Strategic Bound Breaking with Aeroplan

Aeroplan prices itineraries according to a complex set of rules. Applying your knowledge of these rules can enhance your trip, save you points, and help you stretch out the value of your points to the maximum.

Let’s take a look at the practice of strategic bound breaking with Aeroplan in more detail.

What Is Strategic Bound Breaking?

Aeroplan has a series of rules that determine where a “one-way bound” begins and ends, and thus how much a given itinerary will cost.

In some cases, the structure of the distance-based Flight Reward Chart causes the pricing to vary depending on where you “break the bound”.

In other words, there are some cases where you can strategically choose to begin or end your one-way bound, in an effort to keep the distance flown in a lower distance band, which results in your itinerary costing fewer Aeroplan points.

A Few Examples

Let’s look at some examples to spell out how strategic bound breaking could be beneficial to you.

Example 1: Choosing Your Stopover Strategically

Consider the example of a Thunder Bay resident who wants to visit Istanbul and Tel Aviv on the same trip, flying in business class. She puts together the following proposed itinerary:

  • Thunder Bay–Toronto–Istanbul (stopover)–Tel Aviv, on Air Canada and Turkish Airlines
  • Tel Aviv–Toronto–Thunder Bay, on Air Canada

To keep things simple, let’s assume that our traveller is able to find pricing for the Air Canada flights at the lower end of the dynamic pricing range.

Looking at the “Between North America–Atlantic zones” chart, our traveller would calculate the pricing for this redemption as follows:

  • Outbound journey of 6,382 miles: This falls into the third distance band of 6,001–8,000 miles, and would therefore cost 85,000 Aeroplan points in business class
  • Return journey of 6,356 miles: This also falls into the third distance band of 6,001–8,000 miles, and would therefore cost 85,000 Aeroplan points in business class
  • Adding a stopover in Istanbul costs an additional 5,000 Aeroplan points
  • Total of 175,000 Aeroplan points

(Note that as of September 1, 2022, the cost of a business class flight in the third distance band is increasing to 90,000 Aeroplan points. This same itinerary would therefore cost 185,000 points.)

However, imagine that we were to “break the bound: in Istanbul instead. The proposed itinerary would look as follows:

  • Thunder Bay–Toronto–Istanbul, on Air Canada and Turkish Airlines
  • Istanbul–Tel Aviv (stopover)–Toronto–Thunder Bay, on Turkish Airlines and Air Canada

Looking again at the North America–Atlantic chart, our traveller would calculate the pricing for this redemption as follows:

  • Outbound journey of 5,658 miles: This falls into the second distance band of 4,001–6,000 miles, and would therefore cost 70,000 Aeroplan points in business class
  • Return journey of 7,079 miles: This falls into the third distance band of 6,001–8,000 miles, and would therefore cost 85,000 Aeroplan points in business class
  • Adding a stopover in Tel Aviv costs an additional 5,000 Aeroplan points
  • Total of 160,000 Aeroplan points

(As of September 1, 2022, the total cost of this trip will be 165,000 Aeroplan points, due to the increase in cost for the third distance band.)

As you can see, the two trips are virtually identical, but our traveller can potentially save upwards of 15,000 Aeroplan points by being strategic about where to “break the bound”.

Similar logic can be applied towards basically any round-trip booking that includes one stopover, where the flown distance in either direction comes very close to one of the distance thresholds on the chart.

Note that in practice, the Aeroplan contact centre’s booking system is likely to automatically choose Istanbul as the stopover point if you were to feed the agent the entire itinerary all at once.

To strategically break your bound, you’ll want to book two separate one-way awards with the agent: the first from Thunder Bay to Istanbul, and the second returning from Istanbul with a stopover in Tel Aviv.

Example 2: Booking as Two Separate Awards

The other angle where “strategic bound breaking” comes into play is when we think about whether it might be advantageous to book a single award as two separate awards instead.

Consider something like Dublin–Frankfurt (stopover)–Beijing in business class.

Booked as a single award, this would fall under the distance band of 5,001–7,000 miles on the “Between Atlantic and Pacific zones” chart, costing 85,000 Aeroplan points including the stopover.

However, if we were to book this as two separate awards, then Dublin–Frankfurt would only cost 15,000 Aeroplan points on the “Within Atlantic zone” chart, while Frankfurt–Beijing would fall under the distance band of 0–5,000 miles on the “Between Atlantic–Pacific zones” chart, costing 60,000 Aeroplan points.

That’s a total of 75,000 Aeroplan points, a savings of 10,000 points compared to booking on a single award.

Atlantic/Pacific Arbitrage

One of the best, and most common, applications of strategic bound breaking can be seen when booking long-haul travel between North America and the Atlantic and Pacific zones.

Recall that there’s a noticeable difference in the relative generosities of the North America–Atlantic and North America–Pacific charts. In particular, pay attention to the distances permitted for the third and fourth distance bands.

On the “Between North America and Atlantic zones” chart, the third distance band covers flights between 6,001 and 8,000 miles, and the fourth distance band covers anything over 8,001 miles.

On the “Between North America and Pacific zones” chart, the third distance band covers flights between 7,501 and 11,000 miles, and the fourth distance band covers anything over 11,001 miles.

In other words, flights between North America and the Pacific zone have a much more generous distance allotment than flights between North America and the Atlantic zone. This is especially the case in the third distance band.

Since trips to the Pacific zone are allowed to route through the Atlantic zone, this opens up the possibility of leveraging these differences to your advantage – I like to call this “Atlantic/Pacific arbitrage”.

Let’s look at this practice through a series of examples.

Example 1: Maldives & Singapore

Any trip to the Atlantic zone that’s more than 8,000 miles will cost 70,000 or 100,000 Aeroplan points in economy or business class, respectively.

Trips to the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia, such as the below sample trip from Toronto to the Maldives, will most likely fall into this very expensive price range.

Furthermore, the cost of business class flights in the third distance band on the “Between North America and Atlantic zones” chart is set to increase to 110,000 points as of September 1, 2022. 

So, how can we soften this blow?

Well, by adding an additional flight into the Pacific zone, you can transform your North America–Atlantic redemption into a North America–Pacific one, and you’ll often end up saving points as a result!

In the above scenario, consider what would happen if we added an extraneous flight from the Maldives to Singapore…

Since this is now a reward between Toronto and Singapore, it is governed by the North America–Pacific chart. And since the total distance clocks in under 11,000 miles, you’ll only pay 60,000 or 85,000 Aeroplan points in economy or business class for this whole thing.

And of course, since you actually wanted to go to the Maldives in the first place, we can add a stopover in the Maldives for 5,000 Aeroplan points, arriving at a total of 65,000 or 90,000 Aeroplan points.

This is still a savings of 5,000 or 10,000 points compared to if we didn’t add the extra flight to Singapore in the first place.

Once the prices for this same itinerary increase on September 1, 2022, the same flights will cost 110,000 points (with the Maldives as the destination) and 92,500 points (with Singapore as the destination, including a stopover in the Maldives).

Going forward, Atlantic/Pacific Arbitrage will become even more meaningful for averting the cost increases.

Example 2: Central & East Asia

The same logic can be applied to any one-way redemption to most cities in the Indian subcontinent or Central Asia.

A redemption from Winnipeg to Almaty, a beautiful city in Kazakhstan, would cost a hefty 100,000 points (110,000 as of September 1, 2022)…

…but making Almaty your stopover, and tacking on an extraneous Asiana Airlines flight to Seoul, brings the cost down to 90,000 points (92,500 as of September 1, 2022).

Example 3: From the West Coast

From Western Canada, you’ll have less room to play with in terms of the routing distance, but the Atlantic/Pacific arbitrage still works.

Here’s Vancouver to New Delhi for an unappealing 100,000 points (110,000 as of September 1, 2022)…

…but making it a stopover and adding an extra flight to Bangkok solves the problem (and just barely sneaks in under the 11,000-mile threshold).

Atlantic/Pacific arbitrage can help lower the price of one-way trips to destinations in the Atlantic zone as far west as Muscat, Oman (from select origin cities), going a long way towards softening the blow of the expensively-priced North America–Atlantic chart.

By adding a stopover in the Atlantic zone and making your destination in the Pacific zone, you can strategically save a tidy sum of Aeroplan points. As an added bonus, you’ll get to visit another part of the world while you’re at it.

Conclusion

Aeroplan’s complex logic for pricing out itineraries can take a while to fully understand. Knowing these rules, and using them to your advantage, can wind up saving you a number of Aeroplan points.

Understanding how to strategically break bounds is a savvy maneuver. While the practice doesn’t apply to all bookings, it’s important to play around with routings to see if you can possibly save some points.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.