How To Fly Around Asia For Free

Let me start by telling you this, it takes an “Aeroplan PhD” to figure out how to best optimize and use the miles, due to it’s seat availability, high fuel surcharge, ridiculous routing… etc. But, redeeming for intra-Asia is one the easiest ways to get the most of your Aeroplan miles.

Singapore-Airlines3

You can usually get at least 2-3 cents per mile on a economy roundtrip, or up to 5-6 cents per mile on a economy open-jaw routing. Of course, business class tickets will get more value out of your miles.

Without further ado, let’s consider the following open-jaw itinerary: Beijing – Singapore – Tokyo

Let’s pick some random dates for a week later, not really last minute, but we really don’t have to plan too far ahead. Today is Jan 2nd, I picked the outbound date to be Jan 7th to Singapore, and Jan 13 for a trip to Tokyo.

PEKSIN  SINHND

Plenty of direct flights available on both Air China and Singapore Airlines, personally I would fly Singapore without a doubt. How much taxes will this cost? That’s right, just $47.60, now compare this to $150-$200 surcharge for your typical North American flights, this is not bad! The main reason behind this is that neither Air China nor Singapore charges fuel surcharge for Aeroplan reward tickets, the same is for EVA Airways. You may want to avoid Thai, ANA, and Asiana for traveling within Asia as they are the carriers that do levy a fuel surcharge.

PEKSINHND

 

How much will this cost in cash? A lot! Here’s what I put into Google ITA matrix:

ITA

Now nobody in their right mind would pick flying Singapore Airlines for this trip (I hope)! I’m actually not too sure why they charge this exorbitant amount for open-jaw like this, I even tried changing the point-of-sale to Singapore and Tokyo but still got the same thing.

ITA2

Using Google flight gives a very similar result, again, no direct flights from SQ, the cheapest was flying Air China.

ITA result2

Yes, international open-jaw trips are usually costly. Let’s go with Air China, take the direct flight to Singapore, and then a 1 stop to Tokyo. Time for some valuation analysis:

Cash price: $1078

Miles & Cash: 20,000 miles + $47.60

Therefore each mile is worth (1078-47.6)/20000 = 5.15 cents/mile!

The same trip in business class will be 30,000 miles for Aeroplan, and in the $4000-$5000 range. Redeeming in business class will be a no-brainer for me.

 

What if we consider a simple trip, let’s say a round trip between Bejing and Bangkok in business class. PEKBKK

This will cost 30,000 + $41.50 in fees for Aeroplan

PEKBKK2

A reasonable $1325 for the cheapest direct flights in business class I could find in the next 2 weeks.  Let’s do another valuation analysis on this:

(1325-41.5)/30000 = 4.28 cents/mile!

Not as much as what we normally get from open-jaw trips, but this is still excellent value for your miles.

Hopefully this post brought some new ideas for you to redeem your miles effectively. Star Alliance has 6 airlines based in Asia, among these, Singapore, ANA, and Asiana all have a 5 star rating from Skytrax! Fuel surcharges from ANA, Asiana, and Thai are usually around $50-$80 one way within Asia, so it’s not terribly bad if you do end up having to pay for it.

Let’s go over the only 3 rules on intra-Asia reward flights:

  • Unlike other Aeroplan reward flights, no stopovers allowed, though 1 open-jaw is allowed. One ways are not allowed, you will have to book a dummy return flight and pay the same amount of miles.
  • Up to 2 layovers are allowed per direction. Layovers are connections that have less than 24 hours between the scheduled landing time and the departure time. You may leave the airport and explore in the city.
  • 20,000 for Economy class, 30,000 for Business class, and 50,000 for First class

Some of the routing I’ve successfully booked for 30,000 in business class:

  • Beijing – Seoul (23 hours) – Osaka – (23 hours) – Tokyo (destination) – Taipei (23 hours) – Shanghai (open jaw)
  • Taipei – Hongkong (23 hours) – Bangkok (destination) – Singapore (23 hours) – Taipei
  • Osaka – Ho Chi Minh City (destination) – Singapore (23 hours) – Hongkong (open jaw)

In summary, here are some key takeaway points for redeeming intra-Asia rewards:

  • Availabilities are plenty, there’s no need to book a year in advance compared to the trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific flights
  • Try to leverage Beijing, Singapore, Taipei as your hubs for surcharge-free flights
  • Get on the widebody planes when possible for business class redemptions. This means the 777s, 767s, 787s, A330s, A380s, the business seats on these planes are usually better. Most of the 777s and all of the A380s are equipped with a flat bed for the best comfort.
  • Avoid booking domestic flights using your miles, they yield terrible return, it is best to buy them locally

How to get points quickly? The easiest and fastest way to get the required points is applying for the American Express Gold Rewards card, click here for my review on this card and application link. You get 25,000 points after spending $500 in the first 3 months, which are convertible at a 1:1 ratio to Aeroplan, the conversion is instant and the points shows up in your Aeroplan account within a minute. I was able to get over 100K miles just from American express in the past year alone! Other credit spending and bonuses got me a total of over 200K in the past year. As you can see, points from American Express built up a major portion of my points portfolio.

Amex

Any questions, comments? Feel free to drop a note below, or reach out to me directly for any advise on collecting and redeeming points. Thanks for reading!

2 thoughts on “How To Fly Around Asia For Free

  1. Hi, thanks for the useful article. I am looking to book Singapore to Fukuoka (Japan), with Taipei as a layover, but the Aeroplan award doesn’t seem to be available. Return from Hiroshima (HIJ) to SIN (open jaw). would appreciate your advice how i can book layovers since stopovers are not possible on IntraAsia 1 award bookings. thanks !

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    • Hi there sorry for the late reply. That indeed sounds like a valid opern-jaw route, SIN-TPE-FUK, HIJ-SIN. I would search for the flight individually, then phone the Aeroplan call center. The online booking system would not be able to handle this kind of routing

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