Aeroplan might be a more exciting transfer partner than we thought


Recently on the podcast, Greg and I discussed whether or not Air Canada’s Aeroplan was really an exciting transfer partner addition for its new credit card rewards partner. It had long been one of our favorite American Express Membership Rewards transfer partners, but when Greg made positive comments about Aeroplan award pricing last week, some readers panned his post for not recognizing that Aeroplan now charges more than United for many international award tickets. Greg and I agreed that Aeroplan had some niche value but also mostly agreed that the addition of Aeroplan as a Chase transfer partner wasn’t incredible. However, there’s an argument I missed until I stumbled on it while working on something unrelated: Aeroplan is showing award availability on United in cases where United isn’t showing any availability at all. That may be useful on its own and it also may bode well for the new search tool Aeroplan has long promised.

a map of the world
The United search results I found give me hope for really cool routings on this new award chart — and hope for finding domestic award tickets.

Based on recent searches at United and via Avianca LifeMiles, as recently as yesterday I would have said that domestic economy class awards on United are becoming very difficult to find out of my home airport. I’ve been striking out again and again trying to find cheap award tickets (which isn’t actually a huge problem because of a United voucher I have to use, but that is the topic of another post). However, upon further review, I realized that domestic economy saver awards are perhaps just getting difficult to recognize.

For instance, here are the search results for a date I was checking for a flight from Washington-Dulles (IAD) to Albany (ALB) when I searched for awards for a single passenger at

a screenshot of a computer screen

As you can see, United returned 4 total options: 3 nonstop and one with a single short connection. Curious to see if United was just hiding less desirable itineraries from the main search results, I re-tried the search looking for only itineraries with 2 or more connections. That search gave me zero results — there were no options with 2 connections. It appeared that the four itineraries above were my only options for an award ticket on this date and route.

However, when I went to and searched for the same awards on the same day, I curiously found many different results — almost all of them requiring two connections.

a screenshot of a computer
There were was a one-stop via EWR for 6K miles or via ORD for 10K miles, but all of the other results required two connections.

I found the results above interesting for a number of reasons:

  • Almost all of the options required two connections.
  • The cheapest one-stop connection (via Newark) wasn’t available at all as an award at
  • All of the options cost fewer points than United would charge for the same route (from just 6K points)
  • This may bode well for the new Aeroplan search engine down the road

Before I go further, let me say that it is possible that Air Canada is showing some sort of phantom availability that isn’t actually bookable. I didn’t try to ticket this.

However, here’s what I mean when I say that it may bode well for the new search engine: Aeroplan has claimed since the new program launched last year that they would be launching a completely new search tool that would more or less allow you to customize your flight choices as you like. The reason this was originally exciting was that it sounded like you would be able to do something crazy like book a ticket to Africa via Australia as long as you were willing to pay for the longest distance band on the Atlantic region (where Africa is located). Since Aeroplan allows a stopover for 5K miles, it would theoretically be possible to string together two far-flung destinations on a single award ticket. The traditional limitation to this sort of thing would be an award search tool that wouldn’t allow something crazy like that, but it sounded like the new Aeroplan would be different in how it allows you to pick your own routing. We haven’t yet seen that new tool launch and I think all of us are cautiously optimistic about it as we balance out the fact that it sounds too good to be true with the fact that Aeroplan has proved to be pretty good at keeping its promises so far. So what does that have to do with Washington to Albany? I think it is possible that the new Aeroplan search tool will search segments separately for saver space and is already in fact doing so even though you can’t yet choose your segments individually.

I make that guess based on the connecting itineraries that Aeroplan showed. Take the 6K Aeroplan itinerary above for example — that one is Washington (IAD) to Newark (EWR) to Albany (ALB). didn’t show that award available at all, but Aeroplan did. What’s interesting to me is that it looks like Washington to Newark on the 10:45am flight is available as a cheaper-than-old-saver-price award through

a screenshot of a flight schedule

And Newark to Albany is available at the old “saver” 12.5K award level.

a screenshot of a flight ticket

Could Aeroplan just be piecing together any legs that individually have “saver” availability?

LifeMiles seemed to back me up on that theory. Both IAD-EWR and EWR-ALB are separately available to book via LifeMiles, so we know that both represent saver space available to partners.

a screenshot of a computera screenshot of a computer

However, Washington (IAD) to Albany (ALB) shows no results any day of the week via LifeMiles.

a screenshot of a computer

I’ll save you the gratuitous screen shots and tell you that the same thing was true on the other routes. I found saver awards available from Dulles to Norfolk and Norfolk to Newark (and the same Newark to Albany flight as above) via, but only Aeroplan strung together those saver awards into a single saver ticket. Same with the 1-stop itinerary through Chicago.

This makes me particularly excited for the new search engine that Aeroplan is expected to unveil at some point. First, it means that what they have told us appears to be true: they really do seem to be building an engine that may be programmed to put together individual saver legs so that you presumably will be able to piece together the flights you want so long as those individual legs have availability. We don’t yet have the ability to select segment-by-segment, but if my guess here is true I believe that we may eventually be able to do so (I think it is more likely that type of functionality will only be available on international flights, but my guesses are just guesses).

Additionally, the way their tool is currently searching is particularly interesting for domestic US travel since it means that Aeroplan may frequently show award availability that you wouldn’t otherwise see. Lately, I’ve been trusting LifeMiles with my domestic searches to see what might be available to Star Alliance partners. That was a questionable strategy; many readers know that LifeMiles doesn’t always show all of the availability we would expect to see (it’s better than Turkish, but not as good as the United of old). These search results tell me that I should change that habit. I found similar results on other days with different city pairs: Aeroplan often had saver-level awards even when United doesn’t appear to offer them.

It’s worth noting that this wasn’t always unique to Aeroplan. For example, I searched a date from Seattle to Albany. Aeroplan showed me an itinerary leaving Seattle at 4:30pm and getting into Albany the next day after an overnight layover in Chicago.

a red and white card with green text

United didn’t show that itinerary available as an award ticket. I sorted awards by departure time and you can see there isn’t an option leaving at 4:30pm. The only thing close leaves at 4:20pm, but that stops in both Denver and Chicago. The only one-stop itinerary left Seattle at 11:55pm.

a screenshot of a screen

However, in this case, LifeMiles agrees with Aeroplan that the 4:30pm itinerary is available. And LifeMiles does one better with an earlier flight to Chicago at 2:19pm — again, United doesn’t even show either of these itineraries for any award price (possibly because of the long overnight layover in both cases?).

a screenshot of a computer

I found this same phenomenon on other routes out of Albany as well. For instance, here are the United results from Albany to Myrtle Beach on a weekday in December. Note that on December 7th the cheapest awards are 15K miles — no traditional “saver” awards.

a screenshot of a computer screen

And here are the results via Aeroplan.

a screenshot of a flight schedule

Once again, LifeMiles shows no saver awards that day for the full itinerary but does show availability on the individual ALB-ORD, ORD-IAD, and IAD-MYR legs. Aeroplan seems to be stringing together saver awards.

To be clear, these itineraries all really stink. I won’t want 2 connections on a domestic award. And awards aren’t even a good deal in all of these cases. Backing up to my first example — IAD to ALB — cash prices for the nonstop flights start under a hundred bucks that day. I’m not booking 10hr award ticket for what I can make a 1.5hr trip for $100 (or very few Chase points). These specific examples aren’t awards I want to book but rather they represent a hidden strength of Aeroplan that I expect might become more salient when they unveil their new award search tool (and when domestic flight prices eventually recover enough to make me consider those 1-stop or 2-stop itineraries).

Bottom line

I haven’t searched enough to say that Aeroplan always pieces together individual legs with saver awards into a multi-stop saver itinerary that United doesn’t otherwise show, but it is clearly happening in at least some instances. Albany probably isn’t an outlier here – Aeroplan is. That’s good news in that I think it might mean that Aeroplan will indeed set up their new award search tool to help us piece together awesome international itineraries when we’re ready to go after those — and in the meantime, it might mean saver award availability when you otherwise wouldn’t expect it. Yes, Aeroplan may be the best Chase transfer partner for United domestic flights in some instances.

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Don’t they have a high partner fee ?

[…] Aeroplan Might Be a More Exciting Transfer Partner Than We Thought: Looks like Aeroplan is showing more award availability than United or perhaps joining together smaller saver flights for one award. Check out this post on Frequent Miler. […]


This is not related to Aeroplan’s new search engine. Even several years ago when the Aeroplan was not owned by Air Canada, it was showing United award availabilities that United itself was not showing, even on non-stop flights.


And BTW they were not phantom, they were bookable.

Johnny R.

Nice work!


Articles like this are the reason I read every article and listen every week. Articles like this are the reason I can’t get P2 interested in this hobby at all (as long as she doesn’t have to call any financial institution, “we good”).


Great article Nick. A couple of things to remember about Aeroplan depending on how creative you get with your international itineraries. 1) Stopovers are limited to 30 days. 2) The Pacific zone 11,000 miles is the sweet spot. For example JFK-DXB-MLE is 100k as it’s in the Atlantic zone but JFK-DXB-MLE-SIN with a stopover in MLE is only 85k.

Last edited 2 years ago by JAKE BRISKETT
Sneaky Orc

Wondering if Aeroplan is showing phantom availability though.

Checking on a YVR-TPE routing, Aeroplan shows business class from YVR-HKG on Air Canada, then HKG-TPE on EVA for July 9th

Neither Lifemiles or United show the YVR-HKG leg.

Dale Mitchell

I saw 2, even 3 LH F from FRA-ORD in September on the Aeroplan site earlier today. Expert flyer was only showing 1, as was UA and AV. Be careful when transferring points until you verify.


Aeroplan offering far better options internationally also, with ORD-TBS on Sept 20 as an example:
United: Shows 141 options (not logged in) ALL with 2+ stops
Lifemiles: Shows 3 options, but at least 2 of them are 1-stop on TK, the best ones
Aeroplan: Shows 28 options, with 5 1-stop on TK, featuring every combo of <24hr layovers combining ORD-IST & IST-TBS
At the very least, it’s looking like we’d all better check with Aeroplan before booking poor routes with other programs.
I wonder if UA phone agents can book spoon-fed routes showing on Aeroplan’s site?

John Doe

What happens if you try to do multi-city search on United for those two segments that are available individually?

John Doe

Looks like married segment pricing is in full force with UA!


Pretty sure UA & AV won’t string together domestic itineraries with layovers of 4 hrs+ since those would classify as stopovers, not layovers. Could this be a result of AC allowing stopovers for 5k miles? I know you said you didn’t try to book, but I wonder if these itineraries with 4+ hour layovers would add in the stopover charge, since they’re technically no longer considered layovers for domestic.

Edit: nm, not all of your itineraries included 4+ hour layovers, so that’s not it, although I still wonder if those that DO would tack on 5k.

Last edited 2 years ago by Darin

Great article Nick! My beef with Aeroplan however is that miles expire after one year. I lost 55,000 miles that way a couple of years back from a cancelled and rebanked award ticket. Any suggestions?


United domestic capacity is still so much better with XN via status or credit card but this is definitely an interesting finding!


Speaking of United awards, I’ve been having trouble using Singapore miles for them. Plenty of award seats available but at a crazy quilt of prices, and even when the United award price is less than the saver award, it still hadn’t shown up on the Singapore site. Anyone else having this problem?


Realistically, after spending a lot of time over the last few days putting together flights to and from the Maldives, I think you have to accept that for more partner programs you need to book into and out of hubs that the partner metal flies into.

Laura Weis

So interesting. Let’s hope Aeroplan’s new search engine can do this.


always really enjoy these academic pieces that leave the door open just wide enough to explore further! thanks Nick! sounds like Aeroplan will add bench strength towards the advanced end of the Chase UR value then