Air Canada Unaccompanied Minor Policy: Pretty Great, Eh? [2023]

Are you trying to figure out exactly what the rules are for Air Canada’s unaccompanied minor policy?

Don’t want to find yourself in a kerfuffle?

Below, we’ll break down the policy in very simple terms and tell you everything you need to know so that you’ll be prepared to drop off your unaccompanied minor with confidence.

Air Canada unaccompanied minor policy summary

Air Canada requires children aged 8 to 11 who are traveling alone to use Air Canada’s unaccompanied minor service. The unaccompanied minors can only fly on nonstop flights and each segment requires a fee of $100 CAD.

In addition:

  • Any child under 12 must be accompanied by someone 16 years of age or older, unless they qualify as an unaccompanied minor.
  • Children under the age of 8 cannot use the unaccompanied minor service and must be accompanied by a passenger age 16 or older.
  • Children aged 12 through 17 can utilize the unaccompanied minor service but are not required to do so.

That’s a very high-level look at the policy but let’s take a closer look at some of the important details you don’t want to miss.

Air Canada unaccompanied minor policy fees

Air Canada charges a fee of $100 CAD ($118.00 USD) for each segment, per child.

So if a child is flying from Toronto to Vancouver on a round-trip the total fees would be $200 CAD. If two children were on that flight the total fees would be $400 CAD.

This fee applies no matter what type of class is flown (economy, business class, first class, etc.)

These fees are pretty reasonable and on the lower side when compared to legacy carriers in the US.

It’s worth noting that this fee does include the price of a meal on certain flights but more on the below.

Want extra tips on flying with an unaccompanied minor? Read: Unaccompanied Minor Policy Ultimate Guide

Air Canada check in

Unaccompanied minor policy rules

Eligible airlines

You can only purchase the unaccompanied minor service if your minor is flying on a non-stop flight operated by Air Canada or Air Canada Rouge or a non-stop Air Canada Express flight operated by Jazz.

Age restrictions

No child under the age of eight can travel as an unaccompanied minor. Instead, they must be accompanied by a passenger who is at least 16 years old.

Children aged eight through 11 must use the unaccompanied minor service if they are traveling alone.

If a child is 12 through 17 they have the option of utilizing the unaccompanied minor service but it is not required.

Compared to US airlines, the age limit is a little high for Air Canada. For example, many US airlines allow kids aged five through eight to fly as an unaccompanied minor.

Connecting flights

Air Canada does not allow unaccompanied minors to fly on routes that include a connecting flight. So any time an unaccompanied minor is traveling they must be on a nonstop flight.

This is one of the stricter policies but a lot of airlines don’t want to risk something happening on the connection. For example, the kid could get lost in the airport.

Another worry is that in the event of delays or cancellations, connections just make things that much more difficult to resolve.

So be sure to start your flight search by filtering for nonstop flights.


Air Canada likes to seat unaccompanied minors in one of the back 3 rows of the plane, and this should be confirmed during the booking process.

Although flight attendants are not full-time babysitters having all of the kids sitting together just makes things simpler for them. Plus, they are near the washroom(s).

Medical conditions

Air Canada will not allow children to travel unaccompanied if they are:

  • blind or deaf
  • severely allergic to peanuts/peanut products or has other severe allergies
  • severely allergic to cats and dogs
  • has a medical (physical or psychological) condition (including but not limited to allergies) that requires any special care, or the administration of medication during the flight
  • likely to react negatively to air travel without a responsible adult known to him/her

If your child has any other type of medical condition they will not be able to travel as an unaccompanied minor unless they have prior medical approval.

To see what type of documents you will need for medical approval just contact the Air Canada Medical Assistance desk.

Medical conditions with unaccompanied minors are always tricky. If your child has a serious medical condition, I would be really cautious about utilizing the unaccompanied minor service.

Even the most qualified flight attendant could make a mistake or not know how to handle the unique health situation of your child.

No pets

Unaccompanied minors are not allowed to bring pets with them into the cabin. Sorry, Fido.

Air Canada plane


When you arrive at the airport you will head to the Air Canada check-in counter.

First, you need to supply documentation for the child.

For a flight within Canada, this can be a birth certificate, health card, passport or other government-issued identification.

(You need to bring original documents since they don’t trust photocopies.)

If there is an international flight, including flights to the US, the child must have a passport.

After providing identity documents, you will then fill out the “Request for Carriage” form.

This is basically the standard unaccompanied minor form and is going to require:

  • Your child’s identification and flight number,
  • The name(s) and contact information (including phone number and address) of the person(s) who will meet your child at his/her destination
  • The authorizing signature of your child’s parent or guardian.

The agent will give your child an Unaccompanied Minor lanyard (hang-tag) so they may be easily identified by airport staff.

The staff will also have a UM envelope that will stay with an Air Canada agent.

This serves as a holder for the child’s passport and airline ticket along with other things like documents needed for immigration/customs.

Depending on the airport and the route, you may be given a “gate pass” which will allow you to escort unaccompanied minors all the way to the gate.

On international flights, this is not possible.

When you can’t accompany the child through security, and Air Canada agent will accompany them.

The unaccompanied minor will be able to take advantage of preboarding which will allow him or her to board in VIP style, before any of the main groups.

If you are the responsible adult for the unaccompanied minor you are required to not leave the airport until the flight takes off.

Note this is different from the flight leaving the gate.

Air Canada does not want you leaving until the flight actually leaves the ground because sometimes the flight has to return to the gate due to unforeseen issues.

By having you remain at the gate, the child will always have someone to take care of them in the event of a delay or cancellation.

Tip: If you are not able to go to the gate and watch the flight depart, you can use a flight tracking software or the airline’s app to monitor the status of the flight.

Toronto Canada

The flying experience

It’s always a good idea to pack some snacks with your child but they may also be able to chow down on some free snacks courtesy of Air Canada.

If your child age 8 to 17 is traveling as an unaccompanied minor on a flight offering only Air Canada Bistro service, the price of a meal or hot snack is included in the $100 fee.

Keep in mind that complimentary meal service will be provided for all passengers traveling in:

Air Canada provides free nonalcoholic beverages on flights so your unaccompanied minor will be able to get something to drink without any additional cost.

Pick up

Whenever your unaccompanied minor touches down at their destination, the In-flight Service Director will assist your child and give them over to an airport agent who will then escort them to arrivals where they can meet up with the individual listed on the UM envelope.

That individual will then be asked to provide photo identification and sign the UM envelope and then the process will be done.

If you have someone that can get a gate pass and meet your child at the gate that may be able to be done at some airports so contact Air Canada to see if that will be possible.

Also, remember that a lot of flights arrive early. It’s best to get to the airport extra early when picking up an unaccompanied minor, especially if you are trying to get a gate pass.

If something comes up and the assigned individual cannot be there to pick up the unaccompanied minor, contact Air Canada as soon as you can to work something out.

How to book unaccompanied minors on Air Canada

If you want to book an unaccompanied minor ticket, you need to contact Air Canada Reservations or your travel agent.

Just let them know that you have a child or children traveling alone and provide them with the details they need and they will be able to issue the ticket.

Unaccompanied minor flying tips


Try to keep carry-on baggage at a minimum so that nothing gets lost.

It is a good idea to attach ID and contact information on the outside or even the inside of their baggage.


Give your child some form of entertainment.

Popular items include tablets, books, and other toys to keep them occupied.

If they have a movie they love with a time length that is at least the duration of the flight time consider getting your kid to watch that. They could be glued to that the entire flight.

Remember, not all planes have seatback TVs and your kid might be more comfortable using something they are used to like a tablet.

Also, be sure that all the devices are properly charged because some planes may not have USB or power outlets and if they do they may not always be working.

Prepare the child properly

Do whatever you can to get your child comfortable and knowledgeable about traveling alone.

For example, let them know:

  • The plane might shake a little bit but that is perfectly normal and okay
  • They should keep their seatbelt on at all times
  • The washroom is called a lavatory and is located in the back of the plane
  • You use a special button to flush the lavatory and it’s kind of loud
  • It’s not okay to kick the seat in front of them…

Also be realistic.

Some children just are not quite ready to fly alone and it might be better to work out a different flying situation if possible.

Final word

Air Canada has higher age limits than many other US airlines and is a little bit strict with connecting flights but otherwise they have a pretty standard unaccompanied minor policy.

The fees are a little bit on the lower side which is nice, especially considering the fees include free snacks and even meals sometimes.

Cover Photo by: Brussels Airport

Air Canada Baggage Fees Guide (Carry-on, Checked, International) [2021]

Our northern sibling’s airline, Air Canada, is not exempt from the norm of baggage fees. While carry-ons and personal items are free for all, checked bags might be subject to fees flying on Air Canada.

In this article, I will go over the allowances and fees associated with carry-on and checked baggage flying within the Americas and internationally. I then will also give a few tips on how to avoid baggage fees on your next Air Canada flight.

What are Air Canada baggage fees?

Air Canada allows one free personal item and carry-on luggage for all their fares. For the two lowest fares, Basic and Standard, fees for checked baggage start at $30. For international Basic fares, fees could be as high as $70. Checked baggage is only free for certain fares, classes, or elites. I go into more detail down below.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

How can I avoid baggage fees of Air Canada?

There are a few different ways that you can avoid checked baggage fees with Air Canada.

Fare options

There are seven different fares offered by Air Canada called Basic, Standard, Flex, Comfort, Latitude, Premium Economy, and Business Class. The differences between these fares are pretty big like seat selection at booking, cancellation flexibility, seat pitch, or even lie-flat seats, but another difference will also be baggage allowance.

There are two fares that restrict baggage while flying Air Canada. Basic will always require a checked baggage fee. Standard fares require you to pay a fee for certain destinations, like flights within the Americas. Both of those fares will also be restrictive in other areas, but all other fares will offer a certain baggage allowance without any fee.

Fares that offer a baggage allowance (max weight 50 lbs and max linear dimensions 62 inches):

  • Standard only on international flights excluding USA, Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America: 1 bag
  • Flex: 1 bag
  • Comfort: 1 bag
  • Latitude: 2 bags
  • Premium Economy: 2 bags
  • Business Class: 2 bags

For your reference, when flying Basic or Standard fares within Canada, USA, Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America the first bag is $30. When flying Basic fare on international routes not mentioned above, the first bag is $70.

Airline elite status

For the well-traveled with Air Canada or any Star Alliance airline, you have your own benefits like baggage allowance when flying Air Canada.

Here is the baggage allowance for Air Canada or Star Alliance elite members (max linear dimensions 62 inches):

  • Star Alliance Gold: 1 bag up to 50 lbs
  • Prestige 25k: 2 bags up to 50 lbs
  • Elite 35k: 3 bags up to 70 lbs
  • Elite 50k: 3 bags up to 70 lbs
  • Elite 75k: 3 bags up to 70 lbs
  • Super Elite 100k: 3 bags up to 70 lbs

As an elite, you can get many different benefits like lounge access, fast track, and preferred seats.

Credit Cards

You can utilize certain credit cards to reduce or eliminate your baggage fees on Air Canada.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the hottest travel rewards credit cards. It earns 3X the points on dining and travel and comes with a host of valuable benefits. One of these perks is a $300 travel credit that can be used on anything that codes as travel, including your baggage fees. You also have travel insurance built into the card which includes delayed baggage insurance.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card


One of my favorite cards to use to cover miscellaneous travel purchases is the Capital One Venture card. It’s a popular credit card that comes with a bonus of 50,000 after you spend $3,000 in the first three months.

It earns 2% cashback on all purchases toward travel, and the points can be used to cover virtually any travel purchase. The cashback you earn can be used to erase any travel purchases you made, including baggage fees.

Air Canada personal item and carry-on restrictions

When flying Air Canada in any cabin, you are allowed to bring one personal item and one carry-on each.

Personal item

You can bring one personal item onboard with you when flying Air Canada. If it fits under the seat in front of you or can be stored properly in business class (in the storage compartments or in the overhead bin) it would be okay as a personal item. There is no weight limit, but personal items must not exceed:

  • 36 linear inches
  • 17 inches Length 
  • 13 inches Width 
  • 6 inches Height 

Some examples of personal items would be a briefcase, purse, laptop, and small backpack.


When you fly Air Canada, you can bring one carry-on and it cannot exceed:

  • 46 linear inches
  • 21.5 inches Length 
  • 15.5 inches Width 
  • 9 inches Height 

Air Canada doesn’t impose any weight limit for carry-on bags, but be aware you are responsible for lifting your own bag into the overhead bin.

For your carry-on item, you can bring a suitcase, bag, garment bag, carry cot, pushchair or child seat for infants, and any required mobility aids, such as a wheelchair. Some items will be gate checked for free. As long as it doesn’t exceed the dimensions above, you will be fine.


The same TSA standards apply to Air Canada flights arriving or departing from the US. You can review a list provided by the TSA of permitted and prohibited items which may be included in carry-on baggage including the 3-1-1 Liquids Rule.

Air Canada checked baggage fees

Air Canada checked baggage fee structures are much more simple than one might think. Air Canada has two fees for the first bag associated with two different fares. For the second bag, it’s still fairly simple and much easier to understand than other fee structures like Lufthansa.

FareCanadaUnited StatesSun Destinations (Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America)International
Basic1st bag: $30
2nd bag: $50
1st bag: $30
2nd bag: $50
1st bag: $30
2nd bag: $50
1st bag: $70
2nd bag: $100
Standard1st bag: $30
2nd bag: $50
1st bag: $30
2nd bag: $50
1st bag: $30
2nd bag: $50
1st bag: Free
2nd bag: $100 (Max Fee)
Flex1st bag: Free
2nd bag: $50
1st bag: Free
2nd bag: $50
1st bag: Free
2nd bag: $50
1st bag: Free
2nd bag: $100 (Max Fee)
Comfort1st bag: Free
2nd bag: $50
1st bag: Free
2nd bag: $50
1st bag: Free
2nd bag: $50
1st bag: Free
2nd bag: $100 (Max Fee)
Latitude1st bag: Free
2nd bag: Free
1st bag: Free
2nd bag: Free
1st bag: Free
2nd bag: Free
1st bag: Free
2nd bag: Free
Premium Economy1st bag: Free
2nd bag: Free
1st bag: Free
2nd bag: Free
1st bag: Free
2nd bag: Free
1st bag: Free
2nd bag: Free
Business1st bag: Free
2nd bag: Free
1st bag: Free
2nd bag: Free
1st bag: Free
2nd bag: Free
1st bag: Free
2nd bag: Free

You are probably wondering, what about if you want more than two bags checked. Well, if your elite status doesn’t allow you to check more than two bags for free, then you will have to use Air Canada’s checked baggage calculator.

Air Canada’s checked baggage calculator can be used to show certain routes and destinations prices for more than two checked bags.

I listed a few down below, but the prices range drastically and I urge you to check here for the most accurate information about your specific route if you desire to check more than two bags.

Here is the price range of baggage fees for each 3 or more bags.

  • Travel within Canada: $105 – $115
  • Travel between Canada and the U.S.: $100 – $105
  • Travel between Canada/U.S. and Mexico/Costa Rica/Caribbean/Bermuda: $225 – $265.50
  • Travel between Canada and other international destinations: $225 – $265.50

Remember, baggage weighing no more than 50 lbs and no greater than 62 inches are accepted for the prices above. (Unless you have elite status, which you can check your allowance above.)

As you can see, it’s very different for some of these destinations. It’s best to check before you pack your suitcase.

In comparison to other international airlines, United charges the following rates:

  • $35 for the first checked bag
  • $45 for the second checked bag
  • $150 to $200 for the third checked bag

Air Canada checked baggage allowance

Checked bags flying Air Canada must not exceed 62 inches (158 cm) in overall dimensions and exceed 50 lbs (23 kg) if you are flying without certain status. If you’re flying with Elite 35k or higher-tiered status your weight limit is 70 lbs (32 kg.)

Tip: Get all the tips and pointers you need for your checked bags in our ultimate guide to checked luggage!

Air Canada excess baggage fee

Overweight bags and/or bags that exceed the dimensions will receive an extra fee when flying Air Canada.

Overweight and/or oversized bag for Air Canada

Bags flying Air Canada weighing more than 50 lbs to 70 lbs are considered overweight unless your elite status allows it. Bags measuring 63 inches to 115 are considered oversized. Bags over either of those limits aren’t accepted as checked bags.

  • Travel within Canada: $105 – $115
  • Travel between Canada and the U.S.: $100 – $105
  • Travel between Canada/U.S. and Mexico/Costa Rica/Caribbean/Bermuda: $100 – $118
  • Travel between Canada and other international destinations: $100 – $118

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Sports bags on Air Canada flights

If you have sports baggage that you want to bring on your Air Canada flight, you must register your sports bag no later than 24 hours before departure.

To learn more about the fees associated, packing instructions, and registering sports baggage click here.

Sporting goods that are accepted on Air Canada flights:

  • Archery equipment – bows and arrows
  • Avalanche rescue equipment
  • Bat and balls
  • Bicycles
  • Boating/Fishing equipment
  • Boogie boards, skim-, speed- and skateboards
  • Broomball/curling equipment
  • Climbing gear
  • Equestrian equipment
  • Fencing equipment
  • Firearms used for sporting activities
  • Golf Clubs
  • Hammer (Athletic)
  • Hockey/lacrosse/ringette/cricket equipment
  • Ice Skates
  • Inline Skates (Roller Blades)
  • Kayaking equipment
  • Parachutes and parachuting equipment
  • Pole Vaults and javelin
  • Racquets (badminton, squash, tennis, table tennis)
  • Scuba diving equipment
  • Skeleton Sleds
  • Skis and snowboards
  • Sports balls (inflatable) and bowling balls
  • Surfboards, paddleboards, kiteboards, wakeboards, and wave skis

Items not accepted as checked baggage on Air Canada flights:

  • Bobsleighs
  • Canoes
  • Hang gliders
  • Luges
  • Windsurfing equipment

Remember, you must confirm your sports baggage otherwise the check-in staff will refuse it.

Musical instruments as carry-on or checked baggage flying Air Canada

Musical instruments can accompany you as a carry-on on Air Canada but must fit in the overhead bin, under the seat in front of you, or on another seat you purchased. If you have a musical instrument, you could board pre-boarding after zone 2. Just identify yourself to the Air Canada gate agents.

Musical instruments as checked baggage on Air Canada are subject to normal checked baggage fees. I suggest packing musical instruments properly in a rigid hard-shell container made for shipping.

Air Canada military baggage policy

Since Air Canada is an international airline, they don’t give US military personnel or veterans any benefits for flying their metal. Therefore, Air Canada won’t allow US military personnel to check bags for free. Only US airlines will give benefits to US military personnel and veterans.

If you want to learn more about military benefits for airlines, I suggest reading our article.

When can I check-in bags for Air Canada?

Check-in depends on your departure city. For airports that only serve one Air Canada flight a day, the check-in counters typically only open up 3 hours prior to the scheduled departure.

Counters are open from 30 minutes to 4 hours before departure. It’s recommended to arrive at the airport greater than 2.5 hours before departure of an international flight.

Air Canada pet policy

If you want to fly with your pet in the cabin, one cat or small bag is allowed per passenger, except for Hawaii routes. Pet carriers, with the pet inside, must be able to fit under the seat in front of you. Note, lie-flat beds can accommodate 11 x 8 x 16 inches while 777 aircraft can only accommodate 8.25 x 15 x 17 inches.

If you’re traveling with or transporting an animal, registration is necessary. Refer this general advice page for transporting animals and click on “In the Baggage Compartment” tab.

What if my bags are lost or damaged by Air Canada?

If your bags are lost or damaged make sure you report it to Air Canada immediately. It is imperative to make a claim in person or online after the flight.

Making a claim with any representative is alright, but make sure you get a File Reference Number as that is the way you can track the status of your lost bag.

You can either go to baggage services at the airport. Please refer to this link.

Air Canada lost and found

If you forgot something on your Air Canada flight, you report your item lost via this form. Air Canada suggests putting as much detail as possible about the item you lost.

Sometimes you might get lucky and remember that you forgot something on the aircraft after you disembarked. If that is the case, talk to the gate agent at the same gate and they might be able to find the lost item for you as you cannot enter the aircraft again.

For other general information about lost and found, Air Canada has a dedicated page here.

Final word

Baggage fees aren’t getting friendly and Air Canada baggage fees aren’t the best. While fare options allow you to skip over the fees, they come at a greater cost. However, Air Canada does make it easier with only 4 category of fees compared to the likes of Lufthansa or Austrian.

Guide to Booking Flights with Aeroplan Miles

After several disappointing (and quite drastic) devaluations over the past few years, Aeroplan miles aren’t quite the valuable currency they once were. However, there are still some valuable perks and ways for you to redeem Aeroplan miles that surpass other airlines. This article will highlight some of the most valuable ways to use Aeroplan miles when booking trips.


Star Alliance

Aeroplan (Air Canada) is a member of the Star Alliance, the largest airline alliance out of the big three (One World, Star Alliance, and SkyTeam). This means that you can use your Aeroplan miles to fly on these other airlines (subject to availability).

Star_Alliance logo and members

The trick is to find availability for seats that can be booked with Star Alliance partners. The good news is that Aeroplan has one of, if not the best, websites to perform searches for Star Alliance partner availability. Read about how to find Star Alliance availability here.

How to Get Aeroplan miles from credit cards


Aeroplan is a transfer partner of  two major reward programs:

  • American Express Membership Rewards (1:1 ratio)
  • Starwood Preferred Guests (1:1)*

*Remember, when you transfer Starwood points in increments of 20,000 you receive an additional 5,000 in miles, so 20,000 points will earn you 25,000 Aeroplan miles. In addition, Starwood will often run promotions where you can earn additional bonuses on your transfers, such as up to ~25%!

I personally value the transferability to Aeroplan because I live near a United Airlines hub and fly them often. United transfers at a 2:1 ratio from SPG and is not a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, so I originally thought I was out of luck. However, because I can book United flights with Aeroplan (sometimes with far fewer miles as shown below), I really value the transfer potential here.

There’s also the TD Aeroplan Visa, which offers a 25,000 mile sign-up bonus. You get the 25,000 miles with only $1,000 in spend within the first 3 months of account opening and the $95 annual fee is waived the first year so it’s not a bad deal.


These three options make it pretty easy to accumulate miles for Aeroplan and can make life a lot easier for folks who rely on United Airlines for reward seats.

Avoid costly fuel surcharges

The first thing to look at when redeeming Aeroplan miles is avoiding fuel surcharges. These fees can put a huge dent in your wallet and really take away from your savings.

For example, take a look at the next two flights below.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 6.54.22 PM Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 7.22.44 PM

Notice anything different?

There’s a huge difference in the price. It’s a difference of $190 USD vs $834 USD due to fuel surcharges, so always do your best to book with a partner that does not incur fuel surcharges when booking with Aeroplan.

The following airlines do not carry surcharges when you book them through Aeroplan:

  • Air China
  • Brussels
  • EgyptAir
  • Ethiopian
  • EVA Air
  • Scandinavian
  • Singapore
  • Swiss
  • Turkish
  • United
  • LOT (has small surcharges)*

Stopovers and Open Jaws

Aeroplan is one of the rewards programs that allow for stopovers and open jaws and they are pretty generous with those. If you’re unfamiliar with these concepts, I suggest reading up on maximizing open jaw and stop overs. In short, stopovers allow you to break up a route so that you can spend time somewhere on your way to your destination. So if you are flying from Chicago to Paris, you could stop over in Geneva en route to Paris.

Open jaws on the other hand allow you to return or depart from from a different destination. So, for example, you could fly from Chicago to Paris and then have your return route be London to Chicago. You would be responsible for getting from Paris to London, however.

Stop overs and open jaws can get a little complex but they can add significant value to your redemptions, essentially offering you free one-way flights.

Air Canada Christian Junker
Air Canada has very generous open jaw and stop over rules.

Photo by Christan Junker via Flickr. 

So here’s a breakdown of the Aeroplan rules on stop overs and open jaws.

On roundtrip rewards, stopovers are permitted as follows:

Travel within Canada or between Canada and the Continental USA (not including Hawaii/Puerto Rico):

  • One stopover permitted in addition to the point of turnaround. One open jaw is permitted in lieu of the one stopover.

Between Canada/Cont. USA and Hawaii/Puerto Rico/Mexico/Central America/Caribbean:

  • Rule for rewards containing only Air Canada flight: Two stopovers are permitted in addition to the point of turnaround. One open jaw is permitted in lieu of one stopover.
  • Rule for rewards containing a minimum of one flight on a Star Alliance partner other than Air Canada: One stopover is permitted in addition to the point of turnaround. One open jaw is permitted in addition to the one stopover.

Intercontinental travel (travel between two continents):

  • Two stopovers permitted in addition to the point of turnaround. One open jaw is permitted in lieu of one of the two stopovers.

Intracontinental travel (travel within the same continent) except for travel within Canada/Continental USA, or between Canada/Cont. USA and Hawaii/Puerto Rico/Mexico/Central America/Caribbean:

  • Stopovers are not permitted. One open jaw is permitted.

North America to Europe

Aeroplan is one of the best ways to get to Europe from North America. Photo by Daniel Gillaspia

I think the best way to utilize Aeroplan miles right now is to book flights from North America to Europe. For Aeroplan, Europe is divided into two regions (Europe 1 and Europe 2). I’ll use a booking to a country found in Europe 1 as an example of how lucrative these redemptions can be.

Europe 1 consists  of the following countries:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • The Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • The United Kingdom

Let’s say you want to go from Chicago to Paris in business class on Swiss Airlines. This trip will require 110,000 Aeroplan miles. Compare this with the miles required when booking with other airlines:

  • United: 140,000 miles (with alliance partners)
  • American Airlines: 115,000 miles (no stop overs)
  • Delta: 125,000 miles (no stop overs)

As you can see, it’s a great deal but the deal gets even better. That’s because on international flights, Aeroplan allows:

  • “Two stopovers permitted in addition to the point of turnaround. One open jaw is permitted in lieu of one of the two stopovers.”

In this case, the “point of turnaround” would be Paris and so you’d be able to book two additional destinations with this itinerary, free of charge. I’ll show you how it would work.

Let’s say you wanted to visit Geneva, Switzerland and Brussels, Belgium in addition to your destination: Paris France. Your trip would look like this:

  • Chicago (ORD) -> Geneva (GVA) [stopover] -> Paris (CDG)
  • Paris (CDG) -> Brussels (BRU) [stopover] -> Chicago (ORD)

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 9.28.23 AM

In order to find availability for this route, I would suggest researching on Aeroplan’s website, segment by segment to that you can find the best flights available and then call in to book them. Below are the steps I recently took to search for the above trip, segment by segment.

Here’s the first leg, from Chicago to Geneva.

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 2.05.24 PM

The second leg from Geneva to Paris…

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 1.51.12 PM

Now you want to head from Paris to Brussels…

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 1.54.45 PM

And finally, it’s time to go home again to Chi-Town.

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So let’s breakdown how much you’d spend if you booked these reward flights separately.

You would have spent 155,000 miles, or 45,000 more miles for these flights if you did not utilize the stopovers!  Instead, you’re only using 110,000 miles to see three countries in business class for a grand total of  ~$175 USD in fees — pretty remarkable value in my opinion. 

And let’s see how much you would be paying in cash  for these same flights.

  • Chicago (ORD) -> Geneva (GVA): $7,617
  • Geneva (GVA)  -> Paris (CDG): $430
  • Paris (CDG) -> Brussels (BRU): $603
  • Brussels (BRU) -> Chicago (ORD): $3,025

The total cash price of these flights is $11,675.

Subtract the taxes and fees and you come out to $11,500 USD worth of value. The cents per mile value for your 110,000 redemption thus comes out to 10.45 cents per mile. That is a great redemption rate!

Many people value Membership Rewards at around 2 cents per point so if you transferred Membership Rewards to Aeroplan for this redemption you arguably more than quintuple the value of your points!

One way awards

With Aeroplan you can book one way rewards for 50% of the value as a round trip reward. Don’t get confused if you come across articles stating you need to be traveling to or from North America to book a one-way reward ticket — that rule was changed recently in December 2015. Now, you can book one-way rewards for 50% of the value of a round-trip ticket from anywhere in the globe.

No stop overs on one way flights

Aeroplan does not allow stopovers on oneway flights. From their rules:

  • “Stopovers are not permitted on one-way flight rewards.”

Lap-child fares

Aeroplan is known for having some of the best lap-child fares. Basically if you’re going to be flying with an infant on an international flight, you’ll incur the following expenses:

  • Economy Class – $50 or 5,000 Aeroplan Miles
  • Premium Economy Class – $75 or 7,500 Aeroplan Miles
  • Business Class – $100 or 10,000 Aeroplan Miles
  • First Class – $125 or 12,500 Aeroplan Miles

These are some of the best rates that you will come across, so if you’re going to be traveling with a little one then definitely consider Aeroplan.

Cancellation fees

The cancellation fees are pretty reasonable for Areoplan. If you cancel a booking 22 days before departure, you pay $90 and get your fees refunded and points redeposited to do as you please with them. If you cancel within 22 days of your departure, you must use those points within one year of booking on a single reservation, or you lose those miles.  

For example, let’s say you have a flight booked for next week and you cancel it today. You will then have one year from the time of booking to use those 110,000 miles. But if you use that credit for a 60,000 mile redemption, you lose out on 50,000 miles so be careful. Also, if you cancel within 22 days of your departure, you won’t be charged the $90 fee until you rebook your flight.  

Phone service

Aeroplan has some of the best customer service phone representatives that can make finding your flights much easier. Sometimes the reps might even be able to find you flights that weren’t showing up on the Aeroplan website. Unfortunately, they charge you a $30 fee for booking over the phone and it’s very rare for them to ever waive the fee. But considering the level of service and potential savings you might come across, the $30 fee isn’t that big of a deal.

RTW options

I’ll have to reserve another post to discuss the RTW (round the world) options at length but Aeroplan is known for having some valuable “round the world” redemptions due to their stop over and open jaw policies. To read more about booking a RTW trip with Aerplan check here.

Overall, don’t discount Aeroplan, especially if you’re interested in getting to Europe from North America with a couple of stopovers, because that redemption value is definitely among the best!

Cover Photo by Caribb via Flickr. 





How to Find Star Alliance Reward Availability

The Star Alliance is the largest of the three major airlines alliances (Star Alliance, Sky Team, and One World). If you’re not unfamiliar with airline alliances, they are programs that allow you to book tickets on partner airlines with miles from another program. So, just as one example of many, the Star Alliance allows you to book United flights with Singapore Airline miles.

One of the biggest issues with booking alliance partners is finding availability, avoiding surcharges, and knowing how to execute the booking. This article will focus on finding Star Alliance reward availability but will shed a little bit of light on the other two factors. 


List of Star Alliance Partners

It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with all of the different Star Alliance partners right off the bat. Here’s a list of all of them to date.

Star_Alliance logo and members

As you can see, there are 27 different airlines that make up this alliance. That means that for each airline, you could potentially book up to 26 different airlines with their miles. With so many options, searching for availability might sound overwhelming.

The good news is that you can pretty much find all of the Star Alliance availability by just focusing your searches on a few websites. These are the the websites for: United, ANA, and Aeroplan (Air Canada), and Singapore Airlines. After reviewing these websites, you should have a thorough idea of the different routes you can book.

Searching United Airlines

Boeing | 747-422 | United Airlines | N119UA | Hong Kong | HKG | VHHH
Photo by Christian Junker

United’s website is one of the best to use for a few reasons. For one, I think it’s pretty simple and the layout will show you a full two months of availability for all classes. This is far superior to those sites that force you to look at one day at a time, or even sometimes one day and on air fare at a time. It’s also easy because United doesn’t even require you to have a MileagePlus account and to log in to view reward seats.

To get started, simply go to the United website and begin your search. Be sure to select “Search for award travel” to ensure that you’ll be pulling up results for awards. On United’s site, you can search for one-way, round trip, and multi-city trips. 

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When searching on United’s website you will be looking for “Saver Awards.” These are going to be the only potential seats that you will be able to book with alliance partners. You’ll easily see “Saver” listed for business and first class seats but pay close attention to the economy seats because the “Saver” designation is in a different area and in green. 

United to book Air Canada

United has a nice color system that makes viewing these at quick glance pretty easy.

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As you can see, United provides an easy way to view the availability for each class of Saver Award over a time span of two months. Don’t forget to check the white boxes for availability that “may” be there.

If there are multiple legs, be sure to double check that each leg of the trip is the kind of class that you want to fly. If the class is different for different legs you should see the red “mixed cabin” as seen in the image below. 

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57.5K United miles for a one way flight to London from Houston

To get more details regarding the class fare, simply click on the “Details” icon and full details will drop down on the flight. As seen below, you can see everything from the types of meals offered, the class for each leg, the exact flight time, which airline operates which leg, etc.

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As you scroll through the different flights, you’ll see the airlines noted right beneath the departure and arrival times and locations. As seen below, the flight is operated by Air Canada, a Star Alliance partner. Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 6.35.49 PM

Multiple legs

I don’t ever have trouble finding reward flights with two legs but some people have trouble finding flights on United’s website with three or more segments. I’ve been able to find 3 segment rewards flights a number of times on United’s website, so it might just depend on the route. However, it’s never a bad idea to search for your flight leg-by-leg, just in case you might be missing out on something.

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Important reminder: If you hold a United Mileage Plus Explorer Card or have status with United there’s a chance that you might see more reward availability than is actually available to other alliance partners. To ensure that you aren’t viewing increased availability, do not log in to your MileagePlus account when searching, or better yet, search the United website while browsing from Google Chrome Incognito or a similar private browser.

In addition, be on the lookout for “phantom reward” space, which are reward spaces that show up on a website but actually are not available to you. This happened to me recently when I tried to book United saver awards with Singapore Airlines. I called up Singapore Airlines about 4 times but each time they told me there was no availability. After I checked ANA, I saw that there was no availability and realized I must’ve seen the dreaded phantom rewards. 

Searching ANA (All Nippon Airways)

Boeing | 777-281/ER | All Nippon Airways | JA707A | Hong Kong | HKG | VHHH
Photo by Christian Junker

Unlike United, ANA requires you to have a rewards account with them before viewing reward availability. So first make sure that you sign up for their program. Their “application” appears a bit more daunting than any other frequent flier program I’ve encountered and they even have signage on their website as if you were applying for a credit card and were going to get a hard pull on your credit. But don’t worry, it’s nothing serious, just your standard contact information.

To get started on searching for rewards on ANA, make sure you select “Award Booking” in the bottom right corner when you input your search criteria. 

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No one-way flights

The functionality of the search tool isn’t bad but note that you can only search for round-trip or multiple-segment trips — you cannot search ANA for one way reward flight any longer. If you try to you will get an error screen popping up telling you that you are not allowed to book to single legs.

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Thus, I suggest just picking a random date for your return date on a roundtrip in order to view reward availability segment by segment.

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Once you select your search criteria you’ll be able to see the availability based on a weekly timeline if you select the “+/- 3 days” option. Click the dates with seats available to move forward with the booking process.

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ANA allows you to view the final fees and mile requirements even if you don’t have the requisite miles to complete the booking, so it’s easy to see exactly how much you’d pay were you to book through ANA. 

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The biggest advantage to searching the ANA website is that it usually shows all of the alliance partners (with some exception mentioned below), which is very handy for airlines like Singapore Airlines which don’t usually show up on United or Aeroplan.

Multiple Legs

Most of the time, ANA is pretty good about showing multiple legs for rewards flights but just be careful when trying to find certain airlines, such as South African Airways.

I tried to find the same route from DFW to CPT that I found on United’s website but none of the routes showed up on ANA. Even when I broke the flight down into segments, the only leg that showed up was from DFW to EWR. Thus, not only was there nothing showing up for a multiple-leg trip, even nonstop South African Airways flights that showed availability on United and Aeroplan weren’t showing up.

That’s why it’s always good practice to check each of these websites when looking for your flight. You want to make sure that you fill in all of the gaps.

Searching Aeroplan (Air Canada)

Air Canada A320-211 C-FKCO
Photo by Caribb

In the past Aeroplan’s website has caused many frequent travelers a bit of grief due its slow speed. However, recently speaking I haven’t had much trouble with it and actually consider it to be among the best.

Aeroplan does require you to sign up but that takes all but two seconds so it shouldn’t be an issue. Once you get your log-in information, sign in and click on “Use Your Miles” and then on “Travel.”

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You should find the search process pretty straight forward.

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Similar to United, you can scan for airline carriers on the left and also click on “Details” for full specifics on your flight.

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When booking partner airlines with Aeroplan, you always want to be cautious to ensure that you’re not incurring unnecessary fuel surcharges. For example, take a look at the next two flights below.

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Notice anything different?

There’s a huge difference in the price. It’s a difference of $190 USD vs  $834 USD due to fuel surcharges. United is one of the Star Alliance partners that Aeroplan does not force you to pay fuel surcharges. So always do your best to book with a partner that does not incur fuel surcharges when booking with Aeroplan. The following airlines do not carry surcharges when you book them through Aeroplan:

  • Air China
  • Brussels
  • EgyptAir
  • Ethiopian
  • EVA Air
  • Scandinavian
  • Singapore
  • Swiss
  • Turkish
  • United

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United requires 30,000 more miles to get to Paris from Toronto than Aeroplan!

There’s another difference you should be made well aware of when booking as well. Above is the cost and fees for that same flight from Toronto to Paris but it shows what you would pay if you booked on United’s website. As you can see, you’d be paying about the same in USD but you’d be using 30,000 more miles for the booking!

I’ll have much more to say on maximizing your redemptions on Aeroplan later but this is a prime example of the things to be aware of when booking through alliance partners. If you’re not “in the know,” it can be really easy to lose out on thousands of points.

Multiple legs

Aeroplan is known to have good multi-segment search features, but again, I think you should always check on all three websites when trying to search for multi-leg flights. In addition, I would still break the flight down and search segment by segment to ensure that you’re seeing the maximum availability.

As an example, the screen shot below shows only two Star Alliance flights departing on this day but United’s website showed more than that. Granted, the additional flights on the United website included an airport change (JFK to EWR), it still goes to show that you need to be thorough with your research.

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As an added note, check out the redemptions for DWF to CPT on economy on United versus Aeroplan. This time, United has the cheaper option, only requiring 40,000 miles for a one way economy ticket versus the 50,000 miles required by Aeroplan. This is another reason to make sure you check with the different websites: you can double check that you’re looking at booking the best rates for your trip.

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United is 10,000 miles cheaper than Aeroplan from Texas DFW to South Africa CPT

So that’s it. It can be a bit time consuming to go through three different websites to search for different flights but if you really want to make sure that you’re not missing any availability, then searching all three of these websites for Star Alliance reward availability is a must! 

Cover Photo Christian Junker