If you ever go to the Travel page on the Air Miles website you will see the link for Travel Specials. There you’ll often find a percentage discount for flight redemptions on Air Canada, WestJet or Porter. The terms for these discounts typically include a list of eligible cities, a booking period, a travel period and blackout dates. The challenge is finding base level flights available with the discount applied. Below are the results of a bit of searching today.
WestJet discounts of 15% require booking by June 17 with a travel period up to December 14 depending on the destination.
Air Canada discounts are 25% for Onyx members and 15% for all others. The book by date is June 30. The travel period is stated as June 3-26 but it seems it’s supposed to be July.
The first issue with the Air Miles flight specials is their tendency to be inaccurate. Because the discount page has been prone to errors and omissions since it has existed, I never fully trust the information. Sometimes a stated discount is nowhere to be found in any search results. Other times a discount will appear in the results with no mention of it on the website.
It’s annoying but it can sometimes work to your advantage. If it appears that your trip falls into blackout dates, do the search anyway and you might be pleasantly surprised. That might not happen with these discounts but it’s always worth checking.
Second, a big reason that people disparage the Air Miles program is the scarcity of flights at the base redemption level. A discount is most appealing when applied to the lowest number of miles required to redeem. However, if your dates are fixed the discount might merely be a chance to save you some miles on a high redemption amount so it won’t feel like much of a score. But if you’re flexible and just out to find a deal, then dig around and see what you can find. Check frequently as availability changes. Although deals can be elusive, they are out there.
Here are a few examples from Maritime airports that reflect a 15% discount on the base redemption level. I used an account with Gold status so there was no improved availability via Onyx.
Saint John – Chicago (via Toronto)
1615 Air Miles + $163.24
I have mentioned previously in the blog that hotel rates are quite low in Chicago during the first week in July. You can get a nice, well located hotel for under $150 CAD per night.
Halifax – Iles-de-la-Madeleine/Magdalen Islands (via Montreal)
1275 Air Miles + $93.44
This is a high value redemption considering the pricey airfare. If you want some inspiration and information for this destination check out this great blog post on Packing Light Travel.
Sydney – Quebec City (via both Halifax and Toronto)
1105 Air Miles + $210.15
This one has an option that includes an interesting set of layovers if you have stamina and a reason to spend a day in Toronto on your way there and a few hours in Halifax on the journey home. (Of course, if you encounter a flight delay or cancellation your layover plans could be ruined).
An interesting bit about short-haul Air Miles flights is that although you can’t build in a true stopover like you can with Aeroplan, you can however connect through cities outside the redemption category’s territory. With the 15,000 Aeroplan short-haul option you cannot connect in Toronto on your way to your destination from the Maritimes.
These discounts are great if you can find them. One reason it’s nice to have Onyx status is the occasional increased discount beyond the one offered to Gold or Blue collectors. Also, if you are a holder of the BMO Air Miles World Elite MasterCard, it includes a 15% discount for redemptions in North America with no blackout periods.