OTTAWA – For those who have ever had trouble booking a flight using points or cursed about having to pay hundreds of dollars for a fuel surcharge, Avery Campbell is looking to help.
Campbell’s company Awarding Canada aims to help travellers book flights using their reward points more efficiently.
The availability of points flights can vary from airline to airline, while the rules and fees associated with fuel surcharges also differ between carriers and destinations.
Some, including Air Canada, add fuel surcharges for points flights that are passed on by Aeroplan in addition to other applicable taxes and airport fees. Those costs can add up.
But not all airlines are the same. Some don’t add the same surcharges. The trick is knowing the ins and outs of the booking rules and how to navigate them.
“We’ll typically try to build an itinerary that focuses on those less expensive carriers,” Campbell says of his Ottawa-based consulting business.
Those savings could outweigh the fee Awarding Canada charges to help book the trip, he says.
“We’ll typically find that clients will save between $400 to $800 using our service versus doing it themselves and often we’ll find availability that clients can’t find at all with Aeroplan or other frequent flyer programs.”
Online forums like FlyerTalk are filled with like-minded travellers sharing tips and advice on award travel. Websites like ExpertFlyer also offer information on the best options available, while the KVS Availability Tool can also help find you a seat.
But Campbell says they can take time to learn and that’s where Awarding Canada comes in.
“I would encourage people to learn how to use these tools to make themselves better flyers, but just know it will take a lot of time and a lot of patience in order to use the tools to their benefit,” he says.
Aeroplan says it recognizes that fuel surcharges are an irritant for its customers, but it notes that they are imposed by the airlines and passed on directly to customers.
The program made changes in April that allows customers to pay for extra taxes and fuel surcharges using points.
“We’ve been working intensely over the last couple of years to improve the overall member experience,” says Christa Poole, a spokeswoman for Aimia (TSX:AIM), the company that owns Aeroplan.
With more than five million active members, Aeroplan issues more reward flights than any other loyalty program in Canada. The program issued 1.9 million reward flights on Air Canada and Star Alliance airlines last year.
Campbell started Awarding Canada in May 2015 while he was a law student at Queen’s University and is continuing to focus on building it now that he’s graduated.
“It’s still a home-based business, but the plans for expansion are being a business-to-business supplier, so working with travel agents that currently don’t have the skills to books award trips,” he says.