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 operate a traditional point-to-point network to eleven destinations within Ontario and Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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:
- American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card – 25,000 Membership Rewards points after $500 spend within the first three months
- American Express AeroPlus Gold Card – 30,000 Aeroplan miles after after $500 spend within the first three months (offer ends July 14, 2014)
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.