In the past 3 days we have gone through all the steps you need to take in order to find and book your award travel. In this particular example, Lisa wants to travel from Ottawa or Montreal to Milan with an open jaw return from Geneva to Ottawa or Montreal.
Through our process, we determined the best itinerary for Lisa would be:
YUL-ZRH on LX87
Depart 4/13/17 at 5:10 PM
Arrive 4/14/17 at 6:20 AM
ZRH-MXP on LX1616
Depart 4/14/17 at 9:40 AM
Arrive 4/14/17 at 10:35 AM
GVA-ZRH on LX2807 (Economy)
Depart 4/23/17 at 10:00 AM
Arrive 4/23/17 at 10:55 AM
ZRH-YUL on LX86
Depart 4/23/17 at 12:50 AMP
Arrive 4/23/17 at 2:55 PM
If you recall, the flight out on Swiss 87 (LX87) was on the older configuration of the A330-300 with the flights the day before (April 12) and day after (April 14) on the 777-300 which features the new configuration. I personally would fly the earlier flight to get the new plane but that’s just me. Lisa may have very specific reasons as to why she wants to fly on April 13th but at least now she has the option.
The other thing to keep in mind is that the GVA-ZRH leg is in Economy but because the flight is literally an up/down flight of 45 minutes, I honestly don’t think it’s a big deal to “suffer” in Economy for that long and based on what I have seen, I do not believe that Business Class is even an option.
So What Are the Taxes and Fees?
If you’ve been following along on the blog, you will note that I HATE paying for fuel surcharge when I can avoid it. Because we are flying Swiss and they do not charge fuel surcharge on award tickets, all we need to worry about are the airport taxes/landing taxes.
I called into Aeroplan to price this ticket and what did we come up with?
[highlight color=”#eeee22″ rounded=”no” class=”” id=””]$134.05 in taxes per passenger[/highlight]. That’s incredible. Also keep in mind that Swiss offers an excellent hard and soft product so if you fly this itinerary, you will be in for a treat.
Value for Points
In a previous article, I discuss CPM (Cents per Mile) as a measure of how much value you are deriving from your points. Let’s go through that exercise.
As a note, I will have to split up each leg because of the mixed cabin itinerary (Business and Economy). I will also be showing the price for 1 passenger. Just multiply by 2 if you want the price for the full party. I am also using ITA Matrix for the search.
So the total value of the flights is $17,754.75 (sum of all flight costs). We need to subtract the amount of taxes we pay on the award flight ($134.05) so that we get a total value that we are defering with our points. That amount is $17,620.70 CAD
We know that a retail ticket would run us $17,620.70. We need to divide that cost by the number of points (110,000) and then multiply that by 100 to get us a CPM value.
$17,620.70 / 110,000 x 100 = 16.02 CPM
This is absolutely incredible value and I personally would book this as soon as possible.
How to Book
I’ve never had luck with getting the Aeroplan site to book complicated itineraries for me and while this one is fairly straight forward, there is an open jaw involved, which confuses the hell out of the Aeroplan Multi-City booking engine so you will be forced to call in to book this itinerary.
The number to call is 1.800.361.5373. The wait can be long but keep at it.
There will be a $30 telephone booking fee per ticket that you may have to pay but you might be able to convince the agent to waive the fee because of the limitations of the online system. Don’t hold your breath but it’s worth a shot.
Things to Keep In Mind
For the past 4 days, I have walked you through a step-by-step process on how to book award flights. I understand that it may seem complicated and a long process where you need to keep a lot of things in mind but with practice, it becomes much easier.
If you’ve read this whole guide and still find it too complicated, you have a couple of options:
- Write your question(s) in the comments below and I’ll try to clarify the answer
- Use an Award Booker such as Awarding.ca or AwardMagic.com. For a nominal fee, they will do the same thing I just showed you how to do but you won’t have to do it yourself. We actually got a bit lucky with this itinerary and didn’t need to find any crazy alternative routings but if you do have to get creative, this process can take hours. Sometimes it’s best to cut your losses and use an award booking service.
I’ve always been an advocate of trying things on your own and figuring it out but I understand that this process isn’t for everyone so keep in mind you do have options.
Tips and Tricks
In no particular order, I am going to brain dump some things to keep in mind when you are looking for an award flight:
- Avoid Fuel Surcharge (YQ) whenever possible
- Build in flexibility into your search. Try not to have rigid schedules and you will find that you are more than likely to be able to find availability.
- Look for the longest flight segment first and build your itinerary around the availability you find for that flight
- The closer city pairs are, the more likely there will be frequent flights between them
- Be sure to know which aircraft is flying your route so you know what to expect for an inflight experience
- Use sites like RouteHappy to see how comfortable the flight might be
- Understand where major hubs are located so you know where you can easily position to get your award flight. For example, United has a hub in Houston that is a direct flight from Calgary so I know that if I can’t easily find availability out of Calgary, I can search out of Houston to see if I have better luck. Just play around with the Star Alliance Route Map (for Aeroplan) to figure out where the best international hubs are.
- Learn about which airlines provide close-in availability for award flights
- Availability changes every day so if you find an award flight you like, book it. If you can’t find your availability, try again the next day.
Now that you have a step-by-step process, you should be able to find and book your reward flight but I realize some people learn differently so the next part of this series will be a screencast of the process I went through to find this award. I will endeavor to get this out tomorrow but may need the weekend to edit it. Worst case, you will see something by Sunday.
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below.
Jayce, that was pretty awesome. Thanks for sharing the step-by-step.
Is it really that simple of calling into AP and telling them the routes you found? I was always under the impression that if award space wasn’t showing up on AP site, then it wasn’t bookable.
Like for example, if someone was booking a straight Return trip from YUL-ZRH and weren’t able to come across that on the AP search engine, could you still call in and have them do it for you manually even though it wasn’t showing on the website? Does that make sense?
Thanks for your kind words.
The routes that you will find using my method are the same ones that are available through Aeroplan. It is a misnomer that Aeroplan agents have additional access to award seats that don’t show up on Aeroplan.
What you might be confused about is that often times someone might search from say Vancouver to Zurich (YVR-ZRH) and the Aeroplan booking engine may not show YVR-YUL-ZRH but rather will show something like YVR-YYZ-ZRH on Air Canada. When you search segment by segment and find your own availability, you aren’t left to the whims of the booking system. If you can piece together an itinerary with availability, that’s when you call in to Aeroplan to have it booked because the online system is highly unlikely to find the same routing as you do.
I hope that clarifies the post a little for you. Cheers
Jayce, quick one: Why do you say that there is no fuel surcharge but we see YQ and YR surcharges in the blue tickets captures? What is the difference between YQ and YR ?
Ostensibly, YQ and YR are both fuel/carrier surcharges (scam charges). Each airline is different. Some charge YQ, some YR, and some both. In both cases, you want to try to avoid them if possible. Hope that helps. Cheers
Hi Jayce, should the taxes and fees for flights by manually entering each route onto Aeroplan website as a one-way be the same as the taxes and fees quoted over the phone? I’m confused because what I had calculated on the route by manual method on Aeroplan is different than what the agent is telling me over the phone.
You can get an approximation the way you are doing it but it’s never going to be exact. There are complicated fare rules when you have a full itinerary and it has to do with which airlines collect the taxes so by plugging them in one by one, you will never get a full understanding of what the taxes will be when you book the itinerary. The better way to approximate the taxes is to put the itinerary into ITA Matrix (http://matrix.itasoftware.com/) and look at what the taxes are. While it still won’t be exact, it will be much closer. Aeroplan is the only entity that will give you the exact taxes. Hope that helps. Cheers