Chicago to Paris.

$1250 fare from Chicago to Paris flying United (Lufthansa)

$1250 fare from Chicago to Paris flying United (Lufthansa)

Fairly pricey at $1250, don’t you reckon? (Note that also the joint-venture between United and Lufthansa I talked about earlier comes into play here). Let’s put our imagination caps on for a moment and assume you’re a poor soul with no miles to burn for this trip (or there could be no award space… given the status of *A partner space right now – not that far fetched to be honest). Now, you can do the same open-jaw on Lufthansa to get the price down even more. Here goes…

It's a miracle - $800 open jaw for the same flight, but returning to Montreal via Chicago

It’s a miracle – $800 open jaw for the same flight, but returning to Montreal via Chicago

Not only has the fuel surcharge dropped by $250, but the base fare drops by another $250, for a net saving of $450. Still not a rate that I would jump for joy at, but neat improvement, you’d agree, no?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and can put some of these tricks to good use. Of course it’s always a better idea to have a stash of miles tucked away for these sorts of trips, so consider if you haven’t already the American Express Aeroplan Gold Card before the limited-time offer of 30,000 bonus miles expires. Thanks for your support as always, and as they say in my beloved Lufthansa FCT, “Gute Reise”!


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Bearskin Airlines is Aeroplan’s regional airline for travel within Ontario, and one of the smaller airlines within the Aeroplan “family”, so to speak. Over the past few years Bearskin Airlines have somewhat reduced their route network (previously serving Calm Air cities such as Flin Flon, as well as routes such as Kitchener to Montreal) and have consolidated into serving Ontario routes only. Nevertheless, their unique destinations served still make them worth exploring in terms of Aeroplan redemptions.

Bearskin Airlines Aeroplan Redemptions

Routes

Bearskin Airlines operate a traditional point-to-point network to eleven destinations within Ontario and Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Bearskin Airlines Route Map

Out of these destinations, Bearskin Airlines is the only airline to provide service to Dryden, Fort Frances, Kapuskasing and Kenora.

Aircraft and Service

Unlike the other northern carriers, it’s a little simpler here. Bearskin Airlines operate the Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner, a little 19 seat turboprop. Being 19 seats, Bearskin Airlines don’t have flight attendants, cabin service or bathrooms (eek! be prepared). The flight crew do all the formalities including safety briefings, and there is no cockpit door so you do get a great view of the scenery from the front and the side though… ;)

FighterPilot from airliners.net has a trip report on Bearskin Airlines from Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie which should give you a good idea of what everything’s pretty much like.

Booking Bearskin Airlines Award Travel

Similar to the other smaller northern airlines, you need to call to manually request award seats on Bearskin Airlines. Considering each flight has only 19 seats, things are going to be simpler from a revenue management standpoint, so it’s no surprise you can’t book these online.

Award prices are the same as the other airlines, so that’s 7,500 miles each way throughout the whole Bearskin network, and flights are combinable with Air Canada but not any other partner. Just as a reminder, a short-haul award is valid for 7,500 miles if you are traveling out of Ontario to/from Manitoba, Quebec, Nunavut, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington DC and Wisconsin.

For travel to/from Fort Frances, Dryden, Kenora, Sioux Lookout and Red Lake, the best connecting city is Winnipeg, where you can add on flights on Air Canada from your originating city. Air Canada Express itself has service to Thunder Bay, Sault Ste Marie, Timmins, Sudbury and North Bay. The only “unique” Bearskin Airlines destination you cannot reach via Winnipeg is Kapuskasing. For award travel to/from Kapuskasing you will need to connect in Timmins or Sudbury and then an onwards Air Canada flight to Toronto.

Acquiring Aeroplan Miles

You can earn Aeroplan miles by flying, credit cards or transferring them from American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. Credit card offers useful for Bearskin Airlines award redemptions include:

Both of these cards have the annual fee waived for the first year. Alternative cards include the American Express Platinum Card (Canada) which comes with a 60,000 point signup bonus, as well as the Starwood Preferred Guest Card (Canada) which comes with a 10,000 point signup bonus.


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