Aeroplan has an option that many other airline point systems don’t offer. Interested in flying somewhere like, for example, Israel? That would cost you 80K points for a return trip–but why only go there? For only 20K more points, you can fly anywhere with Aeroplan–so perhaps visiting South Africa is something you’ve always wanted to do? Try this, assuming you’re starting from Toronto:
Toronto-New York (EWR) on Air Canada
New York-Tel Aviv on United or JFK to Joburg (start by going to South Africa first) on South African Airlines
Tel Aviv to Joburg to Capetown (stay on board while they make a quick stop) via Istanbul on Turkish Airlines
Capetown to Addis Ababa back to Toronto on Ethiopian Airlines (though their planes on older–sort of like flying AA)
Why not take Air Canada more, for example, directly to Tel Aviv? Fuel Surcharges are approximately $775 if it were a round trip ticket.
How to get extra Aeroplan points? You get them from welcome bonuses with AMEX (one per consumer card per lifetime, unlimited welcome bonuses on business cards) through the links on this post, this post, or this post.
By avoiding Lufthansa, Austrian Air, and Air Canada on the Star Alliance, you’ll avoid the fuel surcharges that make the trip too expensive. Of course, direct flights are the best, but if you book your flight waaay in advance, the more stopovers the better! The chances that the flight times won’t change if booked, say 10 months in advance, are minimal, and if flight times change significantly, a flight is cancelled or even if the first leg is moved an hour or two earlier, making it inconvenient, you will hopefully get an Aeroplan agent who will be willing to change your flight entirely, including cutting back on the number of stopovers significantly, with additional charges tagged on to your ticket. Flying Turkish Airlines is an excellent (and necessary) option if flying between Tel Aviv and Capetown.
For example, let’s say they decide they’ll fly you through London or Frankfurt for a more direct connection, both of which scream “FUEL SURCHARGES!!,” they won’t charge you any extra so you win! You also won’t pay any charges for changes since they’re making the changes because of the “inconvenience” of flight changes.
I made this trip a couple of years back. Coming back, originally, I was supposed to fly Capetown, Joburg, London (yes, I had to suck it up because of limited availability for my family of 4 + lap child at the time), Washington, Cleveland, Toronto. Insane! FOUR stopovers, which after two schedule changes, turned into Capetown, Joburg (I wanted to stop there anyways), London, Toronto! No US stopovers!
I’ve been trying this morning, and hit lots of difficulties though. The multi-city trip has an important rule–you CANNOT pass through the same city twice. So for example, going Point A to B to C, you have a stopover between A & B, let’s call it A1. You cannot pass through A1 at another point in the multi-city trip or it’s considered an invalid multi-city.
This is where calling Aeroplan just after 12pm weekdays (when Vancouver’s offices open and Montreal’s is open too (and perhaps Halifax?)) to get through quickest makes sense–they can check dates of availability for multi-city trips much faster than you can online. Have your computer up and running, and try to book it the multi-city while talking to them to avoid the over the phone booking fees per ticket. If not possible, tell them that–they may have the option of waiving the fee and if not, take it to a supervisor respectfully (can’t hurt to try).