The Top 6 Ways to Fly Business Class to South America Using Miles

Jun 28, 2018

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In the past year or so, we’ve seen some phenomenal airfare deals from the US to regions all over the world, including in business class. For example, we saw flights on Aeromexico and Avianca between various US and South American cities for under $600 round-trip, less than half what these tickets normally cost.

However, a trip to South America also presents some good opportunities to use your miles, especially thanks to alliance partnerships between airlines like American and LATAM, Delta and Aeromexico, and United and Avianca among others.

Today, we’re going to take a look at the best business-class options for flying from the continental US to South America. The selections included here were made by comparing not only factors like seat comfort and amenities, but also award availability and route networks.

For example, Aerolíneas Argentinas might be a good option for some flyers since it offers nonstops from New York (JFK) and Miami (MIA) to Buenos Aires (EZE), but its business class is outdated and award availability is scarce.

When it comes to South America, which carrier is best for your needs will also likely depend on the region to which you hope to fly. If you’re just headed to Colombia, Avianca might be your carrier of choice, while if you want to get down to Chile, you might be better off investigating your options with LATAM.

Carriers From the US to South America

With that in mind, here’s a list of major carriers that fly nonstop or direct from North America to South America. Read on below for our top choices of carriers with great business-class seats you can book with miles.

Aerolíneas Argentinas: Limited US gateways, old business-class seats and lack of award availability mean you might want to avoid the Argentine carrier.

Aeromexico: The Mexican flag carrier flies some of its newest planes on routes from North America to South America via its hub in Mexico City, and award availability is decent.

Air Canada: Why fly north to get south? Though Air Canada has some good business-class options, transiting a third country seems like overkill.

Avianca: The Colombian carrier flies new planes on some of its routes to the US and is rapidly expanding services to South America and beyond.

American Airlines: American has been hard at work updating its fleet, and you can find 787s and 777s with some of its newest business-class cabins operating flights to South America.

Copa: United’s Central American partner flies 737s with recliner seats on most routes, so you will likely want to avoid it.

Delta: Delta’s long-haul fleet has all lie-flat seats in business class and decent award availability.

JetBlue: JetBlue has recently expanded its international service to include four South American destinations in Colombia and Ecuador, but none of the routes feature the airline’s Mint business-class seats, so it doesn’t get a place on our list.

LATAM: This massive South American carrier flies a mix of 767s and 787s to various hubs in the US, and award availability can be pretty decent, making it one of the best options.

United: United’s hub in Houston (IAH) has become a major gateway to South America, meaning more chances to use your miles to get down there.

Feel free to share your thoughts and your own picks for the best business-class options to South America in the comments section. In the meantime, here’s our list in alphabetical order.

1. Aeromexico

Business class aboard Aeromexico’s 787-8. Photo courtesy of Aeromexico.

Aircraft and routes: Aeromexico flies to Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Dallas (DFW), Detroit (DTW), Houston (IAH), Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), New York (JFK), Orlando (MCO), Portland (PDX), San Antonio (SAT), San Francisco (SFO), Seattle (SEA) and Washington Dulles (IAD). Now for the bad news: Most of these routes are operated with old 737s with just recliner seats. But one of the daily flights from New York is aboard a swank new 787-9 with the airline’s latest business-class seats. The airline flies 787-8s to Santiago (SCL) and a mix of 787-8s and 787-9s to Buenos Aires (EZE) and Sao Paulo (GRU).

Seats: Let’s concentrate on the 787 seats. The ones on the 787-8 are arranged in an angled front-facing 2–2–2 configuration and fully lie-flat with 60 inches of pitch and 20 inches of width. Those on the 787-9 have roughly the same dimensions, though they’re laid out in a reverse-herringbone 1–2 –1 pattern.

Cuisine and amenities: Aeromexico partners with well-known chefs to help create its menus, such as Enrique Olvera, and menus might include options like salmon Veracruz with jasmine rice. Aeromexico’s 787s have 16-inch HD screens in business class while the 737s have 11-inch screens. Select 737s also offer Gogo 2Ku internet and the 787s offer Panasonic broadband internet.

Using miles: Aeromexico is in SkyTeam, so you can use Delta SkyMiles to fly Aeromexico. Delta does not publish award charts, but looks like it’s now charging 100,000 miles each way in business class between North America and southern South America on partners.

Here’s an example outbound from New York to Buenos Aires via Mexico City.

And here is the return.

Air France/KLM Flying Blue recently changed their award chart to price tickets dynamically, so your rates may vary. However, I was finding business-class awards for about 72,000 miles each way plus about $100-$200 in taxes/fees (just a little more than Delta would charge). The award availability you find on Delta usually matches that found using the Flying Blue search engine. Plus, Flying Blue is a transfer partner not only of American Express Membership Rewards (like Delta), but also of Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest.

Remember that Korean Air is also a SkyTeam partner and would require just 110,000 miles round-trip to fly Aeromexico from North America to South America in business class, and is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards. Unfortunately, its search engine is fairly terrible for SkyTeam awards, so you will likely not be able to find the same award space there as with other programs.

2. American Airlines

Aircraft and routes: American’s long-haul fleet is a bit of a hodgepodge at the moment, with different seats on its 777-300ERs, 777-200s (even from one aircraft to the next), the 787-8 and 787-9, the 767 and…well, you get the picture. While all the planes, including the 757s it operates on some routes like Dallas (DFW) and Miami (MIA) to Lima (LIM), have completely lie-flat seats, it bears using a source like Routehappy to check the specific aircraft your flight will be serviced by in order to figure out if it’s a good option for you.

Meanwhile, American flies to various hubs in South America including Buenos Aires (EZE), Lima (LIM), Rio De Janeiro (GIG), Santiago (SCL) and Sao Paulo (GRU) from New York (JFK), Miami (MIA) and Dallas (DFW); plus a non-stop flight from LAX to Sao Paulo.

Seats: As I mentioned, American’s business-class seats can vary widely, though at this point, the ones aboard the 777-300ER and many 777-200s are spacious reverse-herringbone seats that are 21 inches wide and recline to about 77 or 78 inches and have 16-inch IFE screens.

Cuisine and amenities: American gives its business-class flyers Cole Haan amenity kits stocked with C.O. Bigelow products and Casper bedding, and routes to South America feature menus by James Beard Award-winning chef Maneet Chauhan.

Using miles: American will charge you 30,000 miles each way to fly business class to Northern South America including Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Manaus (Brazil) and Peru; while flights to the rest of South America require 55,500 miles each way. Alaska Airlines will charge you the same amount of miles to fly its partner American to Northern South America.

3. Avianca

Think about flying the Colombian carrier down to South America.

Aircraft and routes: This airline is based out of Colombia, though it also has hubs in San Salvador (SAL) and Panama (PTY). It is quickly expanding its fleet to include newer aircraft like the 787. The airline flies to Boston (BOS), Ft. Lauderdale (FLL), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), New York (JFK), Orlando (MCO) and Washington Dulles (IAD).

While you’ll still find A319s with recliner seats and A330s with older angled lie-flats on several routes including those to Washington and New York on the North American side and Buenos Aires (EZE), Lima (LIM) and Sao Paulo (GRU) to the south, the airline flies 787s to Los Angeles and to Santiago (SCL), which is a nice way to get down to Chile in some new business-class seats. It also occasionally swaps out an A330 for a 787 on its JFK flights.

Seats: The seats aboard Avianca’s 787s are in a 1–2–1 reverse-herringbone layout and are 21 inches wide with 72 inches of pitch. IFE screens are 16 inches. Seats aboard the A330 are much older and are angled lie-flats. They are arranged in a front-facing 2–2–2 configuration and have 56 inches of pitch and are 18-21 inches wide.

Cuisine and amenities: The menus don’t appear to be too special aboard Avianca, with typical items like beef and fish, but passengers are offered Tumi amenity kits with L’Occitaine products.

You can experience Avianca’s newest business class aboard the 787. Photo courtesy of Avianca.

Using miles: Avianca is a member of Star Alliance, so your best bets are to use United or Aeroplan miles. Depending on which region of South America you’re flying to, you’ll need 35,000-60,000 United miles each way. Here’s a sample one-way from LA to Bogotá

By contrast, Aeroplan requires 37,500-55,000 miles each way depending on whether you’re headed to northern or southern South America.

You could also use Avianca’s LifeMiles program, which is a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, to fly to northern South America including Colombia for as little as 33,000 miles each way (as you can see in the example award above), or 55,000 miles each way to southern South America.

4. Delta

Delta operates several routes to South America from its hub in Atlanta.

Aircraft and routes: If you want to fly Delta to South America, you’ll have to go through its Atlanta (ATL) hub with a few exceptions like both New York JFK and Orlando (MCO) to Sao Paulo (GRU). The airline flies 757s with recliner seats to destinations in northern South America like Bogotá (BOG) and Quito (UIO), but 767s with all lie-flat seats with direct aisle access on flights to destinations deeper in South America like Lima (LIM) and Santiago (SCL) and its A330s with a reverse-herringbone configuration to Buenos Aires (EZE) at the time of writing.

Seats: The seats aboard Delta’s 767s are 21 inches wide with 77-81 inches of recline. IFE screens are 13 inches. On the A330s, seats are 21 inches wide and have up to 81 inches of pitch.

Cuisine and amenities: Delta does not seem to have a chef partner on menus for its South America flights at the moment, but Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson picks out the wines. Delta offers business-class flyers Westin Heavenly Bedding and Tumi amenity kits stocked with Kiehl’s products.

Most flights are aboard Delta’s 767s.

Using miles: Delta removed its award charts back in 2015, but the airline will charge you 40,000-80,000 miles each way at the saver level to fly in business class depending where you’re headed in South America.

Here’s a sample award from Buenos Aires (EZE) to New York JFK using Delta miles.

As in the case of Aeromexico, though, you might be better off using Flying Blue miles if you have them or can transfer from one of the program’s partners.

Above is a sample award on Delta ‚ as you can see, you save 8,000 miles and only pay $18 more in taxes.

5. LATAM

LATAM operates a huge route network in South America. Image courtesy of LATAM Airlines.

Aircraft and routes: This is the monster on the list, but in a good way. LATAM is the result of the merger of LAN (based mainly in Chile and Peru) and TAM (based in Brazil). As such, the airline has a huge route network in South America and flies to several US cities including Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), New York (JFK), Orlando (MCO) and Washington Dulles (IAD) plus Boston (BOS) starting in July 2018.

The airline has a combination of 767s and 787s from the old LAN fleet and 767s and 777s from the old TAM fleet. So, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Flights from Chile and Peru will tend to have LAN planes while those to Brazil will tend to have old TAM planes that have been rebranded. Making matters more complicated, TAM’s 777s and some 767s have angled lie-flat seats, while the rest have fully lie-flat seats. LATAM also has some new A350s, which it is currently flying between Sao Paulo (GRU) and New York JFK and will begin flying between Sao Paulo and Orlando (MCO) in July. Double check your route and aircraft before booking.

Seats: For now, let’s concentrate on the 767s and 787s with fully lie-flat seats. On the 767, these seats have 74 inches of pitch and are 20 inches wide. The 787 seats are 23 inches wide and have 75 inches of pitch. On both aircraft, seats are laid out in a front-facing 2–2–2 configuration. The A350s also have a  2–2–2 configuration in business class, and their seats are 23 inches wide and 73-74 inches long.

Cuisine and amenities: LATAM launched new menus and wine lists in 2017, with an eye toward highlighting the regional specialties of its various South American destinations. So flights from Brazil feature fish and steak, while those from Chile and Argentina, for example, might serve salmon or sea bass and Patagonian king crab, among other dishes. The wines are now exclusively from Chilean and Argentine producers selected by the airline’s Master Sommelier, Hector Vergara. Amenity kits come stocked with Salvatore Ferragamo Tuscan Soul products.

Business class aboard a LATAM 787. Image courtesy of LATAM.

Using miles: LATAM is in the Oneworld alliance, so you can use your AAdvantage miles to fly it. Flying to northern South America will cost 30,000 miles each way, and southern South America costs 57,500 miles. To find award availability, search (or at least try) BritishAirways.com for awards like the one below from Orlando to Sao Paulo, then call into American’s award desk to book using AA miles.

LATAM is also partners with Alaska, which will charge you 45,000 miles each way to fly anywhere in South America in business class.

6. United

(Photo courtesy United)
(Photo courtesy United)

Aircraft and routes: United mostly flies to South America from its hub in Houston (IAH), though you do find some flights from its other hubs, such as from Washington Dulles (IAD) and Newark (EWR) to Sao Paulo (GRU) and from Newark to Buenos Aires (EZE). Chances are you’ll have to fly through Houston, though. Most of these routes are served by 767s, though some, like Houston to Buenos Aires, are aboard 777s.

Seats: Since many of the aircraft on these routes tend to be 767s, let’s discuss those seats. The seats aboard those planes are mostly in a 2–1–2 configuration. They recline to 76 inches and are 20 inches wide, with IFE screens that are 15.4 inches. Some 777s have a 2–2–2 pattern, but unfortunately, there are others with seats in a tight 2–4–2 arrangement that are 20 inches wide instead of 23, so be sure to look at the seat map for your flight before booking anything.

Cuisine and amenities: Though they don’t have the new Polaris seats, the planes on these routes should have the Polaris amenities, including Soho House Cowshed Spa amenity kits, menus by Chicago chef Bill Kim of Urbanbelly, and Saks Fifth Avenue bedding.

You’ll find United’s new Polaris amenties, if not the seats, aboard its flights to South America for now.

Using miles: United will charge you 35,000 to northern South America including Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.

As you can see in the example above, you’ll need 60,000 miles to southern South America including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Featured photo by Alan Brutenic / EyeEm

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