Redeeming Aeroplan miles

I’ve been an Aeroplan member for nearly 6 years now. Aeroplan is the frequent flyer mile program for Air Canada, which is my national airline. I used to fly quite often between Montreal and New York, so i figured I might as well earn frequent flyer miles for doing it; if you don’t belong to the program, those same “bonus miles” just go to waste. Besides the Aeroplan card lets you check in using those ATM-type machines in Canadian airports.

So Aeroplan really isn’t completely useless. It has its day-to-day practicalities. Where it does come in less than useful, however, is when you try and redeem those miles for travel. For some god-forsaken reason this proves problematic. The company that runs the program makes it sound so practical and easy — “Everything is within reach”, it says. Well, not so much.

Today I’m kind of curious about a flight to Philadelphia for the New Year’s weekend. So I log on to the web site, click on “use your miles”, enter the appropriate info, and I’m given, among other things, some pretty insane choices. Philadelphia isn’t very far from Montreal. The distance can easily be driven in 9 hours, 8 if you’re in a bit of a hurry.

So, if I take an airplane — supposedly faster than a car, or at least I hope so — why is one of my options on the return leg leaving PHL at 19:55 on January 2nd and arriving in Montreal at 18:45 on January 3rd?!?

I think it’s a question worth pondering. I can drive it in 8, but this flight will take me there in 23 hours. Surely a flight that long must go around the world, overflying Asia, the Middle East and Europe, right?

As you probably guessed, not quite. You see, it’s a two-stop flight. That in itself boggles the mind. You fly to Toronto (Air Canada’s principal hub), then to Ottawa 9 hours later (WTF?), and then from Ottawa to Montreal 10 hours later.

I think that might be the stupidest, most brain-dead proposition in the history of civil aviation. Seriously, whoever is intellectually-challenged to have thought of this option should probably be beaten about the head and neck with a Millwall brick. It’s almost as if this person had been desperately looking to see how much longer one could possibly stretch what is a fairly short and simple journey.

Other similarly-intelligently-thought-out options for your trip include a YUL to PHL trip lasting 15 hours (2200 to 1303) and several red-eye YUL to PHL options lasting 11 and a half hours.

And it’s not like you can do what EVERYONE ELSE does and let the traveller choose which flight he wants for each leg — Aeroplan offers you a package. A pretty brain-dead package, probably made up of the dreg flights no one wants to take. Like that incredibly moronic 23 hour tour of major eastern Canadian cities I mentioned earlier. What is up with that?

What’s even worse is that when I look at the web site of USAir — Air Canada’s Star Alliance partner, and the one airline with direct flights between YUL and PHL — I see that there are indeed flights that have available seats and actually suit my schedule.

This sort of rewards plan is supposed to be a tool used by airlines to build brand loyalty. Well, I hate to break it to Air Canada, but you’re not going to get much loyalty by making miles hard to redeem or only offering ridiculous flight options.


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