Advanced Aeroplan Booking Guide

The first 3 parts of the Aeroplan booking guide is more than enough to get you started on an epic trip – I would say 90% of Aeroplan collectors just relies on the online booking engine and books whatever the search results are – so the fact you know how to build your own routes and add stopovers and layovers makes you better than than the vast majority already.

However, there is still a secret trick that should be in your arsenal to get you that final advantage against the system.  Of course, I’m talking about Hidden City Ticketing.

Hidden city ticketing is a technique where adding in extra segments to your route can actually benefit you and you just get off in the middle of the route where your real intended destination is, whereby throwing away the last one or two tickets.

There are a few ways it can be applied with Aeroplan bookings.


Minimizing Aeroplan Mileage Cost

As you learnt from my Aeroplan guide, Aeroplan mileage cost is determined based on your furthest destination where you are staying over 24 hours.  Even if you route through another redemption zone, it is not counted against you as long as your next flight departs within 24 hours.

What if you made a layover in a more expensive Aeroplan redemption zone and simply ended your trip there?  You get to save a few thousand miles!

As a case study, for my new year trip, I am routing a flight through Bangkok, which is located in Aeroplan’s Asia zone 2 (77.5k miles needed for one way business).  However, because my legal destination is Hong Kong (Asia zone 1), which only costs 75k miles, I can save 2.5k miles by adding on the extra segment from BKK-HND – assuming I wanted to get off the plane and end my route at Bangkok.

canadiantraveltips - hidden city ticketing booking
Notice how I added a connection in Bangkok but I still only pay 150,000 Aeroplan miles for a round trip ticket instead of 155,000.

Increasing your MPM

This one is simple yet brilliant.  By adding on a last segment to your one way trip, you trick the system into thinking your “destination” is somewhere further away, increasing the MPM you have to play with.

As an example, lets say you want to fly from Toronto (YYZ) to Beijing(PEK).  From the Flyertalk thread, the MPM of this route is 9228.  You want to fly EVA air to Taipei and visit Osaka on the way to Beijing- giving you this route:

canadiantraveltips - flight 1

But the total miles on this route is 9701– almost 500 miles over our MPM!  It’s very unlikely Aeroplan will let you book this route.

However, we can make this possible by just adding on a leg to HKG – making HKG our “destination”.  Toronto-Hong Kong has a MPM of 10,957.  The new route is as follows:

canadiantraveltips - flight 2

The MPM is now 10935, under YYZ->HKG’s MPM and making this a valid route.  You can simply get off the plane at Beijing and throw away the ticket to Hong Kong. Hong Kong is also in Asia 1, so no extra Aeroplan miles needed here.

In addition, there are no surcharges flying to Hong Kong, and there doesn’t seem to be much airport fees.  There is a departure tax that would not apply here and a very small “security” charge that Aeroplan may or may not charge.
A small price to pay to fly your desired airline and visit Japan on the way.

canadiantraveltips - hong kong fees

In fact, I suspect that by adding this leg, you will actually be saving more fees than you pay – read on to find out why.


Saving Carrier Surcharge Fees (aka. Fuel Dumping)

By adding an extra leg – usually, but not always, a country with surcharge regulations (Hong Kong for example), in some cases it can even decrease the surcharge of the overall route.  The extra leg causing the fuel surcharge to decrease is called the “strike” in flyertalk.  The extra leg can be before (first strike or 1x) or after ( third strike or 3x) your main flights, but usually after as you would have to fly the strike if positioned at the start of your other flights.

This works especially well with Award flights, because we don’t pay any base fare for the extra leg itself!  The only costs we incur is the base miles and all other costs comes mostly from fuel surcharges.

Now this obviously won’t be true for all routes, but when playing around with the routing, if you have MPM to spare, I suggest you add a segment to one of the countries with surcharge regulations in the multi-city aeroplan booking tool online and see if there is any difference in surcharges.  If you want to confirm, you can always phone in to Aeroplan for the final quote.

I found my first example after 20 minutes –  Asiana is an Star Alliance airline that charges surcharge – and a direct flight from San Francisco to Seoul has about $161 in surcharges.

canadiantraveltips - asiana surcharge

However, by tacking on an extra leg to Hong Kong, the EXACT SAME FLIGHT would now costs $60 less overall – and none of the Hong Kong airport fees are added (but there is now a Korea passenger service charge).

canadiantraveltips - asiana hidden city ticketing

Dont believe me?  Have a play around yourself and I’m sure you will find instances like this one.

This section is a brief touch point into the world of fuel dumping – I can assure you the rabbit hole goes much, much deeper.  If you are interested in this topic, I highly suggest you do your own research.  I am by no means a expert and even covering the basics would make this page much too long!


Risks and Restrictions

I’ve made this all sound great and dandy, but there are obviously some risks and restrictions involved. If it was so simply and the benefits so great, everyone would be running around doing this and  planes would be filled with empty seats from people throwing away the last leg of their tickets.

First of all, hidden city ticketing usually only applies to one way tickets.  This is because once you miss a connection, all tickets after it gets cancelled automatically.  So to be safe, make the inbound and outbound on two separate tickets to avoid any potential issues.  This is not a problem with Aeroplan since one way tickets costs exactly 50% of the round trip so there are no penalty for booking your trip as two tickets – this isn’t always true for all reward systems (eg. Asia miles), another reason why I love Aeroplan!

Second, be careful with checked bags going straight to your legal destination.  Now you can tell your agent to check your bags only to an intermediary destination – usually you can give pretty good reasons such as needing your bags for a long layover or I’ve even heard some Aeroplan agents straight up telling a person to do the hidden city ticketing trick and asking for bags checked halfway.

However, you need to be careful and make sure the baggage tag says your real destination and not your legal one.  This would be easiest if you don’t have any bags checked at all!

Finally, airlines are generally not a huge fan of you gaming the system and leaving a seat empty when they could have otherwise sold it for revenue.  I haven’t really read about anyone getting any repercussions from doing this repeatedly but it’s still something to be mindful about.