There’s no denying that award redemptions are getting more expensive and more difficult to attain across the board. Airlines are releasing less award space than in the past and increasing redemption rates, which is a bad combination. However, there are still some great values to be had, and some great ways to maximize your miles and points.

For example, there are many things I love about American Express Membership Rewards points, though one challenge can be redeeming them for travel to Asia.

Membership Rewards partners with Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, which is an awesome partnership since Singapore only releases much of their first and business class award space to members of their own KrisFlyer program. So it’s a great way to fly Singapore’s Business Class, First Class, or Suites Class product between the US and Asia.

In terms of Membership Rewards’ other transfer partners, even the best options leave a bit to be desired for travel to Asia:

  • British Airways has a distance based award chart, so while there are some good values to be had, they’re kind of expensive for travel between the US and Asia.
  • Delta in theory has some good partners, though booking with them can be a real pain and they impose fuel surcharges on many redemptions.

This brings me to Air Canada’s spun off loyalty program, Aeroplan. They have decent award rates for travel to “Asia 1” (which includes most of North and much of South Asia) at just 125,000 miles for roundtrip business class. It’s worth noting that this price is only valid through January 1, 2014, because at that point they’ll be devaluing their program and charging 150,000 miles for the same award.

Aeroplan-Redemption-Rates

Best of all they allow two stopovers OR one stopover and one open jaw.

The catch is that they impose fuel surcharges for redemptions on most of their partner airlines that fly directly between the US and Asia. There are three exceptions however. Aeroplan doesn’t impose fuel surcharges for travel on Air China, EVA Air, or United, all of which have frequent service (and award availability, for that matter) between the US and Asia. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about redeeming miles for Star Alliance business class, and as I mentioned there, both Air China and EVA Air release a ton of business class award space.

I’ve flown Air China and EVA Air, and enjoyed them both in business class. Here are my trip reports about their longhaul service:

I especially love EVA Air due to their reverse herringbone business class configuration and excellent cappuccinos service in business class.

Anyway, if you have Membership Rewards points it’s tough to beat the value of redeeming them for travel on EVA Air (or Air China, or United) in business class to Asia. Not only are the redemption costs reasonable and there are no fuel surcharges, but it’s a great business class product as well.

For example, as you can see below, an Air China roundtrip between Los Angeles and Beijing costs 125,000 Aeroplan miles plus just $73.70 in taxes:

Air-China-Award-1
Air-China-Award-2

Meanwhile a roundtrip between Los Angeles and Taipei on EVA Air also costs 125,000 Aeroplan miles plus just $69 in taxes:

EVA-Air-Award-1
EVA-Air-Award-2

While a roundtrip between Los Angeles and Shanghai on United costs 125,000 Aeroplan miles plus just $73.70 in taxes:

United-Award-1
United-Award-2

It’s worth noting that you can include other airlines that do impose fuel surcharges on the same Aeroplan award, and you’ll only be charged the fuel surcharges for the segments on the airlines which impose them. So a short intra-Asia flight shouldn’t have especially high fuel surcharges, should you want to include a segment on ANA, Asiana, Thai, etc.

Anyway, I realize this probably isn’t life changing, but I figured it was worth posting the reminder given that with United’s award chart devaluation in February they’ll be charging 160,000 miles for business class to much of Asia, and that Aeroplan will also be raising the cost of this award to 150,000 miles.

  1. November 26th, 2013 at 10:59 am

    Jim said,

    You should mention that this nice 125,000 pointer goes up to 150,000 come January 1st. I cashed in all my points – I’m done with Aeroplan.

  2. November 26th, 2013 at 11:15 am

    lucky said,

    @ Jim — Good point, thanks. Updated the post to reflect that.

  3. November 26th, 2013 at 11:33 am

    Arcanum said,

    You might want to mention the significant upcoming Aeroplan changes. As of Jan. 1, 2014 there will be a selective devaluation of the award chart for flights from North America to Asia, the Middle East, and the South Pacific. On the bright side, they will also start allowing one-way awards for half the price of round-trip.

  4. November 26th, 2013 at 11:43 am

    E said,

    Can we makes changes after 1/1 to existing bookings?

  5. November 26th, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    Terry said,

    Hi Lucky,

    Have you heard of anyone who has used this company, JetNsave.com? They just offered me this deal a few hours ago, “SIN-LAX round trip first class suites on Singapore airlines for $5,980.00 total”!

    By the way, if you have to fly from LAX to PDR in business/first cabin, which airline would you most likely use?

  6. November 26th, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    UnitedEF said,

    ANA is distance based and I believe they charge only 90k miles for roundtrip business lax – tpe. Saving 35k miles is worth way more than the furl charge they asses on the ticket. Plus no limits on stop over s or open jaw because it is based on distance.

  7. November 26th, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Stephan said,

    B aware that if you use AC on the first TPAC leg and then non YQ airlines they will ding you for YQ on the whole trip, because of AC segment. Big scam.

    Fly BR or CA or UA only for no YQ.

    Also note that LX MK TK SK and SN have no or low YQ on Aeroplan.

  8. November 26th, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Andy said,

    @Lucky,
    Q1: 1/1 valid means travel or booking? If book before 1/1 for flight next year, 125K or 150K?

    Q2: after 1/1/14, the economy version 75K (vs 125K) will change to what (vs 150K)?

  9. November 26th, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    JRL said,

    @ Lucky —
    Any advice on Aeroplan routing rules… Is transiting an ocean in each direction and stopping over in another zone permissible?

    Also, what are their max amount of segments and can you exceed MPM?

  10. November 26th, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    KC said,

    Any YQ for SQ ?

  11. November 26th, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    Michael said,

    What a great post! So valuable.

    So if I’m based out of LAX, and don’t want to go to China but want to visit Hong Kong, how can I use Aeroplan’s 125K most effectively to get there? Happy to stop in Bangkok or Tokyo for a couple of days.

  12. November 26th, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    DBest said,

    Looking for award space ex-Asia to US the first week of Jan and it’s tough slogging. Do airlines release last-minute seats during the holidays or is this as good as it gets?

  13. November 26th, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    OberBoberGrober said,

    Last time I checked LX was also exempt. Keeping it a secret, or not the case anymore?

  14. November 27th, 2013 at 12:21 am

    dan said,

    Hi Ben

    Can my wife transfer from her AMEX MR account to my singapore airlines mileage account? not sure if they check the names.

  15. November 27th, 2013 at 7:43 am

    Khan said,

    Intra-Asia awards can have pretty significant fuel surcharges. $300-400 + 30,000 miles for TG flights from Japan to Thailand for example. Still not awful, but for a $1800 revenue flight I think that is pretty high.

  16. November 27th, 2013 at 9:55 am

    lucky said,

    @ dan — Yes, she sure can.

  17. November 27th, 2013 at 9:55 am

    lucky said,

    @ OberBoberGrober — Oh yeah, Swiss is exempt as are several other carriers, though this post was about airlines flying nonstop between the US and Asia, and Swiss doesn’t fly such a route.

  18. November 27th, 2013 at 9:56 am

    lucky said,

    @ DBest — That’s a very busy week for travel, so while there’s a good chance more space will open up, it’ll likely only be much closer to departure.

  19. November 27th, 2013 at 9:57 am

    lucky said,

    @ Michael — Your best bet is probably still to fly EVA Air through Taipei in their fully flat business class product, which is fantastic.

  20. November 27th, 2013 at 9:57 am

    lucky said,

    @ KC — Nope, no fuel surcharges when booking Singapore through Aeroplan.

  21. November 27th, 2013 at 9:58 am

    lucky said,

    @ JRL — Yes, you can absolutely route via Europe. They let you exceed the MPM by up to 5%, so at least they’re very straightforward about how they publish the rules.

  22. November 27th, 2013 at 10:00 am

    lucky said,

    @ Andy — The date you book and not the date you travel is what counts. The coach version of the same award remains the same cost.

  23. November 27th, 2013 at 10:46 am

    Terry said,

    Hi Lucky,
    Have you heard of anyone who has used this company, JetNsave.com? They just offered me this deal a few hours ago, “SIN-LAX round trip first class suites on Singapore airlines for $5,980.00 total”!

    By the way, if you have to fly from LAX to PDR in business/first cabin, which airline would you most likely use?

  24. November 27th, 2013 at 10:50 am

    lucky said,

    @ Terry — Sorry, haven’t ever heard of them. As far as PDR goes, that airport code pulls up as Presidente Dutra, Maranhão, Brazil for me. Assume that’s not what you’re referring to?

  25. November 27th, 2013 at 11:10 am

    Terry said,

    Oops, I meant PDX, Portland, OR.

  26. November 27th, 2013 at 11:17 am

    lucky said,

    @ Terry — If I were paying I’d probably fly Virgin America, though it’s tough to beat the value of flying Alaska using British Airways Avios.

  27. November 27th, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Terry said,

    Thanks a bunch, Lucky, I appreciate your feedback. I guess the only downside of flying Alaska is their old, old seats.:)

  28. November 27th, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    Tom said,

    How about using ANA mileage club? I heard that they stopped charging fuel surcharges on united and us airways but this was in the context of flights to Europe. Does ANA levy large surcharges on most partner flights to Asia? They might be a good option from the west coast cities given that you can fly up to 18k miles for 105,000 miles.

  29. November 27th, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    lucky said,

    @ Tom — To the best of my knowledge they don’t impose fuel surcharges for United metal awards booked directly on ANA’s website, though I could be wrong.

  30. December 1st, 2013 at 3:53 am

    E said,

    Can we makes changes to bookings before 1/1 after 1/1?

  31. December 1st, 2013 at 7:37 am

    lucky said,

    @ E — Don’t hold me to this, but I believe as long as the regions stay the same you should be able to make changes after January 1.

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