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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Planning the $1000 Las Vegas Vacation - part 2 Aeroplan - Pick and Click 'n Wait

Using the Air Canada Aeroplan AeroFail site is an exercise in frustration. It's a good thing I could use some exercise.

You tell it your destination and dates and click 'n wait while the AeroFail servers grind away like a six beers until cute refinery-town truckstop bar fly. Then it will propose some horrible impossible connections for you for your points flights.

Want to go from Flusherville to Vegas? Get ready to see Toronto, Montreal on the way. Oh, and by the way, you're spending the night in the Montreal airport. Or how about Toronto and Denver? Or Vancouver and LAX? Travel time 29 hours.

It has this insulting thing called the 'availability calendar'. This is a calendar which shows you the 99% of dates that have no available points flights.
AeroPlan Annoyability Calendar

They should call it the 'you're fucked calendar'.

Ok, so you can't find a decent departure, and your return is a red-eye. So you want to try another date.

Pick another day on the 'irritability calendar' and using the Search With New Futile Dates button, click 'n wait.

The return doesn't work. Choose yet another day on the 'annoyability calendar' and click 'n wait.

Meanwhile the fat is rendering from your body into glassine pools at your feet, your nails have grown, and the cobwebs have completely obscured your view of the screen.

Flights are typically 25,000 points return. But there's another option! Market Fare! What that means is you can use more - usually a LOT more - points to maybe get a flight. It's a way they have of screwing you out of your rightfully earned free trip.

As if that weren't enough, there are hard cash fees that must be paid on a points ticket, including a cleverly disguised 'carrier surcharge' which used to be a 'fuel surcharge' which is basically a 'put the jailhouse shiv into your gut and break the handle off' surcharge.

Free flights isn't free. Or should I say, a free flight aren't free.

So AeroFail has brought me a certain amount of frustration and brought you, the reader, a certain amount of ranty entertainment.

If you happen to be a customer of AC like me, I'm happy to say... there's a better way.

That better way is an online tool called ExpertFlyer. ExpertFlyer is a flight search engine on mind-bending synthetic steroids. It provides all kinds of search and alert capabilities for most airlines, including Air Canada, and most importantly, it provides Award seat availability information.

I gave the free trial version a shot some time ago but the AeroPlan stuff wasn't working. Long story short, I sprung for the Pro version for a month ($10) because it allows multi-day searches (+- 3 days) which solves the biggest shortcoming of the AeroFail site, the amount of time it takes to find flight options. (I'll can it after the month is up, and sign up again if and when I have more AeroFail points.)

On ExpertFlyer, I could see a week of departure flights and a week of return flights all in one page. Plus searches can be saved, and modified. It's pretty great.

So, using ExpertFlyer I played around with dates and options. I had three things in mind:
  • flight out
  • flight back
  • weekends
I really prefer to fly during the day, but the morning flights to Vegas are usually not available. The evening option gets me into Sin City around 1:30am my time, and if the flight is late... it can get really, really late. That makes for a very long tiring day.

My other preference is not to fly home on a red eye. You have a long day in Vegas with departure around midnight, then you try to grab a few hours sleep if you can, then you are up and at 'em 4 hours later, hanging around Pearson, then you get on to your hopper to FlusherVille just in time to head to work. It's gruelling, and frankly, I'm just not as young as I was, say, 5 minutes ago.

Finally, weekends. The best time to head out on vacation is, of course, at the start of a weekend. You get more for your money by not burning as many vacation days. If you can roll two weekends into the trip, even better.

Using ExpertFlyer, I located a flight out that seemed to work. It's on a Friday, so the weekend strategy is in play. And of course, many other Vegaddicts have the same idea. It's the evening sortie out, but getting the weekend is huge.

I kept poking around, looking for a possible return about 10 days out from the Friday departure.

And all of a sudden... there it was.

A Wednesday return was available.

And oh my God.... it was NOT A RED EYE! BOOK! BOOK! BOOK IT NOW!!!!!

I had to tab back over to the AeroFail site. Hand shaking with excitement, I put in the matching dates and locations and Click 'n Waited.

Yes, the departure was showing, yes, it was available for 25,000 points. I had enough.

And the return...

... not there.

I ran over to the Quad Queen to whine. I whined and fussed and moaned. She made me some cocoa and put on a cartoon, to calm me down.

On a hunch, I went back to the computer, logged out, logged back in and just tried it all again.


Yes, I, Royal Flusher, Savvy Gambler Extraordinaire, Flushypants the self-promoting, self-deprecating, selfie avoiding Vegas Degenerate... actually booked a points flight that does not have a return on a red eye through 9 cities taking six days in total with two of the legs on Air Canada's desert camel service.

The return flight leaves at a very savvy noon, and I'm home a little after midnight Eastern time.


So it's on, people, I'm going. Yes, I am going back to Vegas, and I am going to do this $1000 challenge trip.

Now, don't think I didn't get a totally free flight here - Air FU Canada extracted a total of $241.85 CAD in fees, taxes, and surcharges from me. And this is why we hate AeroPlan up here. That is fucking outrageous and is quite a bit higher than normal. Usually it's about $90 each way for a total of $180.

Still, the upshot is for $241.85, I have a trip to Vegas. Just for fun, I went into Air FU Canada's regular site to see how much it would be to buy the same ticket. It came out to about $1300. Now, I would never pay that, but that's what it was - partly because of no availability in the cheapest class of fare for the FLV to YYZ leg.

So I changed the FLV flight to a later flight the same day that would still get me into YYZ on time for the Vegas leg. That's what I would have purchased, if I wasn't broke.

The retail value of my flight is $689.47. So I reckon I got a good deal. Feeling chuffed, I paid an extra $42 for a Premium seat on the return leg. (None were available on the outbound.)

I'm in for $284 on a $690 flight, a savings of $406.

So far, so good. And I'm going to Vegas!

Now it's time to start hunting for room and freeplay offers.

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