• Saturday , 28 January 2023

To everything, churn, churn, churn

Hating on airlines is pretty much a national pastime in this country.

It seems like every time someone has a bad experience with an airline, it’s all over social media and the news.

In many of these cases, people have had truly horrid customer service experiences that could have been prevented or were handled very poorly.

Other times you have to wonder. Air Canada was recently ordered to pay a couple $21,000 for language violations, not because they weren’t offered service in French, but because of various quibbles such as the use of unilingual seat and exit displays and the length of French information given versus the English.

Or consider recent media coverage about a grandiose hen party that was “ruined” by a flight cancellation.

For all the complaining we do about airlines, we rarely talk about the amazing ways airlines reward their passengers.

Take the Alaska program, for instance. Kelowna is served by Alaska Airlines to Seattle. MBNA’s Alaska Airlines MasterCard offers up to 30,000 sign up rewards points and there are programs out there that can rebate most of the annual fee.

That’s a great deal if you want to travel to the US via their main hub in Seattle, or book a flight to Asia on one of their partner airlines, such as Cathay Pacific.

And there doesn’t appear to be a limit on how many times you can cancel the card and sign up again.

A great thing about rewards programs is that many offer the opportunity to convert your points into other programs so you aren’t locked into keeping one credit card to accumulate miles or points. RBC, for instance, typically allows their Avion cardholders to convert their points to BA Avios at a 1:1 ratio and from time to time even offer bonuses of around 25 per cent, which could turn their value from a domestic flight into an international one.

I’ve never flown anything except economy, so when I discovered that you could pool sign up bonuses from different credit cards into one rewards program to take advantage of some truly amazing redemptions, I got straight to work.

I only joined Aeroplan in March, but because I was able to put a few months rent and some recent moving expenses through a few different credit cards, I was able to accumulate enough points for a business class trip to India in just a few short months.

Pretty good, right?

Well, it gets even better.

Turns out, as long as you stay within the maximum permitted mileage between your starting point and destination, up until Aug. 31, you were also allowed two additional stops and quite a few layovers as well, provided they each fall under 24 hours (Air Canada has since reduced the number of additional open jaws or stops to just one). Within the miles and points community, this has been unofficially known as a “mini RTW” trip because if you maximize it to its full potential, you could hit every inhabited continent on a single destination redemption.

With that in mind, I began researching my trip to New Delhi (my “destination”) and searching flight availability through Aeroplan’s website.

Playing within Aeroplan’s rules, I was able to book a trip to India that includes stops in Croatia and Hungary, with layovers in Istanbul, Singapore and Beijing that are long enough to get out of the airport and spend a day exploring, which is really quite amazing.

Of course, the downside to all of this travel is the impact on my carbon footprint, but that’s another conversation.
Meanwhile, the next time you hear someone berate the airline industry, just remember that sometimes they also do reward their passengers.

By Joanne Layh

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