An Air Canada advantage: far more award space with some partners

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Over the weekend, I booked an award ticket via Air Canada Aeroplan that reminded me that I’ve been wanting to publish a post about the expanded award availability you can find via Air Canada. While it has long been noticed that Air Canada has access to some flights that other airline partners don’t, I thought it was worth a post to illustrate some examples of that happening as well as some tips on finding and booking these awards.

Singapore Airlines SIN-JFK SQ24 Business Class seating
Singapore Airlines SIN-JFK SQ24 Business Class seating

Air Canada has access to a lot more Singapore Airlines award space than other airlines

Something that has been known for quite some time (but I’m not sure if we’ve explicitly covered) is that Air Canada seems to have access to far more Singapore Airlines business class award space than other airlines that partner with Singapore.

As an example, see this flight on Tuesday, August 15, 2023 from New York (JFK) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA). Air Canada is showing business class award availability for nine passengers on this Singapore-operated flight.

a screenshot of a flight

You might look at that and think it to be phantom availability, but over the weekend I booked four passengers on the JFK-FRA flight (on a different date) and the tickets confirmed without issue.

This is interesting because I don’t see that same flight available via other Singapore partners. For instance, for nonstop flights, United only shows its Newark-to-Frankfurt options.

a screenshot of a flight schedule

Avianca LifeMiles doesn’t return any nonstop results when searching for JFK-FRA but rather only connecting itineraries (Note: All of these connecting itineraries were also available via United).

a screenshot of a flight schedule

I should note that Avianca LifeMiles does also have access to United’s nonstop flights from Newark, as does Air Canada, but neither of their sites return the Newark flights in search results if you search from New York JFK to Frankfurt. It’s worth noting that if you search from “NYC” on AirCanada.com, it returns both the Newark-based United flights and the JFK-based Singapore flight.

Alaska doesn’t show the Singapore flights as available and neither does ANA Mileage Club (I did find space in both directions via Air Canada to search round trip, but ANA returned no results on multiple dates where Air Canada showed availability).

Anecdotally, when I cross-referenced results with SingaporeAir.com, I found Air Canada seemed to have access to any dates where Singapore showed saver availability for its own members. Singapore only allows one to search for up to 6 seats, but you can see saver availability for six passengers on a couple of dates here where Air Canada showed space for up to 9 passengers (the maximum number you can search at one time on Air Canada).

a screenshot of a flight schedule

That’s awesome since it makes it possible to easily book an entire family in business class.

Historically, Singapore Airlines has had more business class award space available for members of its own KrisFlyer program. Air Canada seems to have unlocked access to the same space for Aeroplan members, which is a big win for those with Aeroplan miles.

Of course, since Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Capital One Miles, and Bilt Rewards all transfer to Air Canada Aeroplan, it is pretty easy to gather Aeroplan miles. Keep in mind there is also a current point transfer bonus at the time of writing.

Why is expanded Singapore availability awesome?

First of all, Singapore Airlines is renowned for its service and excellent business class product. While it likely won’t beat out things like Qatar Qsuites for the title of best business class in the sky, their 777-300ER business class (the plane operated on this flight) is very good. I remember flying in first class on this plane from Singapore to Hong Kong to San Francisco several years ago and taking a peek at the business class cabin and wondering why I would pay for first in the future if business were that nice. The seats are wide (and in a 1-2-1 configuration).

Singapore Airlines SIN-JFK SQ24 Business Class Cabin
Singapore Airlines SIN-JFK SQ24 Business Class Cabin

But the service and comfort aren’t the only plus points behind having access to extra Singapore business class award space from New York to Frankfurt. For award booking enthusiasts, there are several other reasons I find this expanded access to Singapore space to be interesting:

  • Air Canada charges many fewer miles than Singapore does for this route (60K miles + ~$56 versus 81K miles + $5.60) and fewer miles than most other Star Alliance airlines would charge for this nonstop flight even if they saw the space available (with a couple of exceptions) — though note that connecting itineraries will likely cost more miles.
  • Air Canada allows a stopover for 5K miles on a one-way award ticket
  • Air Canada allows mixing of partners on an award ticket — one could easily continue on from Frankfurt on any of Air Canada’s many partner airlines

While using fewer miles is an obvious win, the other two points above are equally important in my book. Given that Frankfurt is such a big hub, you have many options for connectivity beyond Frankfurt. Combined with the ability to add a stopover for 5K miles, this helps toward building really cool Air Canada award tickets.

In my case, I wasn’t booking a trip to Frankfurt, but I was looking to book an itinerary that would have had at least one stop no matter what — having access to that New York to Frankfurt flight gave me access to a bunch of options for connecting onward to my intended destination.

Keep in mind that Air Canada Aeroplan runs an award chart that is both distance-based and region-based. Connecting beyond Frankfurt, even within Europe, can easily bump you into the next distance band, which costs 70,000 miles one-way (and if you want to connect onward to Africa or Asia or beyond, you’ll obviously pay more miles yet).

I should also note that it isn’t only in an eastward direction that Air Canada enjoys expanded access. Several months ago, I was looking at award tickets to Australia and finding things near the end of the schedule on Singapore via Air Canada that I didn’t see with other airline programs. That was particularly interesting to me since Air Canada was enjoying access to enough seats for a family (I didn’t ultimately book and I haven’t continued to monitor availability to Singapore and Australia, but my point is that Air Canada enjoyed the same expanded access from, for example, San Francisco to Singapore).

A near miss with award booking tools and frustration with phone booking

A couple of additional points come to mind about my experience booking Singapore business class through Air Canada Aeroplan.

For starters, I’m glad that I’ve gotten into the habit of searching AirCanada.com rather than only relying on award search tools (or only relying on United.com). While award search tools save me a ton of time, I might have missed this award space depending on which tool I used. I often double-check award search results at AirCanada.com even when using an award search tool primarily because Air Canada has so many partners and I don’t know if one tool or another might miss availability that Air Canada is in the unique position to string together.

For instance, my go-to has long been Point.me. However, in this case, they didn’t see the Singapore Airlines award space via Aeroplan for my date of travel, nor did Point.me show award space on my example date for this post (August 15, 2023). On the other hand, Roame.Travel, Award Logic, and Pointsyeah all did correctly show the Singapore Airlines flight available via Air Canada Aeroplan. I want to note that Point.me did show Singapore space available via Air Canada on another date, so it wasn’t missing the space entirely despite the fact that it did miss it on the dates I initially searched. In my case, I was glad that I cross-referenced availability via AirCanada.com as it helped me stumble on the Singapore space that could get me across the pond.

Separately, I wanted to add a stopover to my award. Theoretically, I could have done this on the AirCanada.com website. However, I couldn’t get the search tool to return the result I needed for my stopover. I should have been able to book my award with a stopover over the phone, but I didn’t have the time to wait on hold (as you’ll read below, I had already waited on hold a couple of times before I landed on this award and couldn’t wait again to try to book with a stopover).

Speaking of time spent waiting on hold, that is my biggest pain point with Air Canada Aeroplan. If you want to book a complex ticket, you’ll probably need to call Aeroplan customer service, and both in my experience and in the experience of many readers who have shared their frustrations, hold times can be really long.

To add some clarity to the experience I’ll share with hold times, let me add some detail about what I did over the weekend:

  • On Friday, I booked a (different) award ticket to Europe that I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep, but I knew that I had 24hrs to cancel for free. Let’s call this Award A.
  • On Saturday morning, I found a better award (not the Singapore one yet), but the website wasn’t putting together the legs I needed, so I called to try to book it. Let’s call this Award B.
  • After the hold time frustrations outlined below, I ultimately cancelled Award A.
  • The phone agent was unable to book Award B.
  • After I hung up, I discovered the Singapore space (let’s call this award C). I ultimately booked this myself online, but I wish I could have added a stopover — I just didn’t have the time to call again.

More detail: Last Friday, I initially booked an award on United metal (Award A) that I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep, but I knew that I had 24hrs to cancel for free (as is the case for most airline tickets). Early on Saturday morning, I decided on a different destination that would require a connection. I found availability on two separate flights that should have been bookable together (Award B), but the website wasn’t putting them together. I called Aeroplan looking to manually piece that together (hopefully before my cancellation deadline for Award A).

I waited on hold for exactly 1 hour when the call dropped, putting me back down to square one. I called again and chose the option to enter a call-back number so the next available agent would call me back. After entering my phone number and completing the call-back request, I proceeded to hang up and call again anyway to get back in the hold queue in case that’s actually faster (I was working with a limited time window for a number of reasons). After another hour on hold, I had to hang up and leave my house for an event. About an hour and a half later (so about 2.5hrs after I called and entered my callback number), I got an incoming call from Siberian Outfitters. Well, it wasn’t really Siberian Outfitters, but had I not listened to the Air Canada automated message that told me to expect a callback from a specific phone number, I probably wouldn’t have answered assuming this was Siberian Outfitters and not Air Canada Aeroplan.

a screenshot of a phone
I kid you not — the caller ID showed Aeroplan’s number as being “Siberian Outfitters”.

Unfortunately (fortunately?), the phone agent wasn’t able to book what I thought I wanted, so I had to hang up with them. It was only after that call that I found the Singapore space. At that point, I didn’t have another 2.5hrs to wait for a call back to try to book it with a stopover, so I just booked without a stopover (my itinerary does have a long connection in Frankfurt, just not the stopover I’d have liked). It’s frustrating that I know how the program works and found a situation where a stopover was desirable and possible, but my inability to wait 2.5hrs for a call back means that I couldn’t take advantage of it. I’m sure that if I called exactly at opening time or on the right day of the week, the hold time would have been shorter, but that just wasn’t possible in this case.

A final tip here is that if you need to cancel within 24hrs of booking, you can do that online and the miles will be redeposited relatively immediately. I ultimately cancelled Award A about 15 minutes before the 24hr mark (which is to say that I cancelled a ticket 23hrs and 45 minutes after booking it and that cancellation was free since most plane tickets from/to the US have a 24hr free cancellation policy). I was initially nervous because the miles didn’t immediately appear in my balance after cancelling (even after logging out and logging back in), but I could see the redeposit listed in recent activity — and when I went to book Award C a couple of hours later, I had no trouble using those miles.

Does this happen with other airlines? Maybe

Of course all of this begs the question, “With which airlines can Air Canada access more award space?”. I don’t have a definitive answer, but I can say at least that Air Canada often sees United Airlines award space that I can’t find via all other carriers.

For instance, take this flight from Anchorage to Denver that is bookable with Air Canada Aeroplan.

a screenshot of a flight schedule

In that case, this is a flight that Point.me shows is available via multiple Star Alliance programs.

a screenshot of a website

However, I have also seen situations where Air Canada has had access to a route like that and it hasn’t been bookable with other Star Alliance partners. In the specific example shown above, while some Star Alliance carriers see that flight, Avianca LifeMiles doesn’t.

a screenshot of a flight ticket

Unsurprisingly, Turkish doesn’t show that flight available either. However, somewhat interestingly, rather than the usual pop-up box that says no flights are available, I get a result from Turkish that accurately shows that the price should be 7,500 miles, though it shows no suitable flights in the search results.

a screenshot of a travel website

That differs from the usual Turkish error message when there are no flights available, which looks more like this:

a screenshot of a computer

Maybe in this case Turkish somehow recognizes that there should be space available (and maybe it would be bookable via email?).

At any rate, all of this is to say that there are times when I see awards easily bookable via Air Canada that I don’t see via other programs. In the specific instances shown above, it isn’t a big surprise — both LifeMiles and Turkish are well-known to miss award availability that should be there. However, in at least some cases, I have found awards on United metal via Air Canada Aeroplan that do not show up via other Star Alliance carriers and do not show up via some award search tools. Just last week, I found a flight on the route above that showed up via AirCanada.com and Pointsyeah saw the Aeroplan award but Point.me didn’t (though the same route and date today does show the availability via Point.me).

I am not immediately aware of other similar examples with other airlines, but it wouldn’t surprise me if more exist.

Bottom line

Air Canada Aeroplan has expanded award access with at least some partners. We’ve long been aware that they enjoy expanded access to Singapore Airlines award tickets, though I was still surprised to see as many as nine seats in Singapore business class in both directions between New York and Frankfurt for travel on at least some dates during Summer 2023. In my case, I was lucky to have found the availability I needed, particularly since I hadn’t seen it via the award search tool I’d used. The moral of the story here is that it is worth cross-referencing award availability. I find that to be particularly relevant with Air Canada given their wide range of partners and ability to string together complicated awards that may not show up via other programs, but surely there are other instances where this could be useful as well. I find that award search tools save me a ton of time, particularly when I’m flexible regarding date and route and I want to perform a lot of searches with fewer clicks. However, it can be worth occasionally running an extra search or two so that you can find hidden gems like Air Canada’s access to more space.

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Kevin

In my experience i’m seeing only more SQ inventory than others.

miafll

Isn’t UA award no longer charges any redeposit fee, unless you are a no show and still want the miles back? You can cancel or change your award anytime after booking up to an hour before departure. Or make it safe, 2 hours because you dont want to be a no show then incur $150 redeposit fee per ticket.

I have canceled may be 6 UA awards 2 months ago when better options surfaced. Miles returned to account immediately. $ returned to CC in a few days.

Unless UA has changed its policy, otherwise I do not see the need why you have to cancel it within 24 hours to avoid fee.

miafll

I understand, but you mentioned you had to book the Air Canada award BEFORE the 24 hrs free cancellation deadline of the UA award you booked earlier. Hence the confusion.

You can cancel United Award ANYTIME before an hour before departure (to prevent becoming No Show). This even includes awards originated outside US. United now has the same policy as AA.
Miles comes back to account within seconds – it shows up in the Balance but takes a bit longer to reflect in the Activity.

Domino

For anyone who doesn’t have a ton of points, the cash price is only $1,556 so if you really want this flight, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to pay cash and earn some points.

Bob

It needs to be said that, while AC is good for SQ, AC has undergone a huge devaluation in terms of availability on other partner airlines. Long haul J on EY is gone (with no sign of it returning) and some other partners have become extremely unreliable (ET, TG, EK, WY).

Jake

Status goes a long way with the aeroplan call center ( centre? ). Worth getting the Chase Aeroplan card for 25k elite to compare wait times.

Jules

: can you please look into what’s going on with the Aeroplan and Oman Air partnership? Zero availability online or through the call center since the end of Feb…

Last edited 8 months ago by Jules
Ahmed Radhy

I hope that you were able to report the problem or the issue to point.me

Stephanie

They don’t care… numerous, numerous reports to them and they basically just give crap excuses. Kind of shocked nick would even mess with point.me, I would have expected his search skills to be more advanced that that webshite.

Kathie

Any advice for west coast people looking at AC Aeroplan? Every time I check, I have to make connections in Vancouver, then Toronto – all in economy, then Business to Europe. While only 40% or so of the trip is in Business, they charge as if every flight was. So, as a west coast person, I haven’t seen any advantage of AC to Europe. What am I missing?

Sinosoul

Came here to ask this, fantastic that it’s already been answered.

HoKo

Did the Aeroplan customer service center offer the option for a callback each time you called, or is it only offered when there are super long hold times?

Domino

Went to go through the process to book this and it went from $75 CAD to $536 CAD at checkout. What am I doing wrong?

Joremero

I posted about this on the insiders group and others had similar experience with ANA space…i found space via lifemiles and united but it could not be seen with aeroplan. Not sure if it’s something intermittent or specific to some routes

Sky

FYI, I booked an ANA award using aeroplan after Virgin was unable to find availability on the same flight (showed seats avail on UA and Expertflier site).

ECR12

I have noticed this too on Singapore metal. It seems to be the opposite experience on Etihad, where AA shows plenty of Etihad business availability (much of it phantom, but not all) and Aeroplan shows none. I’ve never tried calling Aeroplan to book the space but have read on Flyertalk that Aeroplan agents havent seen the space if it wasnt showing on Aeroplans website.

Andrew

100% I’ve noticed this too. They have extra Singapore but no Etihad business or first class even though other programs show availability.

Ahmed Radhy

I have been waiting for availability to book Etihad using Aeroplan for next year but there is none on Business but I could see the availablity on AA. Do you think if I call Aeroplan, they could do the booking over the phone?

Thank you

Andrew

Nope, I’ve called and they don’t see the space that shows on American.

Allan

I don’t like the hefty cancellation fees charged by Aeroplan. I’d rather pay slightly more miles on United for free cancellation in case my plans don’t pan out. Also, Aeroplan adds a bogus international tax fee for flights to or from the US when there is no tax payable. Also, the Aeroplan partner booking fee is another rip off.

Joremero

I rather pay less and plan on not canceling it

Allan

I haven’t traveled overseas recently. But the Aeroplan flex award I need to Canada is 5k miles more than UA (21.5k vs 16.5k) plus $25 more, so I am happy to pay 5k miles more for the flexibility to cancel. If saver space is still available closer to my travel date, then I can cancel the UA reservation and book with Turkish for even less (10k).

Nick Coyle

Good to know. This is all good, but I was going to try and book portions of an ANA Round the World Flight on Singapore Airlines because of availability I’ve been seeing on AirCanada’s website, but it seems that same availability probably wouldn’t exist on ANA so that’s a bummer.

Mary Jane

Nick, great in depth article!