Aeroplan's 'micro-Round-The-World' Award
Still the most flexible stop-over program of any airline award program!
In this section, we'll talk about my favourite award ticket, the one that makes up most of the questions I get through this site and on social media; Air Canada / Aeroplan's insanely flexible 'micro-Round-The-World', or 'μRTW' for short.
Many frequent-flyer programs allow a free stop-over at the parent airline's home city, for example Emirates allows a free stop in Dubai, and Cathay allows a free stop in Hong Kong. Using Aeroplan, you can fit a week each in Melbourne and Marrakech, and overnights in Montreal and Munch, all into a single award.
That's why I call the μRTW one of the most valuable flight awards in the world.
Okay - let's get started!
The first thing to know is that there's officially no such thing as a 'micro-Round-The-World' award, you won't find that name anywhere in Aeroplan's website and an Aeroplan agent may be confused if you call and ask for one. There is no actual product by that name, it's just the nickname used to refer to the process of using Aeroplan's generous routing miles to book long, complex flight awards.
So, what is a 'μRTW', then?
The short version is really simple; on an overseas flight reward, Aeroplan's rules allow you your destination, plus any long stop-overs that's "on the way", plus multiple stops of 24 hours or less, as long as you complete the whole trip within 365 days of departure.
...but this means that if your destination is far enough from your origin, then virtually anywhere on Earth is "on the way" - and this is how one award ticket can turn into a trip around the world!
This relies on an Aeroplan rule known as "Maximum Permitted Mileage" (MPM), which is a formula they use to determine how far you can fly while still counting as "on the way" to your destination. If you're interested in the nerdy details, I go into that in more depth on another page.
All you really need to know is that MPM determines the total number of miles you can fly between your origin and your destination - and the further apart your origin and destination are, the higher the MPM.
Understanding The Rules
The first thing to remember is that the Maximum Permitted Mileage (MPM) applies to the distance from your Origin to your Destination - which means that's the number of miles you're allowed to fly on the way there, and then again on the way back, rather than the total for the whole trip.
Aeroplan doesn't share the math they use to calculate MPM, but it generally allows for a pretty flexible set of connections. They also won't tell you what MPM is for your trip, but a bunch of my fellow travel nerds keep a list on Flyertalk with the numbers we've been able to find.
If you need to know the precise MPM for your specific trip, our friends at Prince Of Travel explain that in depth right here.
Here's a couple of common examples - note that the number shown is each way.
Toronto YYZ to Singapore - 15,441 miles
Toronto YYZ to Delhi DEL - 11,470 miles
Montreal YUL to Perth PER - 18,204 miles
Vancouver YVR to Johannesburg JNB - 16,372 miles
To give you a bit of comparison, a straight line from Toronto to Singapore is 9,323 miles, but because you can't fly that route direct, MPM gives quite a bit of room for different routings.
If I were to fly Toronto --> Paris --> Istanbul --> Singapore, and return Singapore --> Hong Kong --> Tokyo --> San Francisco --> Toronto, that's less than 11,000 miles each way, so you've got room for quite a bit of flexibility.
Short Stops vs. Long Stops
Aeroplan's rules require that your whole ticket be completed within 365 days of departure. Within that time, you're allowed as long as you like at your destination, plus as long as you like at your stop-over city, plus as many more "layover" stops as you'd like, as long as those layover stops are 24 hours or less.
Searching And Booking
Once you've found your MPM, you'll need to work out the actual distance between the cities you want to include in your trip. I like to use the free Air Miles Calculator tool, but there's lots of great, free options online.
I find the best method is to start with the longest flights to your Destination and desired Stops, as they'll chew up the greatest part of your permitted miles, and from there you'll have an idea of how much room you've got left for side trips and Layovers along the way.
Based on that information, I'll look for flights one at a time, usually on the United website, and build myself a list of available flights that fit my plan.
Once I've got that list, I'll check the actual flying distance to make sure I'm within mileage, then call in to book the flights with an Aeroplan phone agent. There's a $30 fee to book by phone, but the Aeroplan website simply can't handle trips this complicated, so you've got to call in.
When you call in, tell the agent what you're doing, and that you've got a list picked out of all the flights you want, and they'll walk you through it one at a time. For something like the Toronto-to-Singapore example I listed above, you should expect this whole phone call to take 30-60 minutes.