This summer my wife is taking the kids to Japan.She’s going for much longer than I can take off of work, so I’m going to meet her there. However, rather than just hop on a flight to Japan, I decided I’d use this opportunity to go the long way: through Europe.
On first glance, this seems crazy and an exercise in torture. It also sounds expensive. That’s where using points come in. Initially this sounds counterintuitive and if you’re thinking that, you’re right. However, there are good reasons for doing this and for now, it is still possible. With Aeroplan merging back into Air Canada in 2020, who knows if it will be doable from 2020. So, this is a good opportunity.
Because I’ll be on my own, I don’t have to worry about dragging the kids through airports on short layovers, and it gives me more flexibility in choosing flights when I’m only looking for one seat.
How is Europe on the way to Asia?
If it sounds crazy to go to Asia from Vancouver via Europe it’s because it is. A standard Aeroplan redemption allows you to have two stop overs (a stopover is longer than 24 hours) and almost as many layovers (less than 24 hours) as you want. Once you add in your destination, it means you can effectively visit three places. In the travel community, they have a name for it: the mini-round the world, or mini-RTW for short (It’s called a mini round the world because there is an actual round-the-world fare but it costs a lot more points to do that.
Most people, when trying to book reward flights notice that there are usually more stopovers and direct flights than they want when trying to book for popular destinations. For example, if you want to visit Orlando from Vancouver, you may be routed through, Chicago, Toronto, LA, or Houston. You just want to get to Disney World!
At first, this seems like an inconvenience, but with a little planning you can turn this inconvenience into opportunity. As long as you don’t mind short journeys into city and plan your itinerary, all this is possible. If you’ve ever been on a cruise, it shares a lot of similarities. Each stop is short, with less than a day for most locations. With some careful planning you can turn your flight into a land-based cruise… without the obesity.
Caveats and Limitations of Aeroplan
There are a few limitations when it comes to booking this kind of flight:
- There is a limit to the mileage you can fly per direction, called MPM
- You are allowed 2 stopovers longer than 24 hours
- You can’t hit the same city twice in the same direction.
There are other limitations, but those are the main ones. Since I’m going to be travelling to Osaka (KIX) as one my stopping points, I had to include that as either a stopover or my destination.
Getting to Osaka from Vancouver
The Maximum Permitted Miles (MPM) to go to Osaka (KIX) is currently 6922 miles (per direction). This is clearly not very much if you’re trying to go via Europe. The most direct possible flight between YVR and Japan, stopping in Europe, would be via Iceland and that’s still 9082 miles. There is also no flight between Iceland and Osaka (with Star Alliance carriers).
So in order to make Vancouver–Europe–Asia work you have to find a destination with a higher MPM and make Osaka one of your stopovers. Since a stopover can be longer than the time at the destination, this isn’t a problem.
Istanbul: Gateway of Asia and Europe
For this particular redemption I really wanted to visit Istanbul in Turkey on the way to Osaka. This, of course, is impossible with Osaka as my destination, so I had to turn Osaka into a stopover and find a destination that was far enough away from Vancouver to give me some leeway in the maximum number of miles I’m allowed to travel in one direction. Aeroplan does this so that you can’t, for example, travel from Vancouver to Toronto via Australia. It makes sense.
Since making Osaka my destination wouldn’t work, I had to search for a destination that would work. And that’s where Singapore ends up being a great location.
Singapore: The key that unlocks Asia
There are no direct flights between Vancouver (YVR) and Singapore (SIN). Singapore is also close to the equator and far away. It also has great airline connections all over the world and you have to go directly over Japan to get to and from there. It seems like the perfect choice.
The MPM for Singapore is, currently, 13,206 miles. That extra leeway definitely allows a routing through Istanbul. Since there is no direct flight from YVR-IST, you have to go through either Toronto (YYZ) or Montreal (YUL). Even with a connection, through YUL, Istanbul is 7,100 miles away, which leaves me 6106 miles to get to Singapore with. Since Singapore is 5,387 miles away from Istanbul, I have a respectable 719 miles of leeway.
|Vancouver (YVR)||Montreal (YUL)||2,295 mi|
|Montreal (YUL)||Istanbul (IST)||4,805 mi|
|Istanbul (IST)||Singapore (SIN)||5,387 mi|
So, it looks like I’m flying to Singapore, via Istanbul… with a long stopover in Osaka on the way home.
In my next post, I’ll share the first part of the itinerary to Istanbul.