This is part two of Gustavo's Guide to Aeroplan about how to book Aeroplan to Iqaluit. Make sure you read part one! You may be wondering: What is the point of collecting all those Aeroplan miles (see my first post on earning Aeroplan points) if Air Canada does not fly to Nunavut (at least, not anymore)? Well, it just so happens that the carriers that serve Nunavut from “southern” Canada have partnership agreements with Air Canada and Aeroplan. These are what I call “Scheduled Northern Carriers”, and for flights to and from Iqaluit (the focus of this post), they are Canadian North and First Air. Read on to find out just how to book Aeroplan reward tickets to and from Iqaluit, without losing your mind (and your money!).
Northern airlines like Canadian North often fly with hybrid configurations allowing for the plane to carry both cargo and passengers.
Canadian North has a strong presence in the Eastern (Qikiqtaaluk/Baffin) and Western (Kitikmeot) regions of Nunavut, and because if its general absence in the Kivalliq Region, Calm Air and Canadian North have codeshares throughout their networks. Canadian North also flies from Yellowknife, Edmonton, and Ottawa.
First Air is the largest airline serving the North, flying from Yellowknife, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, and Montreal to all three Nunavut Regions.
Booking Aeroplan Tickets to Iqaluit
Each flight listed above only has only two Aeroplan seats available, so you should be booking things well in advance because availability is clearly very limited. The key is planning ahead.
Now let’s get down to the details. The first thing you have to know is that since Air Canada does not fly to Iqaluit, you cannot book award tickets online. This means that you will have to call Aeroplan to book your ticket. This will cost you $30 plus tax based on where you live, payable only if you manage to secure a seat. You won’t be charged if you call and there’s no availability.
The second thing is that when you book Northern flights, you must book a round trip. If you only need one leg, just pick a random return date to complete your ticket – you don’t have to use it.
Third, there are additional costs to the Aeroplan fee: miles and airport fees. Departing from Ottawa or Montreal will cost you 15,000 Aeroplan points plus respective airport taxes. A round-trip from Ottawa or Montreal will cost about $70 in total including the Aeroplan booking fee (e.g. my last flight booked in December 2013 on First Air to Ottawa cost me 15,000 miles + $31.50 booking fee + $37.56 in other taxes). You may use miles to connect to Montreal and Ottawa from wherever you are, but it will cost you more. For example, leaving from Toronto and going through Ottawa or Montreal will increase your mileage cost to 25,000, and airport fees will likely change as well since Pearson (YYZ) is expensive.
When you are ready to book, call Aeroplan at 1-800-361-5373. Once you get to an agent, let them know that you want to book a flight to or from Iqaluit. This is when the "negotiations" begin.
Canadian North is the only airline that is integrated with Aeroplan’s booking system, so they can search a range of dates quite easily. I recommend trying to book Aeroplan tickets with Canadian North first, because they’re easier to deal with since the agent can view an availability calendar right away.
Booking with First Air is a little more difficult. With First Air, you will have to request an incoming and outgoing date via the Aeroplan agent, who will forward your request to First Air. To find out if your requested dates are available, you will need to call Aeroplan again after about 48 hours with a reference number. First Air will reply “confirmed” or “not available” for each leg of the trip. I’ve often been told that, for example, my outbound date is good, but my inbound isn’t. You just have to have patience and keep trying.
Regardless of the airline, once you find seats, it will take Aeroplan 48 hours to issue an actual ticket. These will be emailed to you when ready so make sure your email address is correct in the Aeroplan system.
Yes, this is a little complicated and the whole process can be very frustrating. That being said, I have booked dozens of Aeroplan flights out of Iqaluit, and along the way, have learned a few key things. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of booking Aeroplan reward tickets:
- If an Aeroplan agent doesn’t seem familiar with the process of booking reward tickets on northern airlines, hang up and call back. Having a pro agent who understands the system, and what you can and cannot do, is key to a smooth, easy transaction.
- Be flexible with your dates. Have a calendar open in front of you so you can quickly suggest another day if your first choice is booked.
- Most importantly, call well in advance. Both airlines will allow you to book Aeroplan flights about 355 days in advance. So, for example, for flights out of Iqaluit around Christmas (peak season), I would recommend calling Aeroplan by mid-February. It may seem like a hassle to book vacation flights so far ahead of time, but it’s worth it to save around $2000 per person.
I hope this helps your planning a little bit, and please do leave some comments and feedback on the above in case I missed anything or if there are any mistakes.
Happy travels! Don’t forget your parka.