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TAM, the flag carrier of Brazil, is currently in Star Alliance, but is leaving on the same day as US Airways (March 31, 2014). This is certainly a blow for those with Star Alliance miles, but TAM has always been stingy with releasing first and class availability. However, my friend Fabio who writes the Brazilian blog, PassageirodePrimeira.com (First Class Passenger), recently discovered that TAM is releasing a ton of first class award space to partners. (Check out this tour of their new 777 first class from airlinereporter.com – looks snazzy!)
To search for award space that is available to partners, you can use Aeroplan.com or the ANA search tool. Once you find space, you can book via Star Alliance partners or other airline partners like American Airlines:
This couldn’t have come at a better time because I need to go to a charity event in Sao Paulo in April and paid flights are expensive and saver award flight availability is scarce. Plus, I’ve never flown TAM and I have 105,000 orphan ANA miles sitting in my account that I’ve been looking to use. Lucky for me, it is only 100,000 miles from Miami to Sao Paulo roundtrip in first class, so I was able to book a trip on the exact dates I wanted, though the $219 in taxes/fees was a little bit annoying. However, they they did waive the $25 booking fee since I had no choice but to call in.
The exact flights I just booked would have cost $5,312, so I still feel good about the redemption! FYI ANA’s website could not price the taxes appropriately, so after I booked the flight I had to call in to their US Service center to have an agent calculate the taxes and send the reservation for ticketing.
Also, note that American Express to ANA transfer can take up to two days, so this deal may not be around in time to transfer Amex to ANA. Amex to Aeroplan transfers are usually instantaneous.
Readers have noted that there is also plenty of availability in mid-June through mid-July, right when the World Cup will be taking place, so that’s good news for anyone hoping to get down there to catch some games.
Here are some of your mileage options if you want to book a first class TAM award yourself.
American Airlines: Has an earning/redeeming partnership with TAM in advance of TAM joining one world. North America to deep South America is 62,500 each way for first class (one-ways permitted). Must call to book.
ANA: I booked my roundtrip Miami-Sao Pauolo for 100,000 miles roundtrip. Booking from NYC would have been 120,000. One-way awards price at the roundtrip level. American Express Membership Rewards transfers usually go through instantly.
United: 70,000 miles one-way for partner first class travel from the US to deep South America. Must call to book since TAM first class does not show online.
US Airways: 125,000 miles roundtrip for first class North America to South America. Must call to book. One-ways price at the roundtrip level.