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How to avoid Aeroplan booking fees

Anybody who has ever tried to book an Aeroplan award ticket knows about the huge cost of associated fees (colloquially known as ‘scamcharges’).

a woman with black hair and pink jacket
$1500 fees to go to London

Here is a typical, non-expert search for a one-way business class flight between Toronto (YYZ) and Rome (FCO) tomorrow:

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 11.18.11 PM

$558 of fees! Why so high? Well, Aeroplan charges something called YQ on some of their Star Alliance partner airlines, and doesn’t charge YQ on others. Even better, the Aeroplan website likes to show you routings that maximize YQ charges, trying to put you onto Air Canada or Lufthansa (the worst offenders).

Now, if we click on a “Star Alliance” booking, rather than a “Lufthansa” booking, we are presented with a mixed booking with Air Canada and Swiss. Although Air Canada flights have YQ attached, the flight here is only between YYZ-YUL (Montreal), so the YQ would be minimal. Swiss (LX) doesn’t carry YQ charges:

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 11.17.49 PM

$92!! Now, the Aeroplan website is basically only going to show you either Air Canada, Austrian, or Lufthansa options using this example. This Swiss option was the very last option available, and yet, it only carries $92 of fees as opposed to the $558 Lufthansa wanted. This option is only 15 minutes longer than the Lufthansa option!

Sometimes the Aeroplan website will not show you all available flight options. In that case, use the united.com award search engine, which is pretty good at showing availability. Once you get those exact flight numbers, you can call Aeroplan and book it. They will charge you the telephone booking fee though, so make sure you cannot book your desired flights on the Aeroplan site first.

The following airlines DO NOT charge YQ, so you should look at booking with them first:

Aegean, Air China, Air India, Air New Zealand, Asiana, Avianca, Brussels Airlines, Copa, Croatian, Egyptair, Ethiopian, EVA, SAS, Shenzhen Airways, Singapore, South African Airways, Swiss, Turkish, United.

LOT has very low YQ charges.

Some jurisdictions, namely England, charge an absolutely insane departure fee, which Aeroplan has to pass on to the customer. This air passenger duty is typically $125 if you go transatlantic in economy, and $250 in business – only on leaving the UK, not on arrival. A great way to avoid these fees is to leave the UK on a separate ticket, like on BA Avios, which only requires 4500 points +$25 to leave the UK and get into a jurisdiction that doesn’t charge this duty (like Switzerland, where you can catch the handy-dandy no tax ZRH-YUL flight on LX). If you leave the UK on an Aeroplan ticket and go onward to North America, you will still get charged the UK departure duty – you really should leave the UK on a separate ticket.

Fortunately, some jurisdictions, like Hong Kong and Brazil, regulate these kind of fees in a favourable way. So, if your final destination is ultimately Tokyo (NRT), why not route a final leg onto your trip that goes to Hong Kong (HKG), and skip it (book it as a one-way! If you miss a segment on a ticket, that will cancel your whole ticket)? This will lower your YQ, even if you fly on the Air Canada flight to NRT. If you’re doing this with luggage, ask the check-in agent to short check your luggage to NRT, or best of all, don’t bring luggage at all 😉


  1. Comment: aeroplan makes me so poor! And question: would the miles quoted on the united search engine be the same amount of miles charged by aeroplan if i were to call aeroplan have them book those united flights? or would it just reduce the fee component?

    1. Hello Nick,

      Unfortunately (and sometimes fortunately!) the mile prices that you find on the United search do not reflect what the mile cost would be on Aeroplan. I suggest you use United to piece together flights that the Aeroplan engine might now show.

      The only way to reduce the fee component is to book yourself on no YQ airlines (as listed above), or to route to a YQ regulated jurisdiction (i.e. HKG/GRU/etc).


  2. Great website! I’m new to Aeroplan and wondering if you have any tips for me, flying from YVR to Switzerland on a business award ticket. Here’s some details….

    – YVR–ZRH or GVA, RT
    – Business class
    – to avoid/minimize fuel surcharges, I am focused on UA and LX (also because of their J class cabins) but should I consider other airlines with low YQ and good J product?
    – stopovers of a few days in both YYZ and NYC (by the time I’m back in YVR)
    – redeemed for 90k miles, not market fare
    – departing mid-September ish, returning 4-6 weeks later (dates are flexible)
    – ideally, non-stop flights YVR–YYZ/NYC, and YYZ/NYC–ZRH/GVA

    Thanks for any advice you can provide!

    1. Hi there Genouver,

      Thanks for your comment. I cannot individually search for your flights, but there are plenty of award booking services out there. Indeed, I am currently in the process of developing a partnership with a specialist in Aeroplan award bookings: http://www.easyawardbooking.com (I will have a link to this service on the menu within a couple weeks).

      Nonetheless, here’s an idea. To make two stopovers (YYZ/NYC), you’ll have to make the booking over the phone with Aeroplan. There is no way around this. To minimize YQ, you could book something like: YVR-ORD-YYZ on UA (stop), then YYZ-YUL on AC, then YUL-ZRH on LX. Return ZRH-YUL LX, YUL-NYC (EWR/LGA/JFK) on UA (stop), then NYC-ORD-YVR. (UA does operate a seasonal flight between EWR-YVR, but I’m not sure when).

      If you wanted nonstop to YVR etc., you can book on AC, but that will increase YQ.

      YVR-ZRH has something called an MPM5. That is, Aeroplan will allow a maximum of X miles (Maximum Permitted Mileage) + 5%. Because of the MPM5, I suspect you couldn’t do a fancy booking with TK to IST or something.

      Though it’s EXTREMELY rare to find J availability on NZ, I have seen it before on their LAX-LHR route, which would be a fun, no YQ way to get to ZRH. Don’t count on that though.

      Hope this helps!


  3. I’m now not certain the place you’re getting your info, but good topic. I must spend a while finding out more or understanding more. Thank you for great information I was on the lookout for this info for my mission.

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