Air Canada Aeroplan today announced that they have launched a public beta test that provides the ability to book an itinerary with a stopover online. This is an awesome improvement that will make it possible to book some pretty cool complex itineraries online. Unfortunately, you won’t have quite as much flexibility as you would over the phone, but for most people and intents this is going to be an awesome change that more than meets the average needs.
Air Canada Aeroplan stopover awards
I have written a couple of times about my love of Air Canada Aeroplan as a program that allows very complex itineraries and has an incredible mix of partners (in fact the most airline partners of any airline program in the world). See Aeroplan: Nick’s ace in the hole for #3Cards3Continents and Aeroplan plans for future dream trips. In those posts, I lay out a number of examples of just how much fun it can be to maximize the Aeroplan award chart and partnerships. I won’t re-hash all of the details in this post, so you’ll want to see those posts if you are new to the types of complex awards possible with Aeroplan.
At a base level, Aeroplan has a hybrid region-based and distance-based award chart and you can add a stopover on a one-way award for 5,000 additional miles.
An example of what you can now book online
Thanks to Aeroplan’s partnerships and stopover rules, it is possible to book something like Lufthansa business class or first class from Newark to Frankfurt to Paris, spend a week in Paris, and then continue on to Mauritius in business class on Air Mauritius for either 115K miles (in business) or 145K miles (with the Newark to Frankfurt leg in first class). You can now book this kind of trip online as seen below.
Of course, availability for that kind of trip would be challenging for most people since Lufthansa only tends to release first class award availability within two weeks of departure, but nonetheless it gives a glimpse into the type of trip possible.
Not quite as broad as what you can book over the phone
There are unfortunately some limitations of the tool that will prevent you from flexing Aeroplan’s full strength.
For starters, itineraries booked online with a stopover can have a maximum of 4 segments in each direction. This stands in contrast to the ability to book an itinerary with up to 6 segments over the phone. In fairness, that’s not much of a limitation for the average user, but it will get in the way of finding some options.
For instance, let’s say that you wanted to fly from Newark to Lisbon with a 23-hour layover in Warsaw, then after three days in Lisbon you’d like to fly to Abu Dhabi by way of a 23-hour layover in Manchester (What’s that? No, Stephen Pepper?). I get that this isn’t realistic for most people, but it demonstrates how much travel you could potentially get in four segments.
It’s not a make-believe example. Sure enough, on October 18th, there is a business class seat on LOT Polish from Newark to Warsaw with a 23.5hr layover in Warsaw before continuing on to Lisbon.
And then, three days later, on October 23rd, indeed there is availability to depart Lisbon and spend 23.5hrs in good ole Madchester en route to Abu Dhabi.
You should theoretically be able to book that entire itinerary for 115,000 miles in business class with the 3-day stopover in Lisbon. In fact, I am certain you could book that over the phone with an agent. Unfortunately, you can’t build that one out using the stopover beta functionality. I am honestly not surprised that the search tool won’t find every obscure routing since it does need to piece together availability and routing rules from many different systems and return a search result in a reasonable amount of time.
In order to search for an itinerary like this, you’ll go to AirCanada.com and choose the “Multi-city / Stopover (BETA)” option. Check the box to book with Aeroplan points, then enter your origin and destination with your desired stopover city and length below it.
Again, unfortunately, the tool will not put together every possibility. If you enter the criteria above, you will find nothing like the example availability I showed above it. If you wanted to piece together that Newark->Warsaw->Lisbon->Manchester->Abu Dhabi itinerary, you’d need to call Aeroplan to book it.
However, if you wanted something simpler, like Newark to Athens with a stopover in Munich, the tool should now handle that quite nicely (and it does, as seen below).
The thing to be aware of here is that the tool is in beta and I gave the example above that did not work to make it clear that you shouldn’t get discouraged or think that something isn’t possible just because you can’t price out the award you want online. You may just need to call. If you book over the phone, you’ll have to pay the nonrefundable 30 CAD phone booking fee, but that can obviously be well worth it on more complex itineraries.
However, for the types of more “normal” itineraries that people are likely to want to build, this new capability to book online can be an awesome way to do-it-yourself and book a stopover for 5,000 additional miles in each direction.
Overall, I am excited to see Aeroplan roll out the ability to book an itinerary with a stopover online. Despite the limitations, this will make the prospect of booking with Aeroplan much easier for the vast majority of situations — and it just might help free up some phone agents to help those of us looking to book things not yet possible to do online.