The Best Short-Haul Aeroplan Sweet Spots
As a distance-based program, Aeroplan charges fewer points for flight redemptions that cover a shorter distance.
If you can strategically plan your flights to remain within the first few distance bands for travel within one of Aeroplan’s geographic zones, there are plenty of sweet spots to be found.
As a reminder, the Aeroplan Flight Reward Chart divides the world into four zones: North America, South America, Atlantic, and Pacific. The Atlantic zone covers Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent, and the Pacific zone covers most of East Asia and Oceania.
Let’s take a look at sweet spots for short-haul travel with Aeroplan within each of the four geographic zones.
Within North America
The North American zone naturally includes all of North America, including Hawaii, Alaska, Central America, and the Caribbean islands. There are four distance bands for travel within this zone.
For brevity, let’s assume the lower end of the dynamic range for flights with Air Canada and the fixed cost in points for redemptions with partner airlines.
For each hub city in the below examples, we’ll map out the first two distance bands using Great Circle Mapper to visualize which airports may fall within those ranges on direct flights.
For the below maps, the innermost band represents the first distance tier (0–500 miles), the next band represents the second distance tier (501–1,500 miles), and so on.
For Vancouver-based travellers, flying out to Sandspit (YZP) in majestic Haida Gwaii remains within the first tier at 468 miles. This also includes flights via Vancouver from Nanaimo (YCD), but connecting flights from anywhere else pushes the distance to over 500 miles.
Flights to Calgary from Vancouver, Nanaimo, and Victoria all fall within the 500-mile threshold, too. South of the border, both Portland and Seattle are in the first distance band, making a quick weekend trip easily at your fingertips.
In theory, the above destinations should price out at 6,000–10,000 Aeroplan points with Air Canada. Expect this to be the case for most routes, with the exception of flights to Haida Gwaii, which appear to be consistently priced around 20,000 points throughout the year.
In the second tier, which should price at 10,000 or 20,000 Aeroplan points in economy or business class, you’ll find Los Angeles, San Francisco, Palm Springs, Phoenix, Denver, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Whitehorse, and Anchorage, amongst others.
Of particular interest are the Californian hubs, either for a holiday on the coast or to connect to Asia for a First Class redemption, perhaps with Japan Airlines or All Nippon Airways. We also see flights to Whitehorse and Anchorage, which tend to be fairly expensive, in this band.
Hawaii falls within the third distance band from Vancouver, costing at least 12,500 or 25,000 Aeroplan points in economy or business class, respectively.
This is indeed one of the sweet spots for Vancouver-based travellers, but plan ahead and consider using eUpgrades, as dynamic pricing can come into play quite quickly on this route.
Toronto, Montreal, and major US hubs on the East Coast also fall within this tier. Consider flying from Vancouver to any of the major eastern hubs to catch an aspirational flight with Emirates, Singapore Airlines, or Qatar Airways.
As for Sun destinations, Vancouverites can reach Miami, Puerto Vallarta, and Baja California without crossing into the fourth distance band.
2. The Battle of Alberta: Calgary vs. Edmonton
A glance at the two maps above seems to give Calgary the edge when it comes to cities available in the first distance band.
A flight to Vancouver, Victoria, or Nanaimo costs as few as 6,000 or 15,000 Aeroplan points in economy or business, respectively, whereas flying from Edmonton would cost an additional 4,000 or 5,000 points, and will require a connection.
If skiing in the Rocky Mountains just isn’t your thing, flights to Castlegar, Kelowna, and Kamloops all fall within the first distance band from Calgary, too.
Beautiful Saskatoon and Regina are accessible from Calgary within the first distance band. As there aren’t any direct flights from Edmonton to Saskatchewan, you’d have to route through Calgary.
From both cities, flights to the southwest United States, Yellowknife, and Winnipeg fall within the second band. Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa fall within the third band from both cities.
Direct flights from Calgary to Cancún, Puerto Vallarta, and San Jose del Cabo all fall within the third distance band from Calgary, while flights to Hawaii fall in the fourth.
Air Canada’s main hub in Toronto has a multitude of destinations, both near and far.
In the first band are Chicago, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, New York, Boston, and Washington Dulles.
The American cities are very well-serviced by Star Alliance and Oneworld airlines that offer many partner business and First Class flights. It’s always wise to consider searching from other hubs and then looking at a positioning flight from Toronto.
The second band contains a host of cities: Saskatoon and Regina in the Prairies; Denver, Houston, New Orleans, and Miami/Fort Lauderdale/Fort Myers in the United States; Bermuda; as well as Halifax and St. John’s.
Interestingly, Havana falls within the second band, but Holguín falls within the third, so plan your trip to Cuba accordingly.
With the exception of Hawaii, most other Sun destinations fall within the third band. This includes Panama City, Port of Spain, San Jose, Mexico City, Montego Bay, and Saint Martin.
A flight from Toronto to Panama City should price out at 12,500 or 25,000 Aeroplan points in economy or business class, respectively, assuming the lower end of dynamic pricing.
It could very worthwhile to book a flight from Toronto to Panama City and then look at paid fares to a South American hub. Flying from Toronto to Bogotá instead would cost 30,000 or 50,000 Aeroplan points in economy or business class, respectively.
Many of the cities that fall within 500 miles of Toronto also fall within 500 miles of Montreal.
All cities in Florida fall in the second distance band, as do the Bahamas, which benefits the many Quebecers who take holidays in warmer waters for a break from the intense winter weather.
The remainder of flights to Sun destinations and cities in western North America all fall within the third distance band, including all destinations in Cuba.
There are indeed many sweet spots to Sun destinations from the major hubs in Toronto and Montreal – but be sure to book well in advance or look for flights with partner airlines to avoid astronomical dynamic pricing during peak travel periods.
From Halifax, in the lowest band are flights to Deer Lake and Boston. In the second band are flights to Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, St. John’s, Gander, and Happy Valley/Goose Bay.
Most Sun destinations, and Calgary, are in the third band.
Interestingly, the seasonal Air Canada flights to Florida offer a conundrum. At 1,498 miles to Orlando, flights should price out in the second distance band, and at 1,567 miles to Tampa, flights should price out in the third distance band.
Assuming you’re able to book at the low end of the dynamic range, choosing Orlando could save you a handful of miles, especially if you are flying as a family.
For our friends in St. John’s, all Air Canada flights route through either Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, or Toronto. For flights within Canada, flying anywhere west of Saskatchewan will fall in the outermost distance band.
As a general rule, try to look for connecting flights to the US and Sun destinations through Halifax or Montreal, as going through Toronto could land you in a higher distance band.
6. Within Central America
If you’re planning a trip around Central America or the Caribbean, recall that you can add a stopover for an additional 5,000 points in this region.
This leaves Panama City-based Copa Airlines as an attractive airline to consider if you plan on spending some time in this area.
Most countries in the Caribbean and Central America fall within the second distance band from Panama City. Mexico City squeaks in at 1,498 miles, and Managua is just shy of the first distance band at 507 miles.
While the application of adding stopovers within Central America and the Caribbean is limited by the absence of an intra-Caribbean airline, there are some interesting bounds that can be created to fall within the 1,500-mile threshold of the second distance band.
For example, flying from Managua to Panama City and then to Havana after a stopover, at 1,485 miles, would cost 15,000 or 25,000 Aeroplan points in economy or business class, respectively.
Consider using Avios on fifth freedom flights with British Airways to get between the Caribbean islands in style.
Within South America
Compared to North America, the Within South America chart is much less complex. As of September 1, 2022, there will be two distance bands:
With Avianca, Gol, and Azul as Aeroplan partner airlines operating in South America, there is decent coverage for traversing this large continent.
With Avianca, all flights within Colombia fall in the first distance band. Since partner airline pricing is fixed, flights will cost 10,000 points in economy or 20,000 points in business class.
Aside from domestic flights within Colombia, notable destinations in South America served by Avianca include Asuncion, Buenos Aires, Guayaquil, La Paz, Lima, Montevideo, Quito, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago, and São Paulo.
Of these, Quito, Guayaquil, La Paz, and Lima fall within the first distance band, while all others fall within the the second.
The vast majority of Azul’s flights are to destinations within Brazil. With few exceptions, all flights within Brazil fall within the first distance band.
Consider adding a stopover on your trip to squeeze out some extra value as you explore the world’s fifth largest country.
Also based out of São Paulo, albeit at a different hub airport, Gol Airlines flies to many destinations within Brazil, as well as to other major South American cities.
With the exception of Santiago and Lima, all international flights within South America fall within the first distance band.
If you’re planning a trip to South America, consider planning your trip to take advantage of stopovers and staying within the first distance band with each airline.
Lastly, recall that there are a number of fifth freedom routes within South America. Notably, Air Canada, Turkish Airlines, Ethiopian Airways, and Swiss all fly between São Paulo and Buenos Aires.
At 1,069 miles, you can spice up your holiday with a lie-flat seat in the first distance band on the Within South America chart.
Within the Atlantic Zone
The Atlantic zone is a vast area that encompasses the entirety of Europe and Africa, as well as the Middle East, most of Central Asia, and the Indian Subcontinent (including Bangladesh and Nepal).
With such a large area to cover, let’s look at four airlines based out of different areas within the zone: Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, and Etihad Airways.
For this chart, we’ll look at available routes within the first two distance bands on the Within Atlantic zone chart: 0–1,000 miles and 1,001–2,000 miles.
Lufthansa’s Frankfurt hub is ideally located in Central Europe. All destinations within the inner band fall within 1,000 miles of Frankfurt, and would cost 7,500 or 15,000 Aeroplan points in economy class or business class, respectively.
Similarly, all destinations in the outer band fall within 2,000 miles of Frankfurt, and would cost 12,500 or 25,000 Aeroplan points in economy or business, respectively.
With the abundance of low-cost carriers in Europe, using points for redemptions may not give you great value. This is especially true as European business class tends to be fairly underwhelming, and your miles may be put to better use elsewhere.
Nevertheless, there are still a few interesting short-haul sweet spots on the above map.
Algiers and Tunis both fall within the first band at 959 and 914 miles, respectively. Las Palmas on the Canary Islands is satisfyingly 1,979 miles from Frankfurt, and Tel Aviv is 1,836 miles from Frankfurt.
2. Turkish Airlines
With a vast network and an ideal location in the middle of the Atlantic zone, Turkish Airlines has some intriguing destinations for intra-zone travel.
Istanbul is one of the best cities to transit through, as a result of Turkish Airlines’s excellent hard and soft products; its proximity to Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa; and because Turkey is a fascinating place to visit.
Within the inner band, most cities in Eastern Europe are accessible, as well as a handful of destinations along the Adriatic and Mediterranean Seas. Tbilisi, Sochi, Tel Aviv, Cairo, and Malta are other cities that stand out.
Included in the outer reaches of the second band are a mix of classic and niche destinations.
While Lisbon is a frustrating 2,001 miles from Istanbul, Porto is 1,934 miles, saving you 12,500 or 25,000 Aeroplan points in economy or business class, respectively. Abu Dhabi and Dubai also fall within the second tier, as do Edinburgh and Dublin.
3. Ethiopian Airlines
Ethiopian Airlines is the only carrier based in sub-Saharan Africa in the Star Alliance network. From its base in Addis Ababa, it services a host of destinations that lie within the Atlantic zone.
Included in the inner band are several hubs for tourism, including Nairobi, Kampala, and Kigali.
The Seychelles; Kinshasa, DR Congo; Lusaka, Zambia; and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania all fall well within the second distance band.
Flights to these destinations tend to be fairly expensive, especially in premium classes, so booking on points may very well prove to be good value.
Alas, even though Antananarivo, Madagascar squeaks in at 1,999 miles from Addis Ababa, Aeroplan presumably draws from a different resource for calculating distances and prices out this route in the third distance band.
4. Etihad Airways
One of Aeroplan’s three Gulf partners, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airlines has a strong global network and excellent hard and soft products.
Of the most interest in the first two distance bands are flights to much of India, the Gulf, and everyone’s perennial favourite, the Maldives.
While the inner band is limited to surrounding destinations in the Middle East, there are a number of destinations that fall within the second tier.
While Colombo and Kolkata are just out of reach, many major cities in India fall within 2,000 miles of Abu Dhabi, including Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Delhi.
Kathmandu and the Maldives also fall within this tier, with each destination offering radically different possibilities for a holiday.
Unfortunately, the Seychelles falls just outside of the second tier, as it sits 2,002 miles from Abu Dhabi.
Within the Pacific Zone
The Pacific zone includes the majority of Asia, including Russia (east of the Ural mountains), China, Japan, North and South Korea, Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania.
The first two tiers for the Pacific zone have the same distances as the first two tiers for the Atlantic zone.
However, note that the cost in Aeroplan points is slightly different, with flights in the first tier costing 8,000 or 20,000 Aeroplan points, and flights in the second tier costing 12,500 or 30,000 Aeroplan points, in economy or business class, respectively.
Let’s have a look at travel within this zone, using some of Aeroplan’s best Star Alliance and other airline partners as examples.
1. Singapore Airlines
While there aren’t as many options within the first tier as other airlines, there is at least an expectation of an excellent ground and in-flight experience with Singapore Airlines.
For shorter flights, though, there are plenty of low-cost carriers in this part of the world, so your Aeroplan points may be better saved for a more aspirational redemption.
In the second tier, flights to Taipei, Hong Kong, and Manila are within reach, while Shanghai and Perth both land in the third tier.
2. EVA Air
Taipei-based EVA Air is centrally located between China, Japan, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia. The airline also has a strong reputation for offering excellent products on their long-haul routes.
Within the inner band, there are a number of hubs and destinations, including Manila, Seoul, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Fukuoka.
Beijing, Cebu, Hanoi, and Osaka all lie just over the 1,000-mile threshold. Most major hubs in Southeast Asia – Bangkok, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, Tokyo, and Singapore – all fall under 2,000 miles, while Kuala Lumpur is just over at 2,012 miles.
Flying between Taipei and any of these hubs would cost 12,500 or 30,000 Aeroplan points in economy or business class, respectively, plus the applicable taxes and fees.
3. Virgin Australia
Virgin Australia has been another welcome recent addition to Aeroplan’s ranks of airline partners.
The airline offers a number of flights from hubs in major Australian cities, including Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth.
As the airline is based out of Brisbane, here’s a look at destinations within Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific that fall within the first two distance bands on the intra-Pacific chart.
There are some very interesting destinations that fall within the first and even the second distance bands.
Notably, Cairns, Sydney, and Melbourne all fall within the first distance band. The cost to fly between any of these cities prices out at 8,000 points in economy class or 20,000 points in business class, with the possibility of adding a stopover for only 5,000 points.
In the second distance band, we find Vanuatu, Fiji, New Zealand, Adelaide, Alice Springs, Hobart, and Darwin, which would all make outstanding vacation destinations.
The cost to fly between any of these destinations is 12,500 or 30,000 Aeroplan points in economy or business class, respectively, with the possibility of adding a stopover.
4. All Nippon Airways
Last, but certainly not least, is Tokyo-based All Nippon Airways.
While there aren’t many surprises with the destinations in the first and second tier, as Japan isn’t very central to the Pacific zone, you can wind up with covering a lot of Japan by a combination of plane and train.
Using Aeroplan points for intra-zone regional travel can often be a great deal, given the reasonable prices for short-haul flights within each zone.
With partner airlines, the prices are predictable, so if you encounter dynamic pricing with Air Canada, look to other airlines who service the same or a similar route.
Where intra-zone travel fetches the most value is usually by adding a stopover for 5,000 points in countries outside of Canada and the United States. In particular, flying within Africa, Australia, or East Asia with a stopover along the way can be a great deal.