Part 4: Aeroplan North America Award Chart - Distance Tiers 3 and 4
In this fourth and final installment of the series examining the new Aeroplan North America award chart, we will look at the last two distance tiers in the new award chart, tiers 3 and 4. As we did with our previous article, we will examining these distance tiers using example flights from Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto.
The Third Tier 1,501-2,750 Miles
The third tier of the new Aeroplan North America award chart applies to travel distances in the range of 1,501 – 2,750 miles. Under the third tier, a one way economy class ticket costs 12,500 points with a one way business class ticket costing 25,000 points. This is the same price as a long haul flight under the current program which gets you a flight anywhere within Canada and the continental United States.
The map below shows you the potential distance you can travel from Vancouver, with the inner ring being 500 miles (Tier 1), the middle ring being between 501 miles and 1500 miles (Tier 2), and the outer ring being between 1501 miles and 2750 miles (Tier 3).
For Vancouver departures, the third tier opens up almost all of Canada with notable exceptions being some destinations in the Maritimes, such as Halifax and the very Southern portion of Florida. It also opens up much of Mexico and all of Hawaii. In the chart below, I have set out some destinations from Vancouver that fall within Tier 3 in the new program and compare those prices with the current program.
So where is the best value in this tier? It has to be Hawaii. This is one of the real sweet spots of the new Aeroplan program for those of us on the west coast. If you are flying out of Vancouver, Hawaii falls into tier 3 meaning you can fly there one way for as little as 12,500 points in economy class or 25,000 points in business class. Under the current program that same flight would cost 22,500 for a one way economy class ticket and 40,000 for a business class ticket. The new program, therefore, represents a savings of 44.44% on an economy class award to Hawaiii or 37.5% on a business class ticket. It's true that this sweet spot is similar to the Avois sweet spot of flying from the west coast of the United States on Alaska Airlines to Hawaii, which is a great deal. However, the great news is that, provided there is award space, you can now take that flight directly out of Vancouver rather than having to drive to Bellingham or Seattle (or book a connecting flight for extra points) to catch an Alaska Airlines flight since Avios charges for each leg. I am super excited about this sweet spot.
Similarly, parts of Mexico are also within reach on tier 3. For example, Vancouver to Puerto Vallarta. Under the current program that trip costs 20,000 miles one way in economy or 30,000 in business class. Under the new program, the cost will be 12,500 points one way in economy or 25,000 points in business class, a savings of 37.5% and 16.66%, respectively.
Below is a map showing the tier 3 range of travel on departures from Calgary:
For Calgary departures, tier 3 opens up all of Canada, all of the continental United States, all of Mexico, along with a small part of Central America and the Caribbean. Unfortunately, Hawaii is just out reach. Below is a chart of examples of destinations within reach of tier 3 on Calgary departures:
Since the new Aeroplan program has a large North America zone rather than separate regions like the current program, destinations in countries outside of the United States and Canada do not automatically have higher redemption rates. Under the current program, it does not matter if the destination is in a different country, such as Mexico, Central America or parts of the Caribbean, all that matters is the distance from the departure point. Accordingly, we can see that departures from Calgary will potentially have lower redemption rates to some locations in Mexico (Cabo, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun), Central America (Belize), and the Caribbean (Havana).
For Toronto departures, below is a map showing the destinations that fall within tier 3 of the new Aeroplan North America reward chart:
As you can see, with tier 3, departures from Toronto are within range of all of Canada and the continental United States, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, meaning there are great options for flights out of Toronto. Below are some examples of destinations that fall within tier 3 , comparing the award redemption rates under the current Aeroplan program and the new Aeroplan program.
At tier 3, in which pricing starts at the same rate as a long haul flight under the current Aeroplan program for destinations in Canada and the continental United States, departing from Toronto will be the same price under the new program as it is under the current program (subject to dynamic pricing on Air Canada flights). From that perspective, the new program has not gotten any worse if you are flying out of Toronto. Best of all, though, this tier will also include flights to Central America and the Caribbean and that represents significant savings compared to the current program. If you are able to get the lowest dynamic pricing on an Air Canada flight or book a partner airline flight, you will potentially see savings of 37.5% on economy class tickets and savings of 16.66% on business class tickets to Mexico and the Caribbean.
Tier 4 - 2751+ miles
For Vancouver departures, tier 4 opens up all the remaining destinations covered by the North America chart (hence, no need for a Great Circle Map, simply refer to the map for tier 3 and tier 4 covers every destination outside the third circle).
Below is a chart setting out some destinations which fall within tier 4 on Vancouver departures:
For Vancouver departures, tier 4 highlights some of the loss of value with the new Aeroplan program. Here we see that some destinations in the Maritimes and in southern Florida are significantly more expensive under the new program compared to the current program. While one can currently reach those destinations for a price of 12,500 points for a one way economy or 25,000 points for one way business class, the new program will cost 17,500 points in economy and 35,000 in business class, an increase of 40%. On the plus side, at tier 4, all of Central America and the Caribbean are potential destinations and the redemption prices of 17,500 for a one way economy class flight ticket are slightly cheaper than the 20,000 points required under the current program, a small savings of 12.5%. Unfortunately, that savings is offset by an increase in business class redemptions from 30,000 to 35,000, or a 16.6% increase. Not to mention, if any of these flights are economy class flights that involve a partner airline the prices be even higher given that redemption on economy class partner flights is fixed at 22,500 points. Also, don't forget that when it comes to flights on Air Canada, these are starting rates based on dynamic pricing, so time will tell whether actual award redemptions might end up being significantly more expensive.
For Calgary departures, the following are examples of some destinations that fall within tier 4:
Essentially, a good portion of the Caribbean, Central America and all of Hawaii are in tier 4 if you are departing from Calgary. The new program offers cheaper one way economy class tickets to Hawaii, the Caribbean and Central America when flying on Air Canada flights. In the case of flights to Hawaii, a one way economy class ticket could be 22.2% cheaper and one way business class tickets could end up being 12.5% cheaper (depending on dynamic pricing). However, with respect to business class flights to the Caribbean or Central America, the new program increases redemption prices by 16.6%. Calgary fares a bit better than Vancouver departures in tier 4 since all of Canada and the continental United States were already captured in tier 3. With Vancouver being just that much more westward, the distance based pricing makes certain parts of North America more expensive under the current program for Vancouver departures.
The following are examples of destinations that fall within tier 4 when departing from Toronto:
For Toronto destinations, it is primarily Alaska and Hawaii which fall into tier 4. Hawaii will be slightly cheaper under the new program. Alaska will be more expensive.
Overall, the new Aeroplan North America award chart offers some exciting opportunities to fly to destinations at cheaper redemption rates than the current program. That being said, there are most definitely flights that also become more expensive. Since the new program is distance based, the pros and cons of the new award chart depend on your departure point (and hence which destinations fall within each tier of the award chart). It also depends on whether you live in a major City with flights to many cities in North America or if you live in a smaller centre where you will have to first have a connecting flight to a major centre in order to head to your destination. Those connecting flights could eat up a lot of miles and push you into higher tier prices.
If you live on the West Coast, flights to Hawaii are a real sweet spot in the new award chart representing significant savings from the old award chart at only 12,500 points for one way economy class ticket or 25,000 for a one way business class ticket. As well, from Vancouver, prices to Mexico and Central America will also be reduced. However, for those of you that travel to the Maritimes, flights to some destinations, such as Halifax will increase considerably in price.
If you live in Calgary, there will be some destinations that currently qualify as short haul flights which will increase in price. For the most part, however, the overwhelming majority of redemptions will either go down in price or stay the same under the new Aeroplan program. I would be particularly interested in a 12,500 point redemption for an economy class flight (25,000 for business class) from Calgary to Cancun which represents great value and a decent savings over the current award price of 20,000 points for an economy redemption (30,000 business class).
If you live in Toronto, the impact of the new program is similar to that of Calgary departures. While there are some exceptions, for the most part redemption prices in the North America zone will go down in price or stay the same in comparison to the current program. Flights from Toronto will see reduced redemption rates to the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii and Central America. One particular sweet spot from Toronto is the Caribbean with flights to the Bahamas priced at 10,000 points for a one way economy class ticket (20,000 business class) as compared to a redemption prices of 20,000 for a one way economy class ticket (30,000 business class) under the current program.
In summary, I think the new North America award chart has something for everyone to like. However, keep in mind our important caveat referenced near the beginning of our first article in this series: Miles travelled is not calculated simply by taking the distance between your departure city and your destination city. Rather, the new Aeroplan program calculates distance based on the actual miles flown, including connections on your way to your destination. If you have to route through other cities, you may soon find yourself pricing into higher tiers than you anticipated.
Another thing to keep in mind is that while redemptions on partner airlines are a fixed price, redemptions on Air Canada are subject to dynamic pricing. We will have to await November 8th to learn just how aggressive Air Canada may be with the dynamic pricing and the amount of award space that will actually be available at the starting redemption range.
Let us know what you think of travel redemptions in North America under the new Aeroplan Program in the comments below.