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We recently asked our TPG Lounge readers to share their best tips and go-to ways for traveling to South America with points and miles. Here’s a look at some of our favorite answers. (Some responses have been lightly edited for style and clarity).
American Airlines, British Airways and Alaska Airlines
Some members of the TPG Lounge swear by Oneworld carriers like British Airways and American Airlines (along with non-alliance partner Alaska Airlines) when it comes to flying to South America from the US.
“For me, those short-haul flights on British Airways partners are the real sweet spot of Avios. Flights under [a distance of roughly] 500 miles in the US on AA via Avios used to be 4,500 but were bumped up to 7,500. Internationally, the 4,500 rate still applies.” — David K.
“I have yet to redeem it but 60,000 miles to fly round-trip from the US to Manaus, Brazil (MAO) in business class with AAdvantage sounds pretty good — and LATAM still has lie-flat seats [when you fly] from Miami (MIA).” — Burge K.
“30,000 AAdvantage miles [to fly from] basically anywhere in the US to Rio de Janeiro (GIG) or São Paulo (GRU) is a good deal.” — Chris H.
“Using Alaska or American miles [to fly] on American flights to Lima (LIM) has been as low as 35,000 miles round-trip.” — Ronald S.W.
Flying With Delta and Aeromexico
Several TPG readers wrote in declaring their love of Delta and its SkyTeam partner Aeromexico as preferred choices for flying between North and South America.
“I flew round-trip on Delta from Atlanta (ATL) to Santiago, Chile (SCL), for 60,000 SkyMiles in economy. [It would have been] $1,250 if I wanted to pay cash, at 2.08 cents per mile.” — Nick R.
“I flew from my local airport, Knoxville (TYS), to Buenos Aires (EZE) for 70,000 SkyMiles round-trip on Delta in July.” — Jeannia C.
“Flew business class round-trip on Aeromexico from Los Angeles (LAX) to Lima for 44,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per person [when booked] via the Chase UR Portal, where I used my Chase Sapphire Reserve.” — Jason F.
“Flying from Atlanta to Bogotá (BOG) and back in December on Delta — two tickets for 57,000 SkyMiles each!” — Audrey B.
Team Star Alliance
Other TPG Lounge members said they prefer to fly with United or its partners, Copa and Avianca, and reach South America by using United MileagePlus or Avianca LifeMiles.
“I just used United to go to Lima with my three kids last month for 40,000 miles round-trip each, saving us like $4,500. I didn’t know [until later] it was only 4,500 Avios [to fly] from Lima to Cusco (CUZ).” — Lizzeth V.
“Headed to Santiago on Copa tonight! 60,000 for ‘business’ seats.” — Matt R.
“For me, United has always been the cheapest option on points and miles — not the best planes but the availability and price point make it a compelling option. Plus, it’s easy to rack up miles with the Chase Sapphire Reserve.” — Arnaud D.B.
“United miles! I can always can find Saver Business tickets for 35,000 miles each way to many places in South America via Copa or Avianca.” — Antonio Q.
“Avianca from Miami to Lima for 19,000 LifeMiles one-way during peak season.” — Adan V.B.
“Avianca LifeMiles! It takes some searching and patience, but the deals are fantastic. I have booked New York-JFK to Guayaquil (GYE) in economy for 12,000 LifeMiles, and just last month flew to Rio de Janeiro from Washington-Dulles (IAD) for 35,000 in business class.” — Sarah E.
Using United’s Excursionist Perk
For those in-the-know, United’s Excursionist Perk is a great way to add more destinations to your itinerary, allowing you to take a vacation on the way home from your vacation.
“United Airlines, since I can throw in a second vacation destination. Last year we flew to the Galapagos Islands, used the Excursionist Perk to fly to Machu Picchu, then flew back to Denver (DEN) through Panama City (PTY).” — Carl C.
“Great point, though for clarification, it’s United MileagePlus miles [not just United, the airline], which you can then use the Excursionist Perk with on a variety of Star Alliance airlines down there. I’ve often found you can get an extra stop on a long layover, too. The United site still seems to be able to build those kinds of itineraries.” — Steven H.
“United’s Excursionist Perk, from Los Angeles to Bogotá to Medellin (MDE) to Lima to Panama City and back to Los Angeles for 40,000 miles plus $122 in taxes and fees in economy via United, Avianca and Copa.” — Sara C.
“Same with Africa! We flew into Kigali (KGL) through Brussels (BRU), then used the Excursionist Perk to get us from Kigali to Livingstone, Zambia (LVI) via Johannesburg (JNB), then use the return leg from Victoria Falls (VFA) through JNB to Washington-Dulles. The Excursionist Perk pays well in certain situations. I rarely redeem on United without using it.” — Carl C.
Planning the Whole Trip With Points and Miles
Our TPG Lounge members never fail to impress us when it comes to getting the biggest bang for their buck, whether it’s by using miles from different airline alliances to fly for free (or almost free) or working with points hotels to score a free stay once they get there.
“I used United miles to get to Machu Picchu since Avianca is a Star Alliance partner and makes it easy to get to Cusco. On the way back, I flew OneWorld on AAdvantage miles. One leg was LATAM from Lima to Miami, then AA from Miami back to New York City. I booked Palacio del Inka in Cusco with SPG points and it was one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed in. I also used Avios since the LATAM flight from Cusco to Lima can be booked for all of 4,500 Avios plus a few dollars in taxes and fees.” — David K.
“After living in Peru, my favorite hands down was Alaska to book LATAM business class. It’s arguably the best biz class in South America with lie-flat seats and decent onboard service, but it ain’t no Middle Eastern or Asian carrier. Partner award space on LATAM is always slim though. Another okay option is Avianca’s A330 from New York-JFK to Bogotá, which has mostly but not completely lie-flat seats. Avianca also flies the 787 from Los Angeles, which has fully flat seats but I don’t fly from there.” — Steven H.
“Used United miles to fly in economy from Omaha (OMA) to Santiago, Chile, for 30,000 miles each way. Went to Lima using American AAdvantage miles — I think 20,000 a person — in business class the whole way. Flew back on United for 20,000 miles in economy and due to our flight being canceled, Avianca bumped us up to business.” — Jacqueline R.
Featured photo of Buenos Aires by Alan Brutenic / EyeEm.
With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.
- Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
- Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. restaurants. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X).
- Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
- Earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with The Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, and Ruth's Chris Steak House. This is an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
- $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
- Choose to carry a balance with interest on eligible charges of $100 or more.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- Annual Fee is $250.
- Terms apply.
- See Rates & Fees