In a previous blog post I discussed how crediting miles to Aegean Air is the fastest route to attaining Star Alliance Gold status. But of course the miles you earn aren’t just used towards getting status – like on any other airline they can also be redeemed for travel!
Up until recently Aegean had a pretty draconian awards booking policy. Once you booked an award, that was it. No changes allowed. If you wanted to cancel you could, but you would only get 50% of your miles back. Ouch!
Thankfully they changed that a few months ago. Award tickets can now be changed or cancelled for a 30 Euro fee (and with a cancellation you get all of your points back). Much more reasonable.
Unfortunately their online booking engine for award tickets leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it an engine – it’s just a webform where you enter the cities you want to travel to, and then someone will get back to you! Not quite user friendly, nor helpful when you are trying to snap up award inventory that can disappear quickly. So in almost all cases, a phone call to their award centre in Greece will be needed to make an awards booking. I suggest that you do some research on other airline’s sites to search for reward availability before calling (I tend to use ANA’s website, but Aeroplan and United also are usually good bets).
For my particular booking, I knew exactly what I wanted. A ticket on Air Canada from Toronto to Vancouver, a few days before Christmas. For those not familiar with this route, tickets are expensive at the best of times. Around Christmas they are astronomical, with reward availability being scarce. On Aeroplan’s site I managed to find one flight that was available using miles. Aeroplan wanted 17,000 miles + $83 taxes for the award (on Aeroplan one-way rewards are NOT half the price of a return reward). I knew that on Aegean a one-way award ticket within North America is only 12,500 miles, so it seemed like a good time to start using up my Aegean points.
I called the Aegean Call Centre (using Skype since I was calling Greece) and was quickly speaking to an agent. I want to mention here that this agent, and every Aegean agent I have spoken to had perfect English, and were extremely professional and polite. So I give them full kudos for that.
The agent was quickly able to find the flight I wanted, and asked me if I wanted to book the award for 12,500 miles and 300 Euro in taxes, plus a 20 Euro booking fee.
300 Euro in taxes? That didn’t make any sense. How on earth could the taxes be 300 Euro, when Aeroplan wanted $83? The agent said he didn’t know, but that’s what the computer said. I asked him if he could check with a supervisor, and he said he would double check with his rate desk, but that may take a day or two. I requested that he put the flight on hold with Air Canada, since I knew the award ticket would be snapped up by someone else quickly. He said there was no way he could do that, but he promised he would call me back as soon as he heard back from the rate desk.
In the meantime, I did a bit of online research, and found a thread on Flyertalk.com where other people were having similar issues. Apparently the Aegean computers were calculating the taxes (including the 13% Canadian Harmonized Sales Tax) on a full-fare economy ticket, even though this was an awards ticket that should be calculated with a $0 base fare.
The agent called me back the next day with good news. The rate desk came back and said that the correct tax was 61 Euro. This was slightly more in line with what I was expecting. But alas, the bad news was that the award inventory was no longer available to book. Someone else had snapped it up. Grrrr. I was SOL.
I kept checking Aeroplan every day to see if any new inventory opened up. Miracle of miracles, a flight DID open up that worked for my schedule. So onto Skype I went again to call Aegean. And once again, the agent came back with 300 Euro in taxes for the ticket. I explained the entire story of what happened with the previous booking attempt, but alas she was still forced to only go with what her computer told her, and would have to contact the rate desk. I pleaded with her to put the award on hold, and she said “sure, no problem”, and gave me a PNR for the hold.
Thankfully, she called me back the next day with the correct tax amount, and the hold stayed held. I was able to get the ticket!
So the morals of this story are:
And as a footnote, I also want to mention that there are a few sweet spots to Aegean’s award chart. While some awards are way overpriced compared to other airlines (80K from Canada/US to Hawaii in economy?? No thanks!), some are quite sweet (since they only have one North American region, awards from Canada/US to the Caribbean or Mexico are only 25K in economy and 42.5K in business!). Their full chart can be found here: http://en.aegeanair.com/milesandbonus/program-description/spend-miles/