If you participated in last year’s “Shop The Block” Air Miles promotion, you hopefully saw the bonus miles post to your account last week. If they didn’t, or if the bonus amount is incorrect, be sure to contact Air Miles with your transaction info to get your missing miles. Now, with your increased balance, perhaps you’d like to redeem them for a little getaway? I took a look to see what I could find for March Break and Easter.
Redeeming Air Miles for Flights
One of the best redemption options with Air Miles is a short-haul or medium-haul flight. The goal is to find availability at the lowest redemption level for low or high season according to the Air Miles flight reward chart. In addition, it’s great if you can capitalize on a discount that brings it below even the base amount. If you have Onyx status (6000 miles earned in a calendar year), that often helps in terms of discounts.
Remember, if you don’t have enough Air Miles for a flight at the base level, but you do have enough for a discounted flight, hit the back button on your browser when it tells you that you don’t have enough miles to see the results. For example, if you don’t have 4400 miles (for 2 people return to Toronto in high season), the website will automatically say you don’t have enough miles, even though there are discounted flights you can book for less than that amount.
I sure don’t have enough Air Miles to fly 8 people to New Zealand return (15,000 in low season, 20,000 in high season, per person), but I can still check availability…
The search results below could be gone by the time this post goes up.
Even more aggravating than the usual reward flight availability issues, the Air Miles website is bad for glitches and a particularly annoying one appeared while I was searching.
Note that I chose varying numbers of passengers when looking for availability – if you’re flying solo, you’ll likely have more options.
Remember that you must check each airport separately for cities that have multiple options like Toronto, New York City, Washington, Chicago etc.
Nova Scotia March Break
Popular travel periods are a real challenge when it comes to redeeming miles of any type. For March Break, if you’re flexible with the destination or if you’re okay not travelling for the whole week, that can help to reveal some possibilities.
Halifax – Toronto
The base reward level for Halifax – Toronto in March is 2200 miles (high season). With a discount of 25% on Air Canada redemptions for Onyx collectors, there’s availability departing Sunday, March 15th, returning Sunday, March 22nd for 1650 miles + $147 per person.
The airfare for those exact flights is currently at $640 per person. The cheapest on another airline is $508 on Porter.
My general rule is if the reward booking at least matches the value of “cash” category miles (95 = $10), then it’s a good enough redemption. And if you’re paying for accommodation and buying tickets for everyone to Come From Away, any method to save on the trip is welcome.
Moncton – Fort Lauderdale
If you live in northeast NS, consider flying out of Moncton instead of Halifax. Here’s a good 5 night option to South Florida at 3000 miles + $163.28 per person.
With the Onyx 25% discount it’s a good redemption value compared to the cash fare of $811, although there is a cheaper Air Canada option of $657 with an afternoon outbound departure.
Halifax – Miami
Here is an example of the annoying issue I mentioned above. It says the flight is no longer available after you choose your return.
What makes me believe it’s a glitch, and the flights are actually still available, is the fact that you can book the same exact flights as separate one-ways. However, the problem with booking two one-ways instead of a return is that you lose the Onyx discount as it only applies to returns. You must also pay the additional mileage amount required on one-ways. A high season return flight to Miami is 4000 miles from Maritime airports. Unlike how it currently works with Aeroplan, a one-way is more than half the miles required for a return.
Here are a couple of options I found for the Easter long weekend.
Halifax – Boston
There is availability from Halifax non-stop in both directions at the base level of 1500 miles + $162.21 (April is low season). It would be $532 if paying cash.
Moncton – Washington, DC
If you’re interested in seeing the tail end of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, there appear to be a few seats available out of Moncton. This would be a super deal at 1125 miles + $167.80 per person for a return flight that would otherwise be a whopping $938 on those dates.
The problem is, after you select the outbound and inbound, it says the flight is no longer available, as with the Miami example earlier. And again, despite that, you can still book those exact flights as one-way journeys at 900 miles each plus taxes and fees. I wonder if these dates are supposed to be blacked out for the discount but are still being displayed, though not bookable. But if that’s the case, why does the Moncton – Fort Lauderdale flight not have the same issue?
Perhaps it’s within the realm of possibility that you could book two one-ways and get reimbursed the difference between those and a return flight, to at least get it for 1500, if an Air Miles representative would acknowledge the obvious glitch.
Alternatively, if you have some flexibility to stay an extra day, there is availability for a few hundred more miles returning on Tuesday. If paying cash, those flights would be $713 each.
The key with finding reward flight availability is to be flexible and persistent with your searching. Also be mindful of the fact that the website does not always behave as it should. I guess you could try to take some small bit of comfort in the fact that a rare occasion might come along when an error works in your favour. Once upon a time, when I was ready to book, I noticed that the taxes and fees had a misplaced decimal. I paid $15 instead of $150 on two flight reservations.
If you made the effort to do a promo like Shop The Block, you should explore all the possibilities to use your miles. Although the website can be frustrating, just keep checking it to see what appears. Good luck.