The Velocity program has partnered with Air Canada for several years. Air Canada as a partner gives you great redemption possibilities to North America and a potential transit port en route to Europe if you want to avoid the US. The program is often underappreciated, but I think it’s worth looking into as travel times to Europe are only a couple of hours longer than flying westerly. Given that Qantas has also partnered with Westjet (with easy and cheap redemptions), combining these two will give you further options. Here is how you can use Velocity points on Air Canada flights.
Earn Velocity points with Air Canada
Due to code-sharing arrangements, Air Canada flights will earn points differently depending on if the flight number starts with VA or AC. VA flights earn 2 points per mile in Business, down to 0.5 points per mile on the discount economy. In comparison, AC ticketed flights earn 1.25-1.5 points per mile in business, depending on the class, and the lowest economy fares earn at least 0.5 points per mile for international flights (see below). The points-earning arrangement is less favourable with Air Canada ticketed flights, and it is worth checking to see if points can be credited to a different frequent flyer scheme such as Krisflyer. At the time of writing, it seems like the differences are negligible and currently, Velocity remains
Redeem Air Canada flights with Velocity points.
Redeeming points is done quickly, although finding reward seats can be challenging. Air Canada has relatively few reward seats between Australia and Canada, and most of the ones I found were only available 11 months out. Despite this, the program offers excellent value and money-saving opportunities. A direct flight between Sydney and Vancouver is $2,600 per person in October 2023. The same flight can be had for as little as 56,000 points and $102 in charges. Air Canada also flies to Brisbane and Auckland (on a seasonal basis), giving other potential avenues to redeem flights. The taxes here are lower than flying from Sydney (only $36 from Auckland). Let’s consider how you might leverage this partnership to travel to Europe and North America.
Flying to USA, Mexico and Europe with Velocity Points
One significant advantage of flying through Vancouver is that it offers US Customs and Border Protection preclearance. This means you can clear US Customs in Vancouver if your connecting flight is to the US and your flight arrives as a domestic flight, saving you hours of queueing at hectic airports. If you’re a US Citizen or Canadian with a visa, the process can be further streamlined by downloading the Mobile Passport Control App on the Customs and Border Protection website.
Vancouver is a significant hub, not only for Air Canada but also for Canada’s second-largest airline Westjet. In addition, it’s served by United Airlines, which flies to multiple US destinations. What this means for you is that you can use Velocity points to fly to Vancouver, and if you can find a connecting flight on Air Canada to your destination, great! Otherwise, you can use Velocity points on United Airlines to get you to any of their hundreds of destinations through their hub. United Airlines has outstanding value Velocity redemptions, and I’ve found their seat availability to exceed Velocity’s other international partners far, so it’s worth a look. For example, a flight from Vancouver to Cancun with United will set you back 22,300 points + $148 in taxes. This means you get a flight to Mexico for about $250 and just over 78,000 points – a fantastic deal. If you’re still struggling to find availability, your last option is to utilise Qantas points (if you’re a points collector, you’re bound to have some of these) on Westjet redemptions. Westjet flies from Vancouver to Cancun for 24,500 Qantas points and $104 in taxes.
This same technique applies to flights to Europe. In many cases, Air Canada has limited award availability. However, seats from Vancouver are readily available on United Airlines, meaning you can still use your Velocity points for the whole redemption if desired. I advocate for using mixed airline points to maximise your chances of available seats. This means you should have a collection of Qantas and Velocity points plus Krisflyer if you want to. This allows you to leverage partners of all airlines and utilise unique partnerships like that of Velocity and Air Canada when a seat pops up. The partnership remains a good value proposition, but the biggest downside is reward availability which you will struggle to find. United offers similar value but much easier to find redemptions to any destination they fly.