Deal alert: Nonstop flights to South America in 2021 from $232 round-trip

Jun 18, 2020

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Airfare deals are typically only available on limited dates. We recommend you use Google Flights to find dates to fly, then book through an online travel agency such as Orbitz or Expedia, which allows you to cancel flights without penalty by 11pm Eastern Time within one day of booking. However, if you’re using The Platinum Card® from American Express, you’ll need to book directly with the airline or through the Amex Travel portal to get 5x MR points (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year). Remember: Fares may disappear quickly, so book right away and take advantage of Orbitz or Expedia’s courtesy cancellation if you’re unable to get the time away from work or family.

Editor’s note: As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it is next month or next year.

If South America is on your list of places to visit once travel returns, you’re in luck. We’re currently seeing some incredible deals to visit Peru, Brazil, Chile and Ecuador in late 2020 and early 2021, including many nonstop options.

The discounted fares start at just $232 round-trip and are available for travel from August 2020 through the end of the flight schedule in May 2021, including over peak periods like Carnival. You can fly out of cities like Miami (MIA), Los Angeles (LAX), Washington-Dulles (IAD) and New York-JFK to Lima (LIM), Santiago (SCL), Cusco (CUZ), Guayaquil (GYE), São Paulo (GRU) and Rio de Janeiro (GIG). LATAM is offering the most direct options, but we’re seeing low rates being offered by Avianca and American Airlines as well.

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Although most airlines are offering flexible change and cancellation policies, the low fares do not come completely risk-free. Most South American countries currently have strict travel restrictions and there’s no telling how long they might be extended until. A rapid rise in coronavirus cases in Brazil, Peru, and Chile have made South America one of the new hot spots in the pandemic. Additionally, LATAM and Avianca are in precarious financial positions.

Chile, Easter Island, Moai stone heads in Rano Raraku quarry, Rapa Nui National Park. (Photo by Getty Images)
This deal can help you get to Easter Island for cheap. (Photo by Getty Images)

Should I book travel now?

As noted above, there is some risk with booking travel now, as there’s no way to guarantee yet when it will be safe to travel again. Many South American countries are currently off-limits to tourists through the summer, and those travel bans may be extended as coronavirus cases there are rising. Depending on how the situation plays out, you may have to change or cancel your trip.

Related: When will international travel return? A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

LATAM, Avianca and American are all offering their own flexible change and cancellation policies. LATAM’s policy is very generous and allows a free date change without having to pay a fare difference for new tickets purchased by July 31 and rebooked by Aug. 31. Alternatively, LATAM allows you to change your destination or request a voucher without penalty.

Similarly, Avianca is allowing multiple flight changes without penalty or fare difference as long as they are made in the same cabin to common points and you’re scheduled to fly by Oct. 31. For all flights from Nov 1. onwards, Avianca is allowing one free change, but it will be subject to any fare difference. 

American Airlines, on the other hand, is waiving change fees only on certain new bookings made by June 30. For basic economy tickets, you can make one free change (subject to any fare difference) for travel by Sept. 30, but with a standard economy ticket you can make one free change regardless of your travel date.

None of the above airlines are letting passengers get a cash refund

Related: Airline coronavirus change and cancellation policies

Further, many airlines are currently on rocky financial ground. While American is expected to survive the pandemic, LATAM and Avianca are currently both in the process of restructuring through bankruptcy. Aside from LATAM’s Argentina unit — which has ceased operations — both airlines are continuing to operate (albeit with limited schedules). But if the airlines do go up belly-up, your ticket could end up being rendered worthless. Financial insolvency is unfortunately not covered by most credit card trip protections, so while you can try to submit a dispute with your credit card company, know that there’s a small chance you could lose the money spent on the ticket if you book this deal.

If you can’t afford to take that chance, then either book through American or don’t book this deal at all.

South America deals currently available

Airlines: American Airlines, Avianca, LATAM
Routes:  Miami (MIA), Los Angeles (LAX), Washington DC (IAD) and New York-JFK to Lima (LIM), São Paulo (GRU), Santiago (SCL), Cusco (CUZ), Guayaquil (GYE), São Paulo (GRU) and Rio de Janeiro (GIG)
Cost: $232 round-trip in economy
Travel Dates: 
August 2020 – May 2021
Pay With: 
The Platinum Card® from American Express (5x on airfare booked directly with the airline; starting Jan. 1, 2021 earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year), Citi Prestige® Card (5x on airfare),  Citi Premier® Card (3x on airfare), Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x on travel), American Express® Gold Card (3x on airfare booked directly with the airline or or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x on travel)

The information for the Citi Prestige card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Sample itineraries

Here’s a look at some of the best deals you could book. This isn’t an exhaustive list so you may be able to find deals to other cities for varying prices.

Miami (MIA) to Lima (LIM) for $232 round-trip nonstop on LATAM:

(Photo courtesy of LATAM)

Miami (MIA) to Lima (LIM) for $232 round-trip nonstop on American Airlines in basic economy ($272 in standard economy):

(Photo courtesy of American Airlines)

New York (JFK) to Lima (LIM) for $269 round-trip on Avianca:

(Photo courtesy of Expedia)

Miami (MIA) to Santiago (SCL) for $292 round-trip on Avianca:

(Photo courtesy of Expedia)

New York (JFK) to Guayaquil (GYE) for $314 round-trip nonstop on LATAM:

(Photo courtesy of LATAM)

Los Angeles (LAX) to Lima (LIM) for $314 round-trip nonstop on LATAM:

(Photo courtesy of LATAM)

Miami (MIA) to São Paulo (GRU) for $343 round-trip nonstop on LATAM:

(Photo courtesy of LATAM)

How to book

Finding these bargains is easy. Just head to Google Flights and plug in your desired departure and destination cities. Use the calendar function to find dates and prices that work for you and then click through to book with the airline directly or an OTA such as Expedia or Priceline. If you don’t have a specific destination in mind, type “South America” in the “Where to?” field for a map showing the cheapest flights to destinations around the continent for your desired dates.

(Photo by Google Flights)

Maximize your purchase

Don’t forget to use a credit card that earns additional points on airfare purchases, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express (5x on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel), Citi Prestige® Card (5x on airfare), Chase Sapphire ReserveAmerican Express® Gold Card Citi Premier® Card (3x on airfare) or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x on all travel purchases). Check out this post for more on maximizing airfare purchases.

Featured image by Kelly Cheng Travel Photography / Getty Images.

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