7 Best Ways to Get to Chile on Points and Miles

Jul 3, 2018

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From the otherworldly desert landscapes of the Atacama in the north to the busy streets of Santiago, the snowy peaks of the Andes, the lush vineyards of the Colchagua Valley and Patagonia’s craggy mountains and vast reaches in the south, Chile is one of the most unique countries on earth.

Though you can sometimes come across amazing fare deals from the US to Chile, there are also plenty of ways to use points and miles to book an award ticket to the country on a variety of carriers.

With so much to do, see and explore, here’s how you can book your own ticket to Chile.

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. (Photo by Skouatroulio / Getty Images)
San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. (Photo by Skouatroulio / Getty Images)

Airlines That Fly to Chile

If you’re coming from the US, you’ll almost certainly have to fly to Santiago (SCL). Here are the major airlines currently flying there from North America either nonstop or with just one stop to the city.

  • Aerolineas Argentinas flies from New York (JFK) and Miami (MIA) to Buenos Aires (EZE), from which you can continue on to Santiago.
  • Aeromexico flies from a variety of US airports to Santiago via its hub in Mexico City (MEX).
  • Air Canada flies to Santiago from its hub in Toronto (YYZ).
  • American Airlines flies to Santiago from Dallas (DFW) and Miami (MIA).
  • Avianca operates flights to Santiago from its hub in Bogotá (BOG).
  • Copa flies from the US to Santiago via its hub in Panama City (PTY).
  • Delta operates a nonstop flight to Santiago from its hub in Atlanta (ATL).
  • LATAM flies nonstop to Santiago from New York (JFK) and Orlando (MCO), and via Lima (LIM) from Los Angeles (LAX).
  • United flies from Houston (IAH) to Santiago.

Mileage Table

First, let’s look at the various types of miles and points you can use and the airlines to which they apply.

Miles/Points Transfer and Airline Partners Miles Needed Round-Trip
Air Canada Aeroplan American Express Membership Rewards, Avianca, Copa, Barclays Arrival Miles, Starwood Preferred Guest, United ·      Economy: 60,000 + $530

·      Business: 110,000 + $770

Alaska Mileage Plan American Airlines, LATAM, Starwood Preferred Guest ·      Economy: 50,000-60,000 + $80-$120

·      Business: 90,000-115,000 + $80-$120

 

American AAdvantage LATAM, Starwood Preferred Guest ·      Economy: 60,000 + $52

·      Business: 115,000 + $127

ANA Mileage Club American Express Membership Rewards, Air Canada, Avianca, Copa, Starwood Preferred Guest, United ·      Economy: 55,000 +

·      Business: 88,000 + $52

Avianca Lifemiles Air Canada, Copa, Starwood Preferred Guest, United ·      Economy: 45,000-50,000 + $70

·      Business: 90,000-110,000 + $70

British Airways Avios American Express Membership Rewards, American Airlines, Chase Ultimate Rewards, LATAM, Starwood Preferred Guest ·      Economy: 50,000 + $52

·      Business: 150,000 + $52

Delta SkyMiles Amex Membership Rewards, Aeromexico, Starwood Preferred Guest ·      Economy: 70,000 + $52

·      Business: 160,000-180,000 + $52

Flying Blue Aeromexico, American Express Membership Rewards, Barclays, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Delta, Starwood Preferred Guest ·      58,000 + $90-$400

·      144,000 + $90 – $400

United MileagePlus Air Canada, Avianca, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Copa, Starwood Preferred Guest (2:1) ·      Economy: 60,000 + $52

·      Business: 120,000+ $52

American Express Membership Rewards Air Canada Aeroplan, ANA, British Airways, Delta, Flying Blue
Chase Ultimate Rewards British Airways, Flying Blue, United
Citi ThankYou Rewards Flying Blue
Starwood Preferred Guest Aeroplan, Alaska, American, ANA, Avianca, British Airways, Delta, Flying Blue, United (2:1)

Once you get to Santiago, you can take cheap flights around the country on discount carrier SKY and LATAM (or redeem British Airways Avios or American Airlines miles for LATAM awards).

Airline and Mileage Options

Now let’s focus on the airlines with the most convenient options from the US and discuss how to use your miles to fly them to/from Santiago. Here they are in alphabetical order.

1. Aeromexico

Aeromexico flies to several major US gateways including Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Dallas (DFW), Detroit (DTW), Houston (IAH), Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), New York (JFK), Orlando (MCO), San Antonio (SAT), San Francisco (SFO) and Washington Dulles (IAD). From Mexico City (MEX), it flies a single daily nonstop to Santiago.

Most of the airline’s US flights are operated on old 737s with recliner-style business-class seats. However, Aeromexico usually flies one of its daily nonstops from LAX and JFK using 787s with nicer business-class seats (though not the newest ones aboard the 787-9s). It looks like the airline might have taken these offline for the moment — likely due to 787 engine issues — but hopefully they’ll be back in service soon.

Because of the number of US gateways Aeromexico services, your chance of finding an award is much better, and availability on the MEX-SCL leg tends to be okay.

Where to search: Delta.com tends to be best for searching SkyTeam availability because the search engine is much better about pulling in partner awards than in years past. However, you will likely have to price out each leg separately, then call in to book because the Delta engine seems to have trouble piecing together multi-leg awards on Aeromexico.

Miles to use: Delta SkyMiles are a good choice. The program is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards as well as Starwood Preferred Guest (for each 20,000 points you transfer from SPG, you get a 5,000-mile bonus). Delta removed its award charts from its site back in 2015, but it’ll cost the following miles at the lowest level:

  • Economy: 60,000 miles + $52
  • Business: 160,000 miles + $52
You might have to piece together an award leg by leg, like this single segment from MEX-SCL, then call in.

Your other choice is Flying Blue, the mileage program of Air France and KLM. The program is transfer partners with Amex, Barclays Arrival Miles, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, so there are tons of ways to top up your account. The program recently began pricing awards dynamically (and illogically), but I did manage to see award levels in economy and business at the following prices.

  • Economy: 58,000 miles + $90
  • Business: 144,000 miles + $90

Just beware: The Flying Blue engine defaults to finding Air France and KLM flights, so be sure to check your routing and make sure it’s not sending you from Santiago to the US via Paris (CDG) or Amsterdam (AMS), which will raise the taxes on a ticket to the $400 range as well.

2. Air Canada

Air Canada
Air Canada’s new livery, frequently seen on its Instagram account. (Image: Air Canada).

Air Canada flies a nonstop from its hub in Toronto (YYZ) to Santiago. Though that’s just a single option, award availability is pretty great on this particular flight as well as on those in the airline’s route network across Canada and from cities in the US if you don’t mind transiting a third country.

The flight is operated by a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner with the airline’s newest, best business-class seats aboard it.

Where to search: For Star Alliance awards, the best search engines are likely Aeroplan’s or United’s. If you hope to use ANA miles, you should use that airline’s search engine.

Miles to use: Whatever you do, do not use Aeroplan miles. Yes, the program is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Barclays Arrival Miles (at a terrible ratio) and Starwood Preferred Guest, and the mileage rates are decent, but the taxes and fees on Air Canada flights, even on economy tickets, are extremely high.

  • Economy: 60,000 miles + $530 USD
  • Business: 110,000 miles + $770 USD

These awards are thus not worthwhile. However, United MileagePlus (a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner) charges the following amount of miles:

  • Economy: 60,000 miles + $71
  • Business: 120,000 miles + $71

Though a business award will cost more miles, you save $700! You could also redeem ANA miles at the following rates:

  • Economy: 55,000 miles + $66
  • Business: 88,000 miles + $66

Here’s a sample business-class award on Air Canada found on ANA’s site.

As you can see, you save both money and miles, so if you have Amex or Starwood points to transfer to ANA, this could be a great choice for your award redemption.

3. American Airlines

American flies daily nonstops to Santiago from its hubs in Dallas (DFW) and Miami (MIA). Both are aboard 777-200s with all front-facing seats in business class.

Business class middle seats on the 777-200 new retrofit.

Where to search: For awards on American itself, the airline’s own site is the best place to search for award availability, though you could also use BritishAirways.com and AlaskaAir.com.

Miles to use: American’s AAdvantage program is a transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest, as is Alaska’s Mileage Plan. Both will charge you…

  • Economy: 60,000 miles + $50 – $90
  • Business: 115,000 miles + $80 – $130

You could also use British Airways Avios since the program is a transfer partner of Amex, Chase and SPG.

The situation where this would make sense would be if you were booking a nonstop award between Santiago and either Miami or Dallas with maybe a short hop from there. Just the one segment to either AA hub would cost the following number of Avios round-trip.

  • Economy: 50,000 Avios + $52
  • Business: 150,000 Avios + $52

As you can see, the economy award would be worth it, but not so much for business class.

4. Avianca & Copa

I tend to group these two airlines together when it comes to award searches since they’re both members of Star Alliance and both fly to several airports in the US and on to Santiago via hubs in Bogota (BOG) and Panama City (PTY).

I wouldn’t call these options great because they’re all on either smaller aircraft with recliner-style seats or, in the case of Avianca, on some A330s with older, angled seats. Avianca does fly its newest aircraft, the 787, with lie-flat seats on one daily flight to Los Angeles (LAX) and occasionally swaps it in on flights to New York (JFK). That is, when the airline doesn’t bump you from the flight.

Evan

Where to search: This depends on the type of miles you want to use, but the best options are either Aeroplan, United or Avianca’s own Lifemiles site.

Miles to use: United will charge you the following miles (the taxes on Copa are a few dollars higher):

  • Economy: 60,000 miles + $55-$90
  • Business: 120,000 miles + $55-$90

Aeroplan will charge you:

  • Economy: 60,000 miles + $70
  • Business: 110,000 miles + $70

You might also want to consider using Avianca’s own Lifemiles program since it is both a Citi ThankYou Rewards and a Starwood Preferred Guest transfer partner, and often offers buy-miles bonuses that could make it worth it.

Avianca provides a handy mileage calculator to help you figure out how many miles you’d need for a particular award, but I find that the numbers that are actually generated by award searches don’t exactly match up. In general, here’s about how many miles you’ll need round-trip, depending on where you’re coming from in the US.

  • Economy: 45,000-50,000 miles + $70
  • Business: 90,000-110,000 miles + $70

Things also get strange when you consider that from Washington (IAD) or New York (JFK) to Santiago will cost 45,000 miles in economy, while Los Angeles (LAX) costs 50,000. But in business class, LA costs 90,000 miles and the East Coast is 110,000 miles (Miami is just 100,000 miles). I don’t get it.

Especially considering that this is what an actual business-class award from Washington Dulles to Santiago actually ended up pricing out at:

Though the economy version was in line with the calculator:

It’s a bit confusing, but there are some good redemptions to be found here, so it’s worth investigating.

Finally, though it might not seem obvious, you could also redeem All Nippon Airways (ANA) miles for an award on these carriers. The program has some amazing redemption values and will charge you the following miles from North America to South America:

  • Economy: 55,000 miles + $52
  • Business: 88,000 miles + $52

While the economy value isn’t that interesting, a round-trip business class for 88,000 miles and just $50 in taxes and fees can’t be beat.

ANA is a transfer partner of both Amex and SPG.

5. Delta

Delta operates a single daily flight to Santiago from its hub in Atlanta (ATL) using a 767-400ER with its usual Delta One lie-flat seats in business class in a staggered 1 – 2 – 1 front-facing configuration. You don’t have many choices, but award availability is there, so you might want to consider it.

Seats in the center section are staggered to the right and left.
Seats in the center section are staggered to the right and left.

Where to search: Just use Delta.com.

Miles to use: Keep it simple by using Delta SkyMiles since it is a transfer partner with both Amex and SPG. You’ll need the following amount of miles:

  • Economy: 70,000 miles + $52
  • Business: 160,000-180,000 miles + $52

If you want to save some miles, you could use Flying Blue ones instead, since you’d need just 58,000 round-trip in economy, or 144,000 in business. But the unwieldiness of Flying Blue’s search engine makes finding awards quite a chore.

This was a sample business-class award one-way from Atlanta to Santiago on Delta at that rate.

6. LATAM

LATAM Brazil (formerly TAM) will fly you nonstop to Rio from New York and Miami. Image courtesy of LATAM Airlines.
LATAM Brazil (formerly TAM) will fly you nonstop to Rio from New York and Miami. Image courtesy of LATAM Airlines.

LATAM is South America’s largest airline and currently flies non-stops from Santiago (SCL) to New York (JFK) and Orlando (MCO), and to Los Angeles (LAX) and Miami (MIA) via Lima (LIM).

Where to search: You won’t find LATAM award space on AA.com or AlaskaAir.com, and the British Airways site is downright terrible at finding LATAM availability, so I actually find Qantas’ website to be the best for searching Oneworld availability in this case.

Miles to use: Like with flights on American, two of your best mileage choices for awards on LATAM are going to be American AAdvantage and Alaska Airlines miles. You’ll have to find the awards on BA’s site then call into the award desks to book.

TAM
Photo courtesy of LATAM.

American’s mileage round-trip requirements look like this:

  • Economy: 60,000 miles + $95
  • Business: 115,000 miles + $95

Alaska’s, meanwhile, are:

  • Economy: 50,000-60,000 miles + $100
  • Business: 90,000 miles + $100

Now for the bad news: For the moment, award availability on all LATAM’s US flights seems to be very, very rare. However, it does come up from time to time, especially the further out you can book, so be patient, be flexible and keep looking!

7. United

Boeing 767 belonging to United Airlines about to take-off from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. (Photo by: Andia/UIG via Getty Images)
Boeing 767 belonging to United Airlines about to take-off from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. (Photo by: Andia/UIG via Getty Images)

United operates a daily nonstop flight from its hub in Houston (IAH) to Santiago (SCL) aboard a 767. Though it has fully lie-flat seats and Polaris amenities, it does not have the new Polaris seats.

Where to search: You can use United’s site to look for availability on its own flights.

Miles to use: You have tons of options, as noted in the Air Canada and Avianca sections above — either United’s own miles, Aeroplan miles (the program doesn’t charge high taxes or fees for United awards), Avianca Lifemiles or ANA miles.

Saver award availability on United’s own nonstop from Houston to Santiago is actually pretty decent. You can usually find both economy and business-class awards several days each month. The tricky part is finding flights to/from other destinations in the US from which to connect in Houston if you are coming from another city. If you do find award availability, here’s how much it’ll cost you in United miles:

  • Economy: 60,000 miles + $52
  • Business: 120,000 miles + $52

Taxes and fees might be slightly higher if you have more domestic segments.

If you have Amex Membership Rewards points, you could also transfer them to Aeroplan or ANA and redeem miles at the rates cited above in the Air Canada and Avianca/Copa sections, which would be a relative bargain.

Bottom Line

Flight options from the US to Chile are limited but still available for mileage redemptions if you know where to look and you can be flexible with your timing. There are plenty of airlines flying down there, and you can mix and match carriers depending on the types of miles you plan on using.

Remember to think strategically, consider all your options and then book the one that makes the most sense for your needs and the types of points and miles you have stockpiled.

Featured image: Torres del Paine mountains, Patagonia, Chile. (Photo by MBPROJEKT_Maciej_Bledowski / Getty Images)

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