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TPG Special Contributor Eric Rosen has put together guides for using miles to get to Tokyo, Sydney and Istanbul. This week, he shares insights on how to get to one of South America’s most popular destinations, Buenos Aires.
Buenos Aires is one of my favorite cities in the world. It combines the Old World grandeur of Madrid, the bohemian charm of Paris, and the bustle of South America…with a lot of great steak and red wine thrown in.
The city was on every jetsetter’s must-see list for a few years, but recent economic upheaval and political scandals booted it to the sidelines for a while. However, I still rate it as one of South America’s top destinations thanks to fantastic restaurants, a vibrant arts scene, a favorable exchange rate (bring cash!), friendly people, and enough milongas to tango away your stay in a different place every night.
This post will mainly deal with the airlines that fly from North America to Buenos Aires either non-stop or via various hubs, and then the points and miles you can use to get there. For more information on the city itself, check out my Destination of the Week: Buenos Aires post.
MILEAGE AND PARTNER INFORMATION TABLE
For those of you who just want the information in one place, here’s a table showing the various points and miles you can use to get to Buenos Aires, as well as which airline and transfer partners you can use.
The mileage numbers listed are for round-trip travel using an airline’s own miles, not those of its partners (I’ll get into that later).
|Miles/Points||Transfer and Airline Partners||Miles Needed Round-trip|
|Alaska||Aeromexico, American, Delta, Korean Air, LAN||· Economy: 40,000-60,000
· Business: 90,000-125,000
· First: 125,000
|American Airlines AAdvantage||LAN, TAM, Starwood Preferred Guest||· Economy: 40,000/60,000
· Business: 100,000
· First: 125,000
|Delta SkyMiles||Aerolineas Argentinas, Aeromexico, Alaska, GOL, Korean Air, Amex Membership Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest||· Economy: 60,000
· Business: 125,000
|United||Air Canada, Copa, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest||· Economy: 60,000
· Business: 110,000
· First: 140,000
|Aeromexico||Aerolineas Areentinas, Alaska, Delta, Flying Blue, Amex Membership Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest||· Economy: 72,000
· Business: 144,000
|Aeroplan/Air Canada||Air Canada, Copa, United, Amex Membership Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest||· Economy: 60,000
· Business: 95,000
· First: 135,000
|ANA||Air Canada, Copa, United, Amex, Starwood Preferred Guest||· Economy: 40,000
· Business: 68,000
· First: 100,000
|British Airways||American, LAN, TAM, Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest||· Economy: 50,000-60,000
· Business: 150,000-180,000
· First: 200,000-240,000
|Flying Blue||Aerolineas Argentinas, Delta, GOL, Amex, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest||· Economy: 50,000
· Business: 125,000
|Korean Air||Aerolineas Argentinas, Delta, GOL, Chase Ultimate Rewards||· Economy: 60,000
· Business: 105,000
· First: 140,000
|LAN/TAM||Alaska, American, British Airways, Starwood Preferred Guest||· Economy: 70,000
· Business: 150,000
|American Express Membership Rewards||Aeromexico, Aeroplan, ANA, British Airways, Delta, Flying Blue|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||British Airways, Korean Air, United|
|Citi ThankYou Rewards||Flying Blue|
|Starwood Preferred Guest||Aeromexico, Aeroplan, Alaska, American, ANA, British Airways, Delta, Flying Blue, LAN, United|
AIRLINES AND HOW TO SEARCH FOR AWARDS ON EACH
Aerolíneas Argentinas (and Aeroméxico)
Argentina’s flagship carrier has made something of a comeback in recent years. Though service and punctuality can still be a bit iffy, the airline is operating much better than before. At the moment, Aerolíneas flies non-stop to Buenos Aires from New York JFK and Miami.
As for Aeroméxico, I’ve thrown that one in with Aerolíneas simply for the ease of searching for awards through Delta.com, since all three airlines are SkyTeam members. Aeroméxico connects to a number of gateways in the US, including LA, New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Detroit, Washington DC, Orlando, and Miami. It also offers a connecting flight with decent award availability out of its hub in Mexico City to Buenos Aires.
Miles/Points to use: Aeroméxico (Amex and SPG transfer), Delta (Amex and SPG transfer), Flying Blue (Amex, Citi ThankYou and SPG transfer), American Express Membership Rewards (transferred to Delta, Flying Blue or directly to Aeroméxico).
Search for awards on: Delta.com
Delta’s website has made a lot of improvements lately when it comes to award searches. Not only can you search for up to 5 weeks at a time, but the website recently added search capability for a number of Delta’s airline partners, including Aerolíneas.
Here’s a sample itinerary from Miami to Buenos Aires in July in business class:
And here are two Aerolíneas flights the previous week with economy award availability:
Finally, here’s a screenshot of a date in September with economy and business class availability from JFK-EZE both on Aerolíneas’ non-stop as well as an Aeroméxico itinerary from JFK-MEX-EZE:
Canada’s national carrier flies to Buenos Aires via Santiago on an internationally configured 767-300.
Miles/Points to use: Aeroplan (Amex and SPG transfer), ANA (Amex and SPG transfer), United (Chase and SPG transfer), Amex, and Starwood Preferred Guest (direct transfer to Aeroplan).
Aeroplan has one of the best Star Alliance award search engines. You just need an Aeroplan account to log in and search for awards (no miles in your account necessary).
Here’s a sample itinerary on Air Canada’s own flight from Toronto to Buenos Aires via Santiago in business class.
American Airlines flies non-stop to Buenos Aires from several of its hubs. It operates a flight three times weekly from Dallas, twice daily from Miami, and once daily from New York JFK, all aboard 777-200’s for the moment, though American is planning to introduce its 787-800 on the DFW-EZE route in June.
American also partners with LAN and TAM, so you can fly it to various other South American hubs like Lima, Santiago and São Paulo, and continue on LAN/TAM from there.
Miles/Points to use: Alaska, American, British Airways, Starwood Preferred Guest (transferred to American or British Airways). If you’re flying in economy, think about going during one of American’s off-peak times (generally March to May and mid-August to mid-November) to save 20,000 miles round-trip on tickets (meaning you’d only have to redeem 40,000 miles total). Check out this post for more info.
Search for awards on: AA.com
AA.com is the best best to search for American Airlines flights. You can search one-way or round-trip awards, and the search function pulls up availability at both low-level MileSAAver and high-level AAnytime awards with a calendar view, so you can see all the available dates at a particular level.
Here’s a quick example itinerary from Dallas DFW to Buenos Aires EZE in June aboard American’s new 787.
Delta (and Korean Air and GOL)
Delta operates a daily non-stop flight from its hub in Atlanta to Buenos Aires. However, you can also fly Delta to various other South American destinations like São Paulo, and catch a flight on its Brazilian non-alliance partner GOL from there.
I’ve lumped Korean Air in here because it operates a single flight from Los Angeles to São Paulo that can be a really great option for West Coasters. It’s easy to find by searching Delta.com, and you can then catch a connecting flight on GOL.
Miles/Points to use: Alaska (on Delta and Korean Air), Delta (SPG, Amex), Flying Blue (Amex and Citi transfer partner), Korean Air (Ultimate Rewards), American Express Membership Rewards transferred to Delta or Flying Blue, Chase Ultimate Rewards (transferred to Korean), SPG (transferred to Alaska, Delta or Flying Blue).
Search for awards on: Delta.com
Delta.com recently made some dramatic improvements to its award search capabilities. When searching Delta.com, you should be able to pull up Delta, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Aeroméxico, GOL, and Korean Air award flights.
Here’s an itinerary from Atlanta to Buenos Aires on Delta itself:
And here’s an award flight on Delta from JFK to São Paulo, and continuing on to Buenos Aires on GOL.
You could also fly Korean Air’s flight from Los Angeles to São Paulo using Delta SkyMiles:
And then connect from there on GOL:
I could not manage to get Delta.com to find this as a single award, so you might have to call in if you want to book an award combining Korean and GOL.
South America’s two biggest airlines (LAN and TAM) combined last year, and are now both part of Oneworld, making them great options to use American miles or British Airways Avios, as well as Alaska miles on LAN.
LAN and TAM’s schedules seem to change a fair amount, but according to its current route map, LAN operates a non-stop flight to EZE from Miami. You could also transit through its hubs in Lima and Santiago from Los Angeles, Miami, New York JFK, and San Francisco.
TAM flies to its hub in São Paulo GRU from New York JFK, Miami, and Orlando, and to Rio de Janeiro from New York JFK and Miami.
Miles/points to use: LAN and TAM are members of Oneworld, so you can use your AAdvantage miles and British Airways Avios for awards, as well as non-alliance partner Alaska on LAN. LAN is also a 1:1 transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest.
Search for awards on: BritishAirways.com
Unfortunately, AA.com does not display LAN or TAM award space, so you’re stuck using British Airways’ award search, which is spotty at best. Searching for LAN space on BA’s site is incredibly tedious, but it’s pretty much your only option unless you want to call up the partner airline whose miles you’re using and walk through dates with the agents one by one.
United (and Copa)
Star Alliance is really lagging when it comes to South America flights, especially since the exit of US Airways and TAM, both of which merged with Oneworld carriers. However, United operates a daily flight from Houston IAH non-stop to Buenos Aires. It used to have flights from hubs in Newark and Washington Dulles, so those might come back at some point.
Miles/Points to use: Aeroplan (Amex or SPG transfer), ANA (Amex or SPG transfer), United (Chase transfer), Chase Ultimate Rewards (direct transfer), and Starwood Preferred Guest (direct transfer, but at a 2:1 ratio).
Search for awards on: United.com.
The best place to look for United awards is on United’s own website, though it also pulls in a lot of partner availability. However, it prioritizes United awards, so with a little searching for routes through United’s own departure gateways, you should hone in on that award quickly.
Here’s a sample United award from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires via Houston.
And here’s a sample itinerary from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires via Panama City on United’s partner, Copa, which actually has a lot more award availability (though I would personally rather fly United’s internationally configured planes).
WHICH POINTS/MILES TO USE?
Your options for flying to Buenos Aires will depend on the points or miles available to you. Here’s what you’ll need for each program (or for partner awards through that program) in economy, business and first (where it applies), as well as the associated transfer partners and airline partners.
Transferable Points Programs
- American Membership Rewards — Partners include Aeroméxico, Aeroplan, ANA, British Airways, Delta, Flying Blue.
- Chase Ultimate Rewards — Partners include United, British Airways, Korean Air.
- Citi ThankYou Rewards — Partners include Flying Blue.
- Starwood Preferred Guest — Partners include Aeroméxico, Aeroplan, Alaska, ANA, American, British Airways, Delta, Flying Blue, LAN, United (2:1).
This probably isn’t your first choice of carrier since it involves a stop in Mexico City, but Aeroméxico does fly a 787 with a new business class cabin on the JFK-MEX route. Its mileage program is also a decent option since you can use miles on Delta and Aerolíneas. Here are the round-trip mileage amounts:
- Economy — 72,000 miles
- Business — 144,000 miles
- Airline partners — Aerolíneas Argentinas, Delta, GOL
- Transfer partners — American Express Membership Rewards 1:1, Starwood Preferred Guest 1:1 (with 5,000-point bonus on transfers of 20,000 points, so more like 1:1.25).
Air Canada Aeroplan
Aeroplan is Air Canada’s mileage program, and has some decent redemption values in its chart. It’s a Star Alliance carrier, so your best options for using miles to get to Buenos Aires are on Air Canada, United, or Copa.
- Economy — 60,000 miles round-trip
- Business — 95,000 miles round-trip
- First — 135,000 miles round-trip
- Airline partners — Air Canada, United, Copa
- Transfer partners — American Express Membership Rewards 1:1, Starwood Preferred Guest 1:1.
Aeroplan levies surcharges on award tickets, so check out this post for estimates of how much flights will cost you.
Though not a member of any alliance, Alaska has a ton of great airline partners, including Aeroméxico, American, Delta and LAN. All the mileage amounts are round-trip.
- Economy — 40,000-60,000 on American, 60,000 on Delta, 50,000 on LAN and Aeroméxico
- Business — 100,000 miles on American, 125,000 on Delta, 90,000 on LAN and Aeroméxico
- First — 125,000 on American
- Airline partners — Aeroméxico, American, Delta, LAN
- Transfer partners — Starwood Preferred Guest 1:1.
American Airlines miles are one of the best options for flying to South America since American offers quite a few flights of its own, is in Oneworld with LAN/TAM, and allows you to book one-way awards on its own flights and partners. American’s miles are an especially good bargain if you can book during its Off-Peak dates for economy MileSAAver awards, which are just 20,000 miles each way between March 1 — May 31 and August 16 — November 30.
Here’s how many miles you’ll need round-trip.
- Economy — 40,000-60,000 miles
- Business — 100,000 miles
- First — 125,000 miles
- Airline partners — American, Alaska, LAN/TAM
- Transfer partners — Starwood Preferred Guest 1:1.
ANA Mileage Club
This Japanese Star Alliance carrier has one of the best award charts out there, and is a partner of Amex and SPG, so it’s worth looking into if you don’t have United or Aeroplan miles.
ANA’s award chart has some amazing values. It changed earlier this month, but mostly for the better with some very low-priced, zone-based awards..
- Economy — 40,000 miles round-trip
- Business — 68,000 miles round-trip
- First — 100,000 miles round-trip
- Airline partners — Air Canada, United
- Transfer partners — Amex Membership Rewards 1:1, Starwood Preferred Guest 1:1
ANA levies surcharges that can be as high as hundreds of dollars, so price out an award first by speaking to an airline rep. Check out this series for more info.
British Airways Avios
BA’s award chart is distance-based, so the number of Avios you need depends on where you depart from. The chart will also be changing as of April 28, complicating things further. However, here are sample numbers for flights from JFK-EZE. They’re exorbitant, so I would try to avoid this option.
- Economy — 50,000 miles
- Business — 150,000 miles
- First — 200,000 miles
- Airline partners — Alaska, American, LAN/TAM.
- Transfer partners — Amex Membership Rewards 1:1 (frequent transfer bonuses), Chase Ultimate Rewards 1:1, Starwood Preferred Guest 1:1.
Delta pulled its award charts from its site earlier this year, so you’ll have a hard time finding the numbers, but I found these from the old charts and listed the most basic numbers for round-trip saver awards.
- Economy — 60,000 miles
- Business — 125,000 miles
- Airline partners — Aerolíneas Argentinas, Aeroméxico, Alaska, GOL, Korean Air
- Transfer partners — Amex Membership Rewards 1:1, Starwood Preferred Guest 1:1.
This is the mileage program of Air France/KLM, a SkyTeam partner, and one with several transfer partners that can make it worth considering (for economy awards at least).
- Economy — 50,000 miles round-trip
- Business — 125,000 miles round-trip
- Airline partners: Aeroméxico, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Alaska, Delta, GOL, Korean Air
- Transfer partners: Amex Membership Rewards 1:1, Citi ThankYou Rewards 1:1, Starwood Preferred Guest 1:1.
There aren’t so many options apart from United and Air Canada using these miles, but at least United lets you book one-way awards.
- Economy — 60,00 miles round-trip
- Business — 110,000 miles round-trip
- First — 140,000 miles round-trip
- Airline partners — Air Canada, Copa
- Transfer partners — Chase Ultimate Rewards 1:1, Starwood Preferred Guest 2:1
United usually charges more miles for partner awards than it does for flights on its own metal, but this appears to be an exception.
I’ve presented a lot of numbers and information, but that’s good news, because it means there are tons of options to get to Buenos Aires using your points and miles, and a lot of airline alliance cross-pollination to take advantage of.
Have any more questions about flying to Buenos Aires? Feel free to share them in the comments below.
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