Nick’s 6-country, 5-airline Air Canada Aeroplan award ticket

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If you’ve been following along with the Frequent Miler Instagram story (and/or the story on my Instagram account if you’re #3C3CTeamNick), you know that I just can’t stay put. I spent Sunday in Egypt (seeing the pyramids and more), Monday in Istanbul (crossing the Bosphorus strait to pick up two continents in one day), Tuesday in Muscat, Oman (and in the Daymaniyat Islands — the footage of a whale shark nearly running me over came from the boat ride out to the islands and the sea turtles were at the Daymaniyat Islands), and since I’m coming to you from the future I spent Wednesday in Bangkok, Thailand checking out a famed flower market and the Grand Palace and  I am already up in the air again as this post publishes. I’ve flown entirely in business class so far and including the flight I’m on at the time of publication, I’ll have already flown 5 segments on 4 different airlines — all on a single ticket. Thank you, Air Canada Aeroplan.

Egyptair’s 787 business class certainly wasn’t bad!

I’ve written a couple of previous posts about my love affair with Air Canada Aeroplan that would serve as a good primer for this post:

In fact, the itinerary on which I am currently flying is not remarkably different from some of the examples I have given in those posts. The shortest version of the story is thqat Air Canada Aeroplan allows up to 6 segments on a one-way award and they also have more airline partners than any other airline program. Furthermore, they let you mix and match partners on a single ticket (just be prepared for some strange looks at check-in!).

What I’ve flown and how much it has cost

In my case, so far on my one-way Aeroplan business class awars I have flown:

  1. Egyptair business class from Cairo to Washington, DC. This flight was on their 787, which is much nicer than their more common 777, which you may have seen in other reviews. I thought it was a solid fine. The seat was comfortable enough and service was friendly and helpful enough that I’d not hesitate to fly them again. Nothing exceeded expectations, but neither did anything disappoint. I arrived around 5am and departed around 8:30pm., giving me plenty of time to se the city pretty well. See pic above.
  2. Turkish Airlines regional business class from Cairo to Istanbul. These seats had a power reclining feature but they did not extend to flat bed seats. That didn’t really matter to me since this was a 2.5hr flight. Service was decent and the food tasted better than it looked. I arrived in Istanbul late (around 1am) and departed in the evening around 6:30pm. That gave me plenty of time to take my 2.5hr Bosporus cruise that departed at 10:30am and still have some extra time left over.
  3. Turkish Airlines regional business class from Istanbul to Muscat, Oman. This plane was a bit different. The seats looked new and seemed more comfortable initially, but they reclined the old-fashioned way (by holding a button and having your weight on the seat rather than as a power function). I knew this route was operated by an A321 when I booked it. I was happy because it gave me a chance to check out the Turkish lounge in Istanbul. I arrived in Muscat a little past midnight and was in Muscat until 9pm. That meant I was able to easily make my snorkeling tour at 8:30am that lasted until about 1pm and have plenty of time afterward to shower up and get back to the airport.
  4. Oman Air business class (aboard their 787) from Muscat to Bangkok. This was my first experience with Apex suites. I liked them for sleeping, but I was surprised at how much I disliked the narrow width of the seat. There just wasn’t much room to put anything to the left or right, which seemed weird in business class. That said, onboard service was excellent and the menu was presented in a leather binder and pajamas were given upon request, along with a mattress topper and blanket. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the Arabic Mezze I wanted (what? a flight departing the home base in the Middle East didn’t have enough mezze?), but overall the experience was very pleasant. In  hindsight, this flight was too short. At just 5.5hrs of flying time, I think I probably only got like 2 hours of sleep. I actually felt fine sight-seeing in Bangkok afterward (I went to a large flower market and the Grand Palace and associated temple before poking around the backpacker haven of Khao San Road, but by late afternoon a combination of lack of sleep and the heat had gotten to me a bit. If I didn’t feel like I needed to eat dinner in order to write about it for the blog, I’d have probably slept 5 hours and been good to go.
  5. By the time this post publishes, I’ll be flying another Air Canada partner to yet another country. I’ll give you this much of a hint: it isn’t a Star Alliance carrier. :-). This will be lie-flat business class. Want another hint? I boarded before this post published and snapped this pic. Anyone want to guess what airline and where I’m heading next?
  6. Flight #6 will be on yet another airlines. This will also be lie-flat business class.

The cool thing about this itinerary is how relatively little it cost. Itineraries from North America to the Pacific zone (essentially all of Asia and Australia / New Zealand) cost at maximum 115,000 miles one way in business class (note that this applies to itineraries with a total distance of 11,001 miles flown or more).

Unfortunately, Air Canada recently increased the redemption rate on this award. When I booked it this summer, that business class award band was 105,000 miles one-way.

Note that a stopover costs an additional 5,000 miles. I considered booking a stopover, but I ultimately decided against a stopover since I was satisfied that layovers in the range of 10-18 hours at each stop would give me enough time to do something cool / fun / exciting even if it left me wanting for more on my next trip.

And thus that is exactly what I paid: 105,000 miles one way. I also owed some taxes, but Aeroplan does not impose other surcharges on award tickets. My taxes & fees total was just $66. I expected to pay more, but I think that you perhaps do not owe separate departure tax for each country when you’re a transit passenger? The $66 total was certainly less than the cumulative taxes on the awards if booked separately. Unfortunately, I don’t know or understand the math that goes into booking a complicated itinerary like this, so the only way I know to get a total is to call Air Canada and try to book it.

How I booked it

We reported that Air Canada recently began allowing award tickets with up to 4 segments to be booked online. You can even potentially add a stopover yourself when booking online (see this post for more detail).

However, if you want to stretch the boundaries and book 6 segments, you’ll need to call Air Canada. Indeed that’s what I did. Hold times were rough: I had to call Air Canada several times because some of the itineraries I wanted wouldn’t work and my hold time mostly ranged between 45 minutes and 2 hours. Now that more itineraries can be booked online, perhaps you’ll have an easier time getting to a phone agent.

Still, it could be worth the pain. This week I saw the pyramids, Memphis, and Saqqara in Egypt for less than a hundred bucks and I took a cruise on the Bosporous for about $45 and I snorkeled with whale sharks and sea turtles for less than a hundred bucks, too. I spent far less in Bangkok even with airport transfers included. Being able to do all of those things on a single trip — with a couple of legs left to go — is a pretty fantastic value.

If you want to book an itinerary like this, your first step will be to find availability on the individual legs you want. I looked that up via AirCanada.com since Air Canada’s website does an excellent job of showing award space. Once you have found the individual legs you want, call Aeroplan and feed the agent your desired flights. I got surprisingly little pushback from any Air Canada employees about my many long layovers or multi-partner itineraries. I found most agents to be surprisingly proficient in this regard.

Check-in agents on the other hand have definitely been caught off guard. Starting from the first Egyptair check-in agent in Washington, DC, I have been greeted with a pretty confused look from each check-in agent and the question, “Wait, where are you going, sir?”. I have explained to each agent that Aeroplan allows some amazing awards with their frequent flyer program and that I like to visit a lot of places, which seems to smooth out the confusion for the most part. I did have one agent in Istanbul who asked to see my ticket number. He told me that I had a reservation for the flight to Muscat but that it wasn’t ticketed. I explained to him that I had flown the previous leg in to Istanbul just the day prior on Turkish, but that didn’t seem to matter as much until he saw my ticket number. Luckily, I had the confirmation email from Aeroplan with the ticket  number. That did the trick as he was printing my boarding pass moments later without explanation.

Note that I wouldn’t expect non-star-alliance carriers to definitively be able to check you in / handle paperwork if you’re traveling on an itinerary mixed with non-Star Alliance awards. That said, when I checked in at Istanbul airport for my flight from Istanbul to Muscat, the Turkish Airlines agent also gave me a boarding pass for the Oman Air flight to Bangkok (I ended up going to the check-in counter again in Muscat anyway and getting a boarding pass printed on Oman Air stationary.

Bottom line

3 Cards, 3 Continents is in full swing. I took off from the United States last Saturday, September 10th and as of Wednesday, I am still on just my initial outbound itinerary. It’s pretty amazing to think what you can do with an accessible number of Air Canada miles. While I can appreciate that many readers won’t want to spend 1 day each city on a trip across the world, what I hope this demonstrates is how much fun you can have with the right multi-partner / multi-segment award. Apart from the flight to Bangkok where I didn’t have enough sleep, I’ve felt great in my destinations and I have been very satisfied feeling like I did something cool at each stop. No, I didn’t get a full sense of Muscat or Istanbul, but neither did I feel a need to get a full sense. I went into this award expecting to get one cool experience in each place — and from the pyramids and other ancient Egyptian things I saw to the yacht cruise on the Bosporus to the incredible experience of swimming next to whale sharks, I definitely feel like I’ve gotten that one cool experience and more.

And of course, none of us are done — we’re just heating up. Be sure you’re following us on Instagram and clicking our profile pictures to see our stories, which is where most of our travel stories have been accessible. I’ve certainly been having fun posting those and even running a quick contest or two and I think it’s the best way to follow along with the adventure.

Now onward and upward once more.

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Dugroz Reports

Just FYI – #1 says “Egyptair business class from Cairo to Washington, DC” – pretty sure that’s inverted. 🙂

[…] One business class ticket, 6 countries, 5 airlines, long transits, all for 105,000 Aeroplan miles (Frequent Miler)IAD → CAI → IST → MCT → BKK → SIN → CEB […]

Paul Rodger

I have 227,000 Aeroplan miles. I’m in YYZ Toronto. Cities Tokyo or Osaka, Manila or Cebu – maybe Accra or Freetown, Brazil Rio or Recefe, back to Toronto. business class even first. Is this possible? Which airline has the widest seat?

kayexelate

Great post that I very much enjoyed reading. P2 and I both got the Aeroplan card this spring with the 50k x 2 vouchers (so 4 vouchers between the 2 of us) but I’m having a hard time finding good availability for business class flights out of SFO to just about anywhere without multiple stops. Many of those stops are in Canada (no surprise) so I can’t even pay another 5k to do a longer layover in YVR or YYC, etc. Any good tips on getting from SFO to Europe or Asia without connecting in Canada? I can find some direct flights once in awhile on partners, but very infrequently. I’m looking at summer 2023. Thanks!

I’m also thinking of Cairo in fall 2023 and I know I can do SFO-YYZ-CAI but most itineraries turn up mixed business/economy

Rebecca Meredith

Unbelievable trip Nick!! I am just in awe and can’t wait to see where and what is coming up next – your trip is the reason I am glued to instagram 🙂

WorldTravelGuy

In my case, so far on my one-way Aeroplan business class awars I have flown:

  1. Egyptair business class from Cairo to Washington, DC. 

awars = award

You flew backwards for your first flight?

kayexelate

give the guy a break, he was running on fumes with lack of sleep and short turnaround times while still churning out awesome posts with incredible detail.

Last edited 16 days ago by kayexelate
WorldTravelGuy

I’m friends with Nick and the post was just to mess with him but thank you for defending him.

Sam

Gotta be flying JAL back to the US in the end. There was a bunch of Biz & First availability for 60-80 miles right after the draft. There was zero on AA metal for under 125k.

MFK

So, Gulf Air to Singapore, Singapore Airlines to somewhere in the Pacific? He went to NZ on the 40K challenge, so that seems unlikely. Australia perhaps? Then again, IIRC he has said he loves tropical islands (he ended the 40K challenge on Niue) and he also said he wanted to wrap up some unfinished business on this trip? Hmm…

Last edited 18 days ago by MFK
TimR

He needs to use his AA miles to return to the US so my guess it’ll be either JL or a combination of MH/JL (hoping for the latter), particularly given that CX availability is sparse

Last edited 18 days ago by TimR
Dinh

I tried the approach of finding availability for each leg separately and calling Aeroplan to put them all together into one booking. The reps stated that if the results did not show available seats when searching from origin to destination, then such an itinerary could not be booked on the phone, even if individual legs are available.

dee

Nice Job so far..Where are the Shark PIX???

Oldporkchops

Hi there Nick, Thanks for the update. I guess you meant IAD to Cairo, not the reverse?

Assuming you arrived on Oman Air flight WY 817 from Muscat to Bangkok around 6 am, my guess is the Gulf Air flight in Falcon Gold biz from BKK departing 16:50 BKK time, arriving SIN at 20:20. This flight operates only on Wednesdays (lines up with your post publishing date) and Fridays. Also the 2H and 2K seat number in your pix matches the Gulf Air SeatGuru seat map (there wasn’t another 787-9 config).

Is there any prize for guessing correctly? 🙂

On an unrelated note, if you do decide to bring your kids on a future Gulf Air flight, here’s info that might be helpful:

“Our young travellers are just as important as our adult passengers. If you are flying with an infant or young children, you’ll find our Sky Nanny on board to help make your journey as smooth as possible with extra care and attention.

Our Sky Nanny is available at the Falcon Gold Lounge at Bahrain International Airport between 1830 to 0200 each day to give a helping hand with your children while you tend to any last minute matters before your flight. If you aren’t visiting the Falcon Gold Lounge, not to worry – our Sky Nanny will be waiting for you at the aircraft door to escort you and your family to your seats. 

Every aspect of the Sky Nanny service has been designed to make travel enjoyable for young travellers as well as ensuring the whole family feels very much at home when they are on board. Each Sky Nanny is trained and qualified to assist with safety procedures, dietary requirements (arranged 24 hours prior to travel), feeding time, general childcare and any questions you may have. 

Sky Nanny service is only available on long-haul services operated by wide-body aircraft.”

Welltravbrit

This is SO much fun to follow, some folks seem to be missing the point that this is also about creating great content not necessarily a trip anyone else is going to do. That said I almost booked a (less than 24 hour) stopover in Djibouti on a UA excursionist perk because I wanted to swim with whale sharks. It seemed a bit mad and I wondered at the time what sort of crazy person would pick a convoluted itinerary to do that, and now I have my answer ;).
Looking forward to seeing where you’re going and what the competition will come up with too!

Sammy

Gulf Air to Singapore!!

LarryInNYC

So, first the obvious — I doubt that anyone will be able to top this in the category of “best single airline redemption”. An amazing job of work on Nick’s part that I’m sure has many brains spinning and adds a lot of value for all of use following along at home (or wherever we happen to be).

On the matter of “layover tourism” I have a constant Viccini-like monolog in my head:

But an honest man would not claim that he’s seen a country in 16 hours and therefore I cannot lay over.

But a curious man would surely want to see as many places as possible and therefore I must lay over.

But a cultured man would recognize that a visit that doesn’t include the Blue Mosque is no visit at all and therefore I cannot lay over.

But a penurious man would surely want to get the best value possible from what he has available to spend and therefore I must lay over.

While I wouldn’t want to make an entire trip up from day-long layovers I think it makes a lot of sense to add a couple to a larger trip. It’s useful for those places you think you might never get to for the “right” amount of time, and also for places you’re already familiar with in which you want to “pick up” a museum or neighborhood you haven’t been able to get to during a longer stay.

Brian

I am very much in the camp that this kind of rapid travel is generally not for me.

BUT

having gone to Egypt earlier this year, I would actually recommend this for that location. I did a Nile River cruise from Luxor to Aswan and while the cruise was nice, I was overall underwhelmed, largely owing to the insane crowds. However, I spent a day in Cairo at the end of my trip going to the pyramids and the Egyptian museum and that was incredible.

Given Cairo’s location makes it accessible as a layover point when traveling to Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, or elsewhere in Africa and given the generally good award availability on Egypt Air, I would wholeheartedly recommend taking a page out of Nick’s book for laying over in Cairo for 10 to 12 hours to see the sites and then getting the heck out of dodge. Absolutely crucial is to arrive very early like Nick’s 5 am arrival: this will help you beat the insane Cairo traffic and get to the pyramids first thing in the morning before the mobs show up.

Grant

For those that say less than 24 hours is not enough time, I say “if I love a place, I can always go back”. Looking forward to seeing where your journey takes you next 🙂

Sco

Man, this really takes me back to the good old days of like 15 years ago when I used to do this all the time with United miles. I was young and had more time than money, so every award ticket was an opportunity to plan the most convoluted routing with 22-hour “layovers” in as many cities as possible.

These days I generally like to spend a little longer in each place (and I’ve already been to most of the Star Alliance hub cities by now), but I have to admit this post now has me looking at the Air Canada partner list and seeing what kind of crazy routing I could put together.

Raylan

The picture doesn’t look right but I really want to guess Air Mauritius based on the hint that it’s an AC partner that isn’t *A. Probably isn’t right but Mauritius would be quite the coup in this challenge.

Alfred

I predict that a lot of other “credit card” blogs and YouTube channels are going to be making their own Aeroplan videos very soon.

Mantis

Gulf Air. I see the symbol on the safety literature. Enjoy your time in Bahrain!

I personally would have thought a few stopovers for this challenge would be worth it. I thought this was meant to showcase a luxurious and realistic trip that others would enjoy.

Mantis

Oh well, it was a low res pic, so I took a guess based on the list of Aeroplan non star alliance partners and their logos. I suspect which one it is now, but I swung and miss, so I’ll let someone else have the glory.

cookies

As a reader based in SIN, I’m guessing the fifth freedom GF flight from BKK-SIN? Enjoying your updates so far!

Iowan

Gulf air….maybe a fifth freedom route to SIN?

LarryInNYC

I think he’s heading to Bali (based mostly on what he was writing about in the early part of the competition planning) although Japan would be, like, that’s a lot of flying for one award. So SIN makes sense as his next destination.

An advantage of Bali is that he could stay there for weeks in a decent homestay on his budget, not having to worry too much about hotel expenses.

Anthony

Im gonna guess that other airline is Etihad.

Ed S.

Outstanding way to do a “proof-of-concept”! Anyone who says “this is not for me” just doesn’t get it, since they can determine how many legs and 5K stopover upgrades they’d like to suit their tastes.

As for what’s next, since the itinerary has already done “C1 > C5 > C2 (w/C3 bonus) > C3 > C3”, I’m guessing that some form of “… > C6 > non-lower-48-or-US C1” will follow, and I wouldnt be surprised at all if Nick squeezes in a couple upgraded LCC legs to and from C4 on the way home to mic-drop a full-house RTW!

Swede

I want what you’re having. Awesomely awesome!
(Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to feed at the Amex trough. Once again).

Brant

Slacker!