The Best Ways to Use Miles and Points to Get to South America

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South America is full of natural wonders and history but it’s also full of great options to get there while redeeming miles and points. In some instances, you might be able to get anywhere in South America for as little as 75,000 miles for a round trip business class ticket! Here’s a look at some of the best ways to use miles and points to get from North America to South America.

A quick note: South America is normally divided by airlines into two regions: north and south or upper and lower. Not all airlines define the upper and lower regions of South America the same, so it’s very important to make sure you’re clear on how the airline you’re going with defines them. For that reason, I’ve included how each program breaks down (or doesn’t break down) South America into regions. 

Asiana Airlines

  • Alliance: Star Alliance
  • Earn points: SPG, co-branded Bank of America Card

Asiana Airlines is the second largest carrier out of South Korea. It’s not very well known to a lot of travelers but it offers some of the best redemptions to South America on Star Alliance partners and you can book those awards with no fuel surcharges. Here are the rates.

Latin America 1

  • 35,000 roundtrip in economy to northern South America
  • 55,000 roundtrip in business to northern South America

Latin America 2

  • 50,000 roundtrip in economy to southern South America
  • 70,000 roundtrip in business to southern South America

Read more about the program here.

Alaska Airlines 

  • Alliance: Multiple Partners (AA, Delta, LAN, etc.)
  • Earn points: SPG, Alaska Airline cards

You can use your Alaska Airlines miles to get to South America by booking with partners: American Airlines, LAN, and Delta Airlines. Alaska Airlines uses a special chart for each partner when determining the milage requirements as well as the region definitions for upper and lower South America.

Using Alaska Airlines on American Airlines

The mileage requirements are just slightly better for economy flights to upper South America when you book them off-peak. For business class, the redemptions are the same for upper South America, but you end up saving 15,000 miles if you book business class to deep south America.

Below are the milage requirements for Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela, all upper South America countries.

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 2.19.55 PM

Now take a look at the redemptions for a round trip to deep South America. That’s 15,000 fewer miles in business class and 20,000 fewer miles in economy than what American Airlines requires for their SAAver Award. I think this is among the best use of miles to get to deep South America.

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 2.25.21 PM

Using Alaska Airlines on Delta Airlines

Using Alaska Airlines on Delta doesn’t get you any better mileage requirements. The economy rates aren’t horrible but the business class routes aren’t too great. 

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 2.29.20 PM

Using Alaska Airlines on LAN

When you book Alaska Airline miles on LAN, there’s no distinction between zones. This means that redeeming with LAN is a great deal when you are booking awards to lower South America where awards can be as low as 90,000 roundtrip in business class.

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Japan Airlines (JAL)

  • Alliance: OneWorld
  • Earn points: SPG

JAL operates on a distance-based award chart. The major difference between its chart and other distance-based programs like British Airways is that it can be much more lucrative in business class and getting to South America is one such example. JAL offers some of the best business class redemptions to South America. Take a look at some of the round trip redemptions below:  

Houston to Santiago, Chile 

  • Economy: 50,000 
  • Business: 80,000

New York to Lima 

  • Economy: 39,000 
  • Business: 63,000

The major knock against JAL is that it’s a bit hard to accumulate miles with them. That, and because they are a distance-based program, sometimes you won’t be able to take advantage of their amazing routes. Still, if you can take advantage of routes like 80,000 miles roundtrip to lower South America locations like Santiago, Chile, then this program can be one of the best for exploring Latin America.    

Flying Blue 

  • Alliance: SkyTeam
  • Earn points: SPG, Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, Citi Thankyou Points

https://flic.kr/p/obkAcQ Flying Blue

Photo by Can Pac Swire via Flickr

Flying Blue defines its South American regions by the following:

  • Latin America 1 (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela)
  • Latin America 2 (Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay)

Economy

The economy rates to upper South America with Flying Blue are among the best. Although not quite as much of a bargain as Alaska Airlines, they still offer solid redemptions at 50,000 roundtrip to lower South America.

  • Latin America 1
    • 35,000 roundtrip
  • Latin America 2
    • 50,000 roundtrip

Business class

Unfortunately, the business class redemptions with Flying Blue to South America are not very good at all and you can do much better if you can book with other airlines.

  • Latin America 1
    • 87,500
  • Latin America 2
    • 125,000

ANA 

  • Alliance: Star Alliance
  • Earn points: SPG, Membership Rewards 

ANA makes no distinction between upper and lower South America for its partner awards.

Their redemption rates are:

Economy

  • 50,000 roundtrip

Business class

  • 80,000 roundtrip

Since ANA doesn’t bother to distinguish between upper and lower South America, it makes no surprise that the bargain lies with bookings to the lower parts of South America. 50,000 miles roundtrip to lower South America in economy is pretty good but 80,000 in business class is an absolute steal. However, as stated, if you’re planning to fly out to the upper parts of South America, ANA is not going to offer you the best bang for your buck.

While ANA does pass on surcharges to many airlines they do not pass them on when booking when United. Take a look at the booking below, where a round trip in business class with United is booked with only $87.66 in fees! And if you wanted to add a stopover you could still work that in.

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 4.42.45 PM

Korean Air

  • Alliance: SkyTeam
  • Earn points: Ultimate Rewards

korean air plane

Photo by My16SidedOffice via Flickr.

SkyTeam

Korean Air is another airline that doesn’t distinguish between regions in South America. Like, ANA Korean Air also does not allow for one-way awards, so you’ll have to be booking a round trip.

Their redemption rates are:

Economy

  • 50,000 roundtrip

Business class

  • 110,000 roundtrip

Obviously, ANA has the better deal all around compared to Korean Air but if you don’t Membership Rewards to transfer to ANA and are headed to lower South America, Korean Air is not a bad option. Also, it’s pretty easy to avoid surcharges with Korean Air when you’re flying from North America to South America with airlines like Delta, AeroMexico, etc.

Alitalia 

  • Alliance: SkyTeam
  • Earn points: Membership Rewards

Alitalia divides South America into two regions:

  • South America 1: Colombia,Ecuador,FrenchGuyana,Peru,Suriname,Trinidad&Tobago,Venezuela
  • South America 2: Argentina,Bolivia,Brazil,Chile,Uruguay

Their redemption rates are:

Economy

  • Latin America 1
    • 35,000 roundtrip
  • Latin America 2
    • 50,000 roundtrip

As you can see, the economy redemptions are very competitive compared to the other airlines.

Business class

It is the business class redemptions where Aitalia stands out, however. Just take a look at these rates. 60,000 is right on par with Alaska air lines, but 75,000 for a round trip in business class to lower South America is pretty phenomenal.

  • Latin America 1
    • 60,000
  • Latin America 2
    • 75,000

There are just a few issues with Alitalia. For one, they pass on fuel surcharges on their partner award flights and I’m not sure how much those fees can be. Second, their customer service can be a bit hit and miss when requesting things like holds, so make sure you do your research. Still, that redemption rate of 75,000 miles for roundtrip business class is pretty hard to pass up.

Aeroplan (Air Canada)

  • Alliance: Star Alliance
  • Earn points: Membership Rewards, SPG

Aeroplan is a decent option for making your way down to South America as well.

They divide South America into northern and southern regions:

This breakdown is a bit different from many of the other airlines since Peru is lumped into the southern region. 

Their redemption rates are:

Economy

  • Northern South America Region
    • 50,000 roundtrip
  • Southern South America Region
    • 60,000 roundtrip

Business class

  • Northern South America Region
    • 75,000
  • Southern South America Region
    • 110,000

I would typically only consider the business class redemption to Southern South America for 110,000 miles. However, if you’re considering transferring your Membership Rewards to Aeroplan, I’d definitely reconsider and think about using those miles to book via ANA since the deals to southern South America can be so much sweeter. The benefit to Aeroplan, however, is that you can book one way awards, which can make your life a bit easier. Like ANA, surcharges with Aeroplan can be minimized when booking with the right partners, such as United.  

American Airlines

  • Alliance: OneWorld
  • Earn points: SPG, Citi AA credit cards

https://flic.kr/p/pD7nXw American Airlines

Photo by ERIC SALARD via Flickr.

(Manaus is a city located along the Amazon River in northern Brazil.)

Economy

  • South America Region 1:
    • 35,000 roundtrip (off-peak award)
    • 40,000 roundtrip MileSAAver
  • South America Region 2:
    • Off-peak award not available
    • 60,000 roundtrip MileSAAver

Business class

  • South America Region 1:
    • 60,000 roundtrip MileSAAver
  • South America Region 2:
    • 115,000 roundtrip MileSAAver

United Airlines

  • Alliance: Star Alliance
  • Earn points: Ultimate Rewards, Chase United credit cards, SPG (2:1)

They divide South America into northern and southern regions:

This breakdown is a bit different from many of the other airlines since Peru is lumped into the southern region. 

Their redemption rates are:

Economy

  • Northern South America Region
    • 40,000 roundtrip
  • Southern South America Region
    • 60,000 roundtrip

Business class

  • Northern South America Region
    • 70,000
  • Southern South America Region
    • 110,000

There’s nothing really special about United Awards compared to some of the other programs but their redemption rates are at least in the ballpark of being competitive, so I think they are worth mentioning.

British Airways Avios

  • Alliance: OneWorld
  • Earn points: Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards (10:8), SPG, Chase BA credit card

London Heathrow U.K. - British Airways Flag carrier

Photo by Daniel Mennerich

You can’t forget about using distance-based programs, such as British Airways Avios. Since they are distance-based they don’t recognize regions within South America. Using Avios can be a great way to get to northern South America from airports in the southern United States. 

Here are some examples: 

Miami to Quito, Ecuador 

  • 20,000 roundtrip in economy
  • 40,000 roundtrip in business 

Miami to Bogota 

  • 20,000 roundtrip in economy
  • 40,000 roundtrip in business 

As your flights get longer, the flights become less appealing, especially in business class. 

Dallas to Santiago 

  • 50,000 roundtrip in economy (not bad)
  • 150,000 roundtrip in business (not good)

Thus, I wouldn’t forget about British Airways as an option if I were departing from an airport like Miami or DFW to South America. However, if I were flying further and especially if I were flying business class or higher to South America, I’d consider other options well before going with Avios. 

One thing to keep in mind is that Avios are a great option for getting around South America once you make it to the continent.

Final word

Overall, there are several great options for getting to South America. For business class to lower South America, I’d look into JAL, Alitalia, and ANA to see if I could take advantage of the awesome round trip redemptions. And for other routes, I’d try to see if I could book American Airlines or LAN with Alaska miles for the best bang for my buck! 

Cover photo by Calmuziclover via Flickr

 

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