Story by Carol Perehudoff
Vacay.ca Senior Writer
Summer is vacation time but you’ll never get a flight on points during high season. Or will you? To get the latest rewards program travel tips I have journeyed deep into the heart of Air Canada’s loyalty program, Aeroplan, to interview Christa Poole, manager of external communications.
In case you didn’t know, Aeroplan is huge. In 2011, the program issued more than 1.5 million flight rewards to members — but no matter which rewards program you fly with, these tips are applicable. So before you fly, read this first. And may we all fly happily for free.
1. Christa, how you can have the best chance of scoring the ticket you want on points, even in high season?
Book ahead when you can — many flights are available up to 355 days in advance. Another tip would be to check out different airports close to your destination or, if you’ve got a flexible itinerary, different routings (for example, if you’re visiting France and then Spain try visiting Spain first and then France).
2. Is there any hope for last-minute travellers (re: the organizationally challenged) to get an Aeroplan flight during peak season?
More than 20 per cent of our members redeem their miles for trips two weeks before they travel. With that in mind, last year Aeroplan introduced the Last-Minute Travel Tool, which makes members’ search for last-minute travel easier by featuring destinations with attractive flight availability for travel within the next 14 days.
3. When do most flights come available?
While most ClassicFlight Reward inventory is made available as soon as flights are available for booking (355 days from departure), additional seats come available periodically as the departure nears. This happens as a result of cancellations and adjustments to the airline’s schedule.
4. What’s better? Booking through an agent or finding travel deals on the web?
Our agents are excellent at finding the right itineraries for our members, especially when it comes to the more complicated trip with stopovers, etc.
At the same time we have recently improved our flight reward booking tool to improve members’ flight reward redemption experience. This gives members access to more destinations by improving the search capability and result visibility on aeroplan.com and in the Contact Centre, and by optimizing the Aeroplan airline partner network. The search tool can scan more partner networks and identify the best available options.
Carol Perehudoff interrupting here. In my experience if you and your travel partner are each using your own points rather than a single person’s points to book a flight, it’s worth the $30 fee to go through an agent because you can only book one at a time, and while you’re booking your flight your partner’s seat might get taken and it’s sayonara sweetheart! Of course that could make it an even better trip, depending on who ends up sitting next to you.
5. Christa, what’s new in Aeroplan world?
Aeroplan will be launching an improved online shopping experience that will make it easier for members to view and compare taxes and fees prior to booking.
In addition, Aeroplan recently introduced Destination Miles, a new service exclusive to Aeroplan members and operated by its affiliate Destination Miles Booking Service Inc., that will allow members to use cash to book hotel stays, car rentals and vacations package. Members can earn 3 miles for every $1 spent for a limited time.
So that’s it, VacayNation. Reward mileage tips straight from the source. And, most importantly, if you don’t see the flight you want, check and check again, either at www.aeroplan.com or by calling the Contact Centre at 1-800-361-5373. There’s no telling when the perfect flight will surface, and if you see it, grab it fast because it probably won’t stick around long. May the Aeroplan force be with you!