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US Airways just loaded some competitive roundtrip business class fares to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil:
$2,005 total roundtrip from JFK (via Charlotte) = 10,471 base miles, plus class of service bonus depending on where you bank your miles
$2,005 total roundtrip from Miami (via Charlotte) = 10,688 base miles, plus class of service bonus depending on where you bank your miles
$2,191 total roundtrip from LAX (via Charlotte) = 13,638 base miles, plus class of service bonus depending on where you bank your miles
These book into A class for the domestic legs and Z class for the international portion. Both A and Z earn 150% accrual in US Airways Dividend Miles, meaning your total elite and redeemable miles would both be 15,707 for JFK-CLT-GIG and 20,457 for LAX-CLT-GIG. Note: US Airways and American are merging, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to combine elite miles this year, so I wouldn’t recommend buying and flying a US Airways flight if you need that to count towards your 2014 American elite status.
When searching other cities, it looks like American has matched these fares in US hubs, like Philadelphia- PHL-MIA-GIG roudntrip in business for $2,007 roundtrip!
These fares are bookable on usairways.com, but I used the ITA Matrix to search by the month to pull up all available dates, of which there are many. There also doesn’t seem to be a minimum stay, so quick trips are a possibility. Fares are usually upwards of $3,500-$5,000, so this is nearly 50% off and the fare is good almost all year long- even in December over Christmas and New Year’s! I spent New Year’s in Rio three years ago and it was incredible- such a party all across the city and the famed party on Copacabana beach where you wear all white and run into the ocean at midnight for good luck.
While US Airways isn’t known for top notch premium service, Charlotte- Rio de Janeiro is serviced by their Airbus A330 aircraft, which is fitted with their premium lie-flat sleeper seats and they generally get great reviews from travelers. I haven’t flown them on US Airways, but Cathay Pacific has the same seats in business class, which I really like.
Rio is a lot more expensive than you might realize, plus you need to get a $160 visa before leaving- I wrote about my process here. Since then, TPG reader Steve at Allied Passport handles all of my visas and their expediency and time saved is well worth their fees in my opinion.
I redeemed points to stay at the Intercontinental in Sao Conrado, which was an okay hotel, but it is about 15-20 minutes out of the action. Next time I go to Rio, I’d like to stay at the JW Marriott or splurge and stay at the top notch Fasano. Though realistically, I’ll probably just rent an apartment, since that can be the most economical option.
I can’t imagine these fares will last long, so book now if you’re interested- US Airways has a 24 hour risk free cancellation in case you decide you can’t swing it. This is a big airfare purchase, so make sure you maximize it and get the most points possible- check out this point for my tips on maximizing airfare purchases.
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Hat tip TPG reader Scott / Passageiro de Primeira (Portuguese)