I’ve received dozens of emails from readers who are upset with the way Aeroplan rewards are calculated and the amount of fees and taxes they pay for flight redemptions.
Many find the fees almost wipe out the reward, and they also wonder why the fees for booking flights through Aeroplan are higher than the same flights booked directly through Air Canada.
As a result, many long-time Aeroplan collectors say they have left or will leave the plan in favour of a more flexible rewards program, such as CIBC’s Aventura, RBC’s Avion, or TD’s First Class, where customers can redeem points on any airline and have access to any seat on the plane.
The reader emails were in reaction to an article I wrote about an Aeroplan member who tried to redeem his points for two business class tickets to Glasgow, Scotland and was shocked to see the taxes and surcharges for his “free flight” added up to $2,200.
Here are some other reader comments and questions answered about the Aeroplan program.
Why do fees seem to cost more when paid for with miles?
Several readers complained there appears to be more taxes and fees when you book an Aeroplan rewards flight than if you were to book the same flight directly via Air Canada’s website.
Former Aeroplan collector Ann Dennis shied away from redeeming her points because of these charges. She compared the cost of booking a one-way flight from Fort Lauderdale to Toronto using points and paying for it through Air Canada’s website.
She found that using points, the flight would cost 12,500 miles, plus $63 in fees and taxes when booking through Aeroplan. The same flight booked through Air Canada cost $134, plus $28 in fees and taxes.
“It’s the same flight, leaving at the same time. Why is there a difference in the fees?”
Here’s the answer: Patrick Sojka, founder of the Rewards Canada website, says the fees are exactly the same in both cases, but are just displayed differently. Air Canada includes fuel surcharges in the ticket price for any travel in Canada and between Canada and the United-States. Aeroplan lists its fuel surcharges separately along with the taxes, fees, and other charges.
“It’s no different than booking directly through WestJet versus redeeming Air Miles for the same flight,” said Mr. Sojka.
Margie Krisch, 78 and living in Lac La Biche, Alta. has been an Aeroplan member since 2001. Last summer she redeemed 65,000 miles and then paid $1,070 for a flight to Paris. Her daughter booked the same flight through Air Canada and paid $1,350. She didn’t feel the 65,000 points got her very much. The experience left a bad taste in her mouth.
“My Visa is with CIBC and I have changed to their new Aventura program,” said Ms. Krisch.
Why all the fees?
Taxes and fees are not included in any frequent flyer program, whether it’s Aeroplan or Air Miles. Airport fees are another hidden cost of travel and Canada taxes on air travel are among the highest, as are those to the United Kingdom.
Sojka says airports in the U.K. have a fee scale where the taxes go up depending on the class of service; for economy it is lower, while business is more and first class is even higher.
Surcharges include fees for fuel, navigation, insurance, air travellers security, airport improvement fees, and something called a peak travel premium.
According to Christa Poole, spokesperson for Aeroplan parent company Aimia, when Aeroplan issues reward tickets for their members, a $27 fuel surcharge is added along with the government taxes and airport charges, collected and passed on to those third parties.
“This has been the case ever since the last period of record fuel prices in 2008,” said Poole.
Who Gets The Points When A Spouse Dies?
After Deborah Schultz’s husband died eight years ago she called Aeroplan to change his plan to her name. She was surprised to learn that if she wanted her late husband’s miles she’d have to pay for them.
“I thought it would be easy but, oh no, that wasn’t happening. They told me I would have to pay two cents per mile!”
Related: Best Ways To Redeem Aeroplan Points
The terms and conditions on Aeroplan’s website say that your membership is not transferable so it’s not possible to share miles. However, the company has a policy that allows a surviving beneficiary to redeem the outstanding balance of Aeroplan miles within one year of the member’s death by providing supporting documentation and paying a $30 admin fee, plus taxes.
Other tips from Aeroplan Collectors
Readers also offered their advice.
Marian Hof, a 58-year-old frequent traveller from B.C., suggests flying out of any nearby U.S. city.
“Here in Vancouver it is easy to drop over the border to Bellingham to fly to the U.S., Caribbean, Hawaii and many other destinations,” she said.
Because U.S. airport fees can be substantially cheaper than those in Canada – and with much more competition among U.S. carriers – fuel surcharges and other expenses are either much lower or do not exist at all.