New Delta SkyMiles Partner Aerolineas Argentinas = Cheap Awards to South America
Last year I wrote about upcoming additions to SkyTeam, which included Aerolineas Argentinas. Well, the time has finally come and Delta has announced the ability to earn and redeem SkyMiles on Aerolineas even before the Argentine airline officially joins SkyTeam this fall. Before you read on, just know that I am completely biased (no, not because I'm one of the few bloggers that ever dares to defend Delta), but because Buenos Aires is one of my favorite cities in the world. So even though this announcement isn't really earth-shattering, I still think it's newsworthy even if it helps just one TPG reader make it down there. Buenos Aires is a cosmopolitan city and offers great history, museums, food, wine, beautiful people and there is no shortage of apartments to rent and nice hotels, including the Park Hyatt Buenos Aires. If you need any more inspiration, check out our preview Destination of the Week piece.
The only route Aerolineas Argentinas flies to the US at this time is Miami-Buenos Aires (EZE), this partnership opens up Aerolineas’s network of intra-Argentina and intra-South American flights to Delta passengers looking to earn and burn miles on a trip south of the equator. Delta also partners with Brazilian carrier GOL and since they allow a stop-over and open jaw on awards, this now opens up a lot more options.
Here’s a look at how the miles will be doled out if you purchase an Aerolineas Argentinas ticket and bank the miles to SkyMiles.
Note: You cannot earn Medallion Qualifying Miles, but once they are a full SkyTeam member, you should be able to. However, in the meantime, you can still use your SkyMiles for award travel on Aerolineas. Roundtrip business class awards are 100,000 miles, while coach awards are 60,000 SkyMiles.
Not surprisingly, these awards cannot be booked on Delta.com, however I didn't have any issues pricing them out when I called Delta. I simply let them know that Aerolineas Argentinas is now a SkyMiles partner and you can redeem miles for awards. She put me on hold to confirm that information and came back and said that indeed they were and that Business Class awards book into U class and economy awards into T. Expertflyer does support Aerolineas Argentinas award availability for economy, but not for business class at this time, so your best bet is to call.
Buenos Aires is in the Southern Hemisphere, so our winter is their summer. I've been in early January and early March and had amazing weather every time, though it can get hot. I decided to check availability in December and January. Note the wheels in my head are turning - New Year's Eve is my favorite holiday to celebrate and I'm trying to hit all 7 continents before my next landmark birthday and this Aerolineas partnership puts me in striking distance, since Aerolineas flies (domestic route map) from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, the southernmost commercial airport in Argentina.
My phone call was painless, but I'm sure it will be a while before all reps are familiar booking these awards (the savvy rep that I had even accidentally called them Aer Lingus at one point). If they try to tell you awards are not bookable, you could ask for a supervisor or always hang up and call back. Once an itinerary is booked, you have to call Aerolineas Argentinas to select your seats. For a roundtrip from Miami to Buenos Aires in either business class or economy the total roundtrip taxes and fees came to $65.60. Expect that to nominally increase if you add on more legs within the US or South America, but I think that's a pretty solid deal.
Who wants to pay over $4,000 for business class when you could use 100,000 SkyMiles instead?
Another good feature is that "mixed metal" is also allowed so you can book Delta domestically connecting to Aerolineas Argentinas, however there must be low-level availability for both portions in order to keep the low level price. Something to point out is the off season (our summer) there is only a once daily flight leaves Miami at 9:45am so if you are trying to connect, you might have to fly in the night before or take a redeye. Delta does offer a LAX-MIA redeye, so this would connect well to the Aerolineas flight, though that would make for one very long itinerary. During the winter months, there are two daily flights from MIA-EZE: the 9:45am and an 11:15pm, which gets in at 6:25am.
I haven't flown Aerolineas Argentinas on any long-haul flights, but they get mixed reviews. I'm not picky when it comes to airlines (as long as I'm in business class or higher :-)) so I look forward to checking them out in the near future and reporting back on my experience. They fly Airbus A340 aircraft, which have old-school cradle style seats (which I actually prefer over cramped angled lie flats). But once again, I'm more excited about the new routes this opens up, especially for SkyTeam Round-The-World itineraries since Aerolineas flies Sydney-Auckland-Buenos Aires.
Anyone have any experiences to share?