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TPG reader Mark emailed me about booking an award ticket to South America using American Airlines miles:

“I wanted to book a trip to Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires with AA miles in December, but business class awards are only available at 100,000 each way! Will I ever be able to get my whole itinerary for 100,000 round-trip? And what’s the best way to track when award availability opens up? Thanks for any advice.”

American is typically difficult when it comes to redeeming long-haul international awards on their own flights. I’d recommend setting an ExpertFlyer alert, which will notify you when low-level availability opens up. This is a great tool that frees you from having to check daily for flights, but sometimes they don’t release a lot of award availability until right before the time of departure. For peace of mind, you might want to book the peak award, and then if you get an alert that the lower award has opened up, you can switch the booking.

Usie Expert Flyer to set award availability alerts.
Use Expert Flyer to set award availability alerts.

You can also get a little creative by expanding your search. Check award availability to Sao Paulo, which is just a cheap, short flight away from Rio. Try different cities, different partners, and check on LAN Airlines. LAN won’t show up on, so try calling and see if maybe you can route through Santiago, Chile, or Lima, Peru. Remember that whenever you book at the partner level, it’ll be for that low 100,000-mile round-trip level.

Try finding a flight via LAN.
Try finding a flight via LAN.

American will also allow you to have a stopover in a North American international gateway city, so if you fly via Miami you can always build in a stopover and then continue on to South America at your leisure, depending on award availability. Search the legs from the international gateway, then work backwards from there.

The beautiful Rio de Janeiro.
The beautiful Rio de Janeiro.

These are just a few tips. For related posts, see below. And good luck, Mark – if you try these tips, I’m sure you’ll be able to get your trip at the Saver level!

Let me know if you have any other questions by messaging me on Facebook, tweeting me or emailing me at

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