Great news! It looks like there will soon be another option to get to Europe non-stop from Halifax. Germany’s largest airline, Lufthansa, will be offering non-stop service between Frankfurt and Halifax during the summer months in 2022. If you’re an Aeroplan member or are interested in collecting points for a trip to Europe, this new route opens a lot of doors.
Halifax – Frankfurt on Lufthansa/Eurowings Discover
I was recently alerted to the existence of this new route (thanks Fernand) but I was not able to find out much about it online. One exception was a German website that mentioned the announcement last month. Interestingly, it said the flight will be operated by Eurowings Discover, a Lufthansa subsidiary focused on leisure travel. When you do a search with that name you’ll uncover more information about the new route.
As I understand it, Eurowings Discover is a separate entity from Eurowings, the airline’s existing budget carrier which primarily operates short-haul flights. The Halifax flight shows up on Aeroplan and elsewhere simply as Lufthansa and is integrated into the parent airline’s large network in Europe and beyond.
What About Condor?
I was particularly surprised by this news because Halifax already has a seasonal non-stop to Germany. Condor has offered service to Frankfurt (and sometimes Munich) for several years and has included the route in its schedule for next year. Like Lufthansa, Condor will fly from YHZ three days a week. So between the two of them, most days will have a Frankfurt departure available.
Condor has been an excellent option to get to the continent non-stop where you could then connect to many different destinations. It occasionally has super low one-way fares, especially at the end of the season in mid to late October.
This route also provides an opportunity to redeem Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles on flights to Frankfurt and beyond on Condor-operated flights to vacation destinations in southern Europe. With Alaska Airlines joining the oneworld alliance, there is some uncertainty around the future of Condor’s partnership with Alaska but members will have three months notice if any changes happen. (Maritime residents who hold the MBNA Alaska Airlines MasterCard can also take a bit of comfort knowing they can use those miles on American Airlines which has announced the resumption of its seasonal Halifax service to Philadelphia next year.)
The new Lufthansa non-stop to Frankfurt it is scheduled to depart Halifax on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 7:45 pm beginning June 13, 2022. Opinions vary but this seems a more reasonable hour compared to the late night departures of the other transatlantic non-stops.
The plane is listed as an A340-300 despite the articles referencing the A330 so this might be subject to change. In any case, you can do a search on Lufthansa’s website to see a seatmap and then check SeatGuru for details and reviews on the aircraft type and seat layout.
35k Aeroplan Points One-Way
Lufthansa is a member of the Star Alliance and Aeroplan partner so you can redeem points for this flight. And because the flight is on a partner airline, the points required will not be subject to dynamic pricing under the new Aeroplan program. Instead, the redemption amount is fixed but flight reservations will be subject to a partner booking fee of $39.
The Aeroplan points required is determined by the miles flown between the origin and destination airports, as set out in the chart below. Europe is in the Atlantic zone so flights between Halifax and Europe start at 35,000 points one-way in economy.
According to ITA Software, the flight between Halifax and Frankfurt is 3252 miles so it’s 35k points plus taxes and fees.
You may recall in the old Aeroplan there were two zones: Europe 1 and Europe 2. A one-way in economy was 30,000 miles for Europe 1 and 37,500 miles for Europe 2. Much of western Europe was in Europe 1 but central and eastern countries fell into the second category.
More notably, in the old Aeroplan redemptions were subject to hefty fuel surcharges on Air Canada and certain partner airlines including Lufthansa. To get around this you had to book on airlines like United or Swiss to avoid the extra cost but then face the prospect of making two connections to get to your destination from Halifax.
This new format is a major improvement in that regard and the addition of this non-stop to Germany means you can connect to a long list of airports in the Lufthansa network out of FRA. You’ll pay more in fees than if it were an all Air Canada flight, but the fixed pricing and having only one connection arguably makes up for that.
Connecting in Frankfurt – So Many Possibilities
As noted in the chart, the destinations requiring the fewest points in the Atlantic zone are those that fall under 4000 total miles. If not, you’ll need to cough up 5000 more points each way for places 4000 to 6000 miles away.
Fortunately, from Halifax there are a large number of cities that fall under that limit (including many that would have actually required more miles in the old Aeroplan).
As mentioned, I used ITA Software to find the miles but I’m not certain if those numbers are the same as what Aeroplan uses. Still, it’s something to use as a guide. For instance, Halifax – Frankfurt – Krakow is 3748 miles.
Other cities that fall under 4000 miles (and confirmed as bookable for 35k on Aeroplan) include places like Naples, Italy, Ljubljana, Slovenia or Bergen, Norway. It’s incredible that you can reach so many destinations with only one connection from Halifax on Aeroplan points.
But there is obviously going to be a bit of weirdness in the distance-based redemption structure. For example, when connecting in Frankfurt, Barcelona is 35k but Madrid is 40k, Stockholm is 40k but Gothenburg is 35k, and so on.
Of course, you can also monitor the dynamically priced flights on Air Canada connecting in Montreal, Toronto etc. Although 35k is displayed as the starting point on the chart, flights have shown up for less than 35k along with a modest extra discount for being an Aeroplan credit cardholder with the preferred pricing perk.
The airfares on this route are very high right now but June 2022 is a long way off. The downside to mainline carrier fares, however, is that you don’t typically find deals on one-way fares on transatlantic flights. An exception would be the Halifax – London Heathrow outbound segment on Air Canada that often shows up in the $300s, but otherwise you’ll typically only find low one-way fares to or from Halifax on WestJet or Condor.
It can therefore sometimes make sense to combine an Aeroplan redemption with a reasonably priced one-way cash fare for the other direction. Case in point, my last trip to Europe involved a one-way flight to Gdansk booked with Aeroplan and a very cheap one-way cash fare home from Warsaw on Condor.
Another feature of the new Aeroplan program is the ability to book stopovers on one-way flights. Previously, you had to have a round-trip ticket to add a free stopover. Now, for an extra 5000 points you can include a stopover on any redemption as long as it’s outside North America. (So you could spend a few days in the Rhine or Mosel valleys before you fly onward from Frankfurt).
Annoyingly, this cannot yet be booked online and word is that phone agents are not all up to speed with this element of the program so it can be a challenge to add a stopover to your itinerary at the moment.
Accumulating Aeroplan Points
If you’re short on Aeroplan points, the easiest way to acquire some is to apply for an Aeroplan credit card (TD, CIBC or Amex) or for a card that earns Amex Membership Rewards that are convertible 1:1 to Aeroplan. You can also convert many hotel loyalty currencies to Aeroplan at varying ratios.
As of writing, there are several higher than normal sign-up offers on credit cards. I’ll briefly mention a few but make sure to review all the terms carefully for any card that you’re considering.
Note that the Buddy Pass offered with the Visa Infinite cards can be converted into 30,000 Aeroplan points under an unpublished policy. And you may hold more than one Aeroplan credit card but you can only receive one Buddy Pass in each credit card category (core, premium or business).
TD Aeroplan Visa Platinum – 20,000 points
TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite – 20,000 poins plus Buddy Pass
CIBC Aeroplan Visa – 10,000 points
CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite – 20,000 points plus Buddy Pass
Amex Aeroplan Card – up to 75,000 points
In addition, there are a wide array of premium and business cards that you might find suitable for your purposes or circumstances. One popular card, the Amex Cobalt, will apparently soon be earning Amex Membership Rewards of the type that can be converted to Aeroplan so that one is definitely worth checking out in light of its popular spending category multipliers.
Remember also to watch your email for any targeted or pre-approved credit card offers. There is currently an online only offer for 45,000 Aeroplan points with the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite card that goes until July 21, 2021.
Aside from credit cards or points earned from Star Alliance flights, you can also earn Aeroplan points from online shopping via the eStore portal or by setting your earning preference to Aeroplan with certain hotel loyalty programs or sites like Rocketmiles. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many partner retailers but hopefully we’ll see more in the future. Stores like Home Hardware and Starbucks are convenient for keeping points from expiring but not so useful for accumulation.
What a wonderful surprise to see a new direct flight from Halifax to Europe. As far as I can recall there has always just been Air Canada’s non-stop to London Heathrow if you wanted to earn or redeem with Aeroplan without heading west or south to connect before setting off across the Atlantic.
We now have a terrific new opportunity to expand our post-pandemic travel planning horizons. Maybe it will even inspire some folks to get serious about points and miles. Perhaps this non-stop to Europe on a wide-body aircraft with lie-flat business class seats will also be of particular interest to those who seek a bit more comfort on their journey.
It does seem a little odd though to have two non-stop options to Frankfurt from Halifax. Yet, there have been two flights to London for quite a while (Air Canada and WestJet), albeit to two different airports. I guess it’s best not to question it – just enjoy exploring all your travel options and keep collecting points.