The other day, a friend of mine floated the idea of a group trip to Las Vegas.  With the proposed dates over two months away, I thought I’d try to book my flight and/or hotel on points.  After all, I’ve amassed an impressive amount on my Aeroplan program, a loyalty program that “THEORETICALLY” allows people to exchange their hard-earned reward points for things like airplane tickets, hotel stays, or a Broil King professional barbecue tool set featuring a durable design tough enough for even the most demanding griller!  Yes, I’m sitting on a healthy balance, not so much because of my spending habits, but due to the fact that it’s been almost two years since I’ve actually been able to redeem points for any sort of travel rewards.  Drawing on my experience, and the experience of friends, I believe your chances of successfully booking a flight on Aeroplan is roughly equivalent to your odds of catching a home run ball at a major league baseball game.

Having said that, I’m sure you’re wondering how I fared this time.  After all, how does the saying go?  Thirty-sixth time’s the charm?

The first thing I did was look into a flight to Vegas in mid to late May.  The good people at Aeroplan offered me exactly ONE, a United Airlines flight that leaves Vancouver at before-the-crack-of-dawn 6:30 a.m. and touches down in Vegas at 8:49 p.m.  Yes, that’s right.  A 14+ hour flight with what I can only assume is a stopover in New Delhi.  If, on the other hand, I want the basic comforts of a direct 2 hour and 40 minute route, it’ll cost me.

I then looked into hotels, hopefully something on or close to the strip.  Again, no dice.  I was offered a grand total of three choices.  Two were approximately an hour drive from the strip and the third, while closer, is apparently located by some railway tracks.  On the bright side, complimentary earplugs come with the room.  And I wish I was kidding, but no.

In hindsight, I figured, maybe two months is a little tight.  If you’re going to redeem your points for travel rewards, maybe you should look to book well in advance of your trip.  How well in advance?  Six months?  Eight months?   How about TEN MONTHS?  Surely Aeroplan would be able to accommodate my late January of 2015 Tokyo trip?

Alas, no.  After checking the “My Dates Are Flexible” box, how many non-stop flights to Tokyo was I offerED some TEN MONTHS in advance of my trip?

Exactly zero. None.  Zilch.

Our of curiosity, I tried to book as far in advance as Aeroplan would allow, almost a full year before my planned travel date.  So, how many non-stops flights to Tokyo was Aerogold offering some TWELVE MONTHS in advance of my trip?

Exactly zero.  None.  Zilch.

I remember a time when I used to actually be able to redeem my Aeroplan points for travel rewards.  Granted, it was two years ago but still, there was a time.  So what’s happened between then and now?  Are there that many more people snatching up the available seats – up to a year in advance?  Have, as I suspect, the actual number of seats allotted to Aeroplan been decreased?  I’ve tried to contact Aerogold for answers but haven’t had much luck  getting through despite multiple attempts.

Apparently, the odds of your actually talking to someone to their call center?  Only slightly better than your odds of successfully booking a flight on their rewards program.

32 thoughts on “March 6, 2014: Aeroplanning your next trip? Good luck with that!

  1. Whoa. That’s lame. I love flying Delta and staying at Marriott hotels. Those points can actually be used for great flights and hotels! And you’re talking about VEGAS! I Don’t think any other city in the world has more hotel rooms! The MGM grand alone has like 3,000! Ridiculous.

    I hope you’re able to get to Vegas, though. It’s a fun place.


  2. I hear good things about the “Air Miles” rewards program, Joe.

    One of our major credit cards has a similarly useless rewards program–no merchandise of interest and requires a cash co-pay.

    Fortunately, the others have a “pay with points” agreement with Amazon that I’ve found quite useful. Wish they’d expand it to digital books & subscriptions, but otherwise Amazon shopping is a good reward.

    A tad down today–best friend’s mom passed after long illness. Chat with you all soon.

  3. Might I suggest a few frequent flyer blogs I follow such as onemileatatime.net and viewfromthewing.com. They offer services as well, but just reading the blogs has helped me a lot. This post might be the most help as it will allow you to use The ANA award search tool to search for flights on other Star Alliance partners that you can use your Aeroplan miles on and not just Air Canada. http://boardingarea.com/onemileatatime/2013/11/19/use-ana-award-search-tool/ BTW looks like ANA is giving away some YVR-Haneda tickets. http://www.ana.co.jp/wws/us/e/local/campaign/vancouver_line/

  4. Did you see this article in the news the other day?


    I made the decision to stick with Air Miles (through a BMO Mastercard) rather than switch to Aeroplan, and I’m glad I did! As a single person who doesn’t shop too much I earn about enough points for a flight to Europe every four or five years, and the taxes and fees have never been unreasonable.

  5. @baterista – so sorry to hear about that. My condolences to you and your friend.

    Ugh, don’t get me started on Aeroplan. I agree that it’s been in the last couple of years that flight selection has been absolutely terrible. It used to be that with just a slight juggling of dates (or maybe not at all!) I would be able to get a one stop flight from here in SJ to Toronto or Montreal and then straight on to Vegas. I would leave here around 5:00am and get there at about 10:30am – still having the whole day to rest and prepare for the trip to Grand Canyon.

    Well, for our April (only a month away now!) trip, the BEST itinerary we could get was from here to Toronto (leaving at 5:30pm) and then on to Los Angeles, arriving at 11:00 pm, then having to stay overnight, and then back to LV in the morning. And that was the most straightforward one, that didn’t involve spending a full two days to get there. The good flights are definitely there – the Air Canada site showed availability for the “old” itinerary on the exact dates, at the lowest possible fare.

    I have an Aeroplan VISA card, but I’m seriously considering going with CIBC’s Aventura program, which allows booking on any available flights from any airline (but at greater cost to book). In the end, it would probably average out anyway.


  6. @baterista I am sorry for your loss.

    Aeroplan miles should be able to be used on just about any Star Alliance flight that has awards seat. (Though Singapore doesn’t release as much as the other airlines.)

  7. I don’t know anything about airmile plans.
    I do think you might be interested in the anime Arpeggio of Blue Steel. I’m on the last episode now and I’ve enjoyed it so far.

  8. yeah… It’s really NOT like “THE OLD DAYS”! — CP Airlines used to have a fantastic PLAN. I got from Ottawa to Auckland, round trip, via Toronto & Honolulu [it didn’t get more direct than that back in the 90s!] all for just 68k of points!

    And now, these things have expiration dates?! — Actually, I haven’t been able to travel for years, but I use my AIR MILES for practical things like groceries or at the Drug store! [a better bang for your buck that way]

  9. Since you asked….sorry, got carried away here.

    Re: the other 3 Marko Kloos books.

    Initially, I did not pay attention that the TofE was part one and part 2 is Lines of Departure for the Frontline series. Yes, it says so in the Amazon advert, but I got side tracked. Yes, so many things happened rather conveniently in Andrew’s life, but ok, some people are lucky…others, not so much. Guess a lot of literary license is needed sometimes to move forward when the mind blocks occur. But I did not find this too distracting. I did enjoy it all, but may need to be watchful if Kloos continues with what he started in the Lines of Departure.

    ToE – sets the stage and is a bit of a tease because of its varied foundation. We do get the hint of action once he gets into the military. Then it ends a bit abruptly.

    LInes of Departure – picks up and gets into the real action. As the story unfolds it did keep me wanting to continue reading to see what would happen next. It continues with a professional but friends relationship he has with another Sergeant where their capabilities worked together nicely for what they faced. Nicely woven. There was a lot more action and a great “tangent” that I did not see coming because everything was the military doing their usual old thing with the weapons they had without too much departure except the government was running out of money so not so much with the new tech stuff or weapons. Don’t want to spoil – so will only say, it was brilliant move. That said, it this book ended abruptly, and I want to know more. Yes, there was a bit of closure to the danger and threat at hand, but…for goodness sakes, you know there has to be more cause it was not a total closure. Cliff hanger.

    Mearsures of Absolution – deviated from Andrew being the primary character to another soldier in his unit, but the story was still engaging because you knew it was related to the initial book/tease. This continued some of the story started in ToE and with action on Earth. It did give some insight that era’s happenings and why. Nice treatment to the soul searching and self- torture of the character. Perhaps it is to be expected since the soul searching and wanting to do right is the “female” directive…not male.

    Lucky 13 is another teaser – following the girlfriend pilot Halley. Very short.
    This could have been a bit longer too as now we know who she is and why she is where she is, it would have been entertaining to discover what comes next for her too.

  10. According to Aeroplan, Aeroplan allots 8 per cent of seats on each route as Classic rewards each month. Once these are gone, members are left with pricier Classic Plus seats. Once those are used up, good luck finding seats. So, your problem, Joe, is that you are flying out of a city of Aeroplan users. If you flew out of, say, Yellowknife, NWT, you would have little problem finding seats. What about using another airline and building points up with them? Since Air Canada and Westjet are our only domestic carriers, you would only have issues when you visit you mom in Montreal.

  11. I have membership with BA Exec Air Miles and Virgin…I hear you on the difficulty of finding a seat exactly when you would like or need to fly..very difficult…our return to LA in a couple of weeks is through Virgin Redeemed Miles & took my hubby a long time to work out & get some dates we could work with..we also used some to upgrade the flight on the way out for a bit of comfort for that 11+ hour flight..

    In fact it took longer and more phone calls to work out the “upgrade” thing than it did booking the “special offer Reward Flight”….Oh yes, and of course Airport Taxes & Surcharges are also added – so imho there’s no such thing as a “free flight” these days anyway…

    Best Upgrade?..when BA used to allow you to upgrade for free (surcharges were included) and I travelled Business Class to Vancouver twice..heaven..:)

    My fav airline is still Virgin Atlantic (Branson runs a “cool” airline!) then Delta (their stewards are awesome & fun) BA & Air Canada tie for 3rd place…

    I am flying on some US internal flights this time during our trip – from LA to Seattle, & San Fran to Vancouver – which should be a new experience for me..

    My most favourite flights?…no contest…the 15 minute trip from YYJ, Victoria to YVR Vancouver, or the floatplane serves run by Harbour Air…Best views in the world!!..

  12. @baterista9

    My condolences for your lost.

    Measures of Absolution, i think this novelette is made with the remains of the cuts of character development we missing in TOE.
    Lucky 13 is a short history but i feel very well crafted seems to me a development of something Kloos cut from de principal book.
    I think this two historys if well engaged in the plot, have much improved the book. Sometimes cut too much is very bad. (except with the pie prortions)
    Many most here have expressed the feeling that something is missing perhaps this is the explanation.
    Marko Take note, sometimes less is not is more nor better.

  13. @sylvia: Thanks for the synopses of the other books. I’ll probably read them at some stage so I can find out what happens!

    Re: Andrew being at the right place at the right time. I think that’s a limitation of first person narrative. Because you only have the point of view of one person in the story the author needs to contrive situations that gets that person to where the next part of the story goes. If the story was third person and following several characters then I think it would have been structured differently (Andrew staying on Earth and Halley encountering the aliens, for example).

    Re: soul searching and self- torture. One of my least favourite book series that I read was The Seafort Saga by David Feintuch. The hero starts off as a Midshipman in the space Navy and through a series of events over many books makes lots of hard decisions that kills a lot of people in order to save many, many more. He is so consumed with guilt that I ended up hating him because of his self-pity. I believed that the decisions he made were the right ones and couldn’t relate to the guilt that he felt. I hope Measures Of Absolution isn’t as annoying as that.

  14. @Baterista. condolences to family and friends. As for Aeroplan, well, I guess it’s a little like planning on drawing your retirement fund. you can sit there and smile, knowing by the numbers on the sheet paper how well off you will be. Until it’s time to get the real cash, and realize the money’s been spent, and there is no way to get to the money you put in. Perhaps finding a physical building, then staging a protest, maybe with the dogs also taking part? It will make for an amusing news blurb, even if it accomplishes nothing else.

  15. Yep, aeroplan really went downhill in recent years. We also have air miles but found their taxes and fees almost as expensive as a flight, now we use air miles for item purchases with the annual Safeway auction being the best place to get amazing deals. Don’t know how that will change with Safeway being bought out by Sobeys. The best point system that has really worked for us is Westjet dollars that we collect using their credit card plus we get an annual companion flight within continental US and Canada for $99. The only limitation is where WJ flies…

  16. Dang it. Massachusetts just passed a law banning upskirting, and right when I was all ready to paste mirrors on my shoes and run up there for the next Scottish festival! 😡


  17. baterista9: My condolences…

    Das: I was all ready to paste mirrors on my shoes What about Jersey? Thanks for the 😆 today. Needed it bigtime!

    Sylvia/Skua: Thanks for the book review of Measures of Absolution. I’ll look it up!

    whovian: I downloaded your parent’s book. Thanks for the link!

    Is anyone else having problems with their iPad? Mine’s been acting odd. Opening/closing windows, minimizing/ enlarging windows and turning pages in my book (all without my input). Apple is having problems or I have gremlins! I’ve downloaded or reinstalled what I can. I’m springing for a kindle paperwhite on my birthday this year. Reading has been difficult, I have to restart the iPad when it starts being goofy. My eyes need the ebook (enlarge print), so here’s to hoping my iPad gremlins stay calm until June!

  18. P.S. I don’t fly often but listen while my hubby deals/argues with the airlines/hotels. My hubby did stay at a hotel that gave him complimentary earplugs! He knew that was a bad sign. Good luck with all the arrangements. Any new restaurants on your Vegas trip?

  19. My solution is to not fly at all. Last time I was on a flight (late 90’s) was to Ireland and it was a trial and a half getting there and back. The country and folks I met were all darling and grand of course. The flight was physically excruciating as I discovered I had no inner-ear tolerance for air pressure changes. Didn’t hear right for weeks following.

    The next time I travel overseas better be by transporter ala Star Trek, or a captured Al’kesh piloted by Teal’c.


  20. Have you considered selling your points to someone else and starting with a new FF plan?

    -Mike A.

  21. here in the US some airlines are changing the frequent flyer programs to reward those who spend more money on the tickets as opposed to those who travel more. and i hear there was restrictions in some of those programs too.

  22. Guess it is time for Akemi to get a job with one of the air lines serving YVR. Oh and for LAS, my friends say the Golden Nugget is a hidden value.

  23. A few hidden gems in Vegas The Marriott Suites in between the Hilton and the Strip is a great hotel with excellent location, and you don’t have to weave your way through yet another casino. Same goes for the Hilton Garden Inn about a mile south of the strip, they run a shuttle to the Mandalay Bay.

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