20k Miles (or Less) to All of South America All Year

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Or: Save 10k Miles by Adding a Free Oneway

Summer airfare–during our summer or theirs–to Southern South America usually tops $1,000 per person in economy.

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 12.33.39 AM Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 12.34.40 AMBut you can get to South America this summer for only 20k American Airlines miles one way.

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 12.31.11 AM

All the legacy carriers–Delta, United, American, and US Airways–charge 60k miles roundtrip on Saver economy awards to Southern South America, which includes Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and Paraguay.

American and United let you go one way for half the price while US Airways and Delta charge 60k miles for one ways.

American is even more generous with two off peak windows during which you can fly to Southern South America for only 20k miles each way:

  • March 1 – May 31
  • August 16 – November 30

Off peak awards are great because they represent a way to stretch your miles for even more trips. The problem is that peak time is peak time for a reason. The two off peak windows are almost half the year, but they leave out the best time to travel to Southern South America–December through February for their summer–and the most convenient time for Americans to travel–our summer.

Luckily, there is a way to fly to anywhere in Southern South America from New York, Dallas, or Miami for only 20k miles one way all year round! And you’ll get a free oneway to boot!

If you don’t live near New York, Dallas, or Miami, you can still use a version of the tricks in this post as long as where you live has a direct American Airlines flight to one of those cities.

How can you go to one of my favorite regions in the world during the best time to visit for only 20k miles one way?

This trick relies on three things:

  1. American Airlines off peak awards
  2. Free Oneways on American Airlines Awards
  3. How American Airlines determines the date of a trip

American Airlines Off Peak Awards

American Airlines off peak awards are incredible. There are no restrictions except the dates. You can fly any normal routing with any combination of partners and pay 20k miles oneway to Southern South America. From its chart:

(with one way miles price listed in red to the top right of each region)

Being able to use partners is unusual for off peak awards. US Airways and United, when they offer off peak awards, require you to fly on their own metal to get the discount. American lets you fly any partner, and its partner LAN has some valuable award space you can use for this trick.

Free Oneways on American Airlines Awards

I put everything there is to know about free oneways on American Airlines awards into Master Thread: Free Oneways on American Airlines Awards.

For the purposes of this post, I’ll just say that you can get a free oneway from anywhere in the continental US, Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, the Caribbean, Bermuda, and the Bahamas to your home airport before an international award.

There are some requirements–see the Master Thread–like MPM, the overwater-carrier-must-publish-a-fare rule, and the fact that your home airport must be the departure city for your international flight.

How American Airlines Determines the Date of Your Trip

American Airlines assigns one date to your trip–the date of your first leg.

Example 1: You fly Los Angeles to Miami on March 2. You continue Miami to Buenos Aires on July 10. AA considers the date of the entire trip to be March 2 and charges 20k miles because March 2 is off peak (even though July 10 is not off peak!)

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 12.31.11 AM

Example 2: You fly Orlando to Miami on January 15. You continue Miami to Sao Paulo on November 11. AA considers the date of the entire trip January 15 and charges 30k miles because January 15 is peak time.

What it means

This means that no matter when you want to fly to Argentina, Brazil, or Chile, you can fly for 20k miles. If the South America leg falls between December 1 and February 28 or June 1 and August 15, the normal peak dates, just be sure to precede it with a domestic leg that falls on an off peak date to save 10k miles and get a free oneway.

Unfortunately, there is no way to game the return like this since AA fixes a trip’s date by the date of the first leg and the return’s first leg will be the South America leg.

But 20k to Tierra del Fuego oneway is unbeatable, especially when you are getting a free oneway.

Example Booking

Imagine you live in Miami and you want to go to Argentina next July because you read the MileValue guide to One Perfect Week in Argentina. To get to Buenos Aires during July, you would normally pay 30k AAdvantage miles.

But if you can just add a prior oneway trip to Miami during the Southern South America off peak dates, you can save yourself 10k miles and get a free oneway.

Maybe you want to go to Los Angeles for a weekend in March.

(For a fuller description of how to book, see How to Book Free Stopover Online: American Airlines)

On the AAdvantage award search screen, search Los Angeles to Miami for March 2 and Miami to Buenos Aires for July 10.

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 1.02.23 AM

On the search result screen, select your one way to Miami and your one way to Buenos Aires.

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 1.04.34 AM Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 1.04.41 AM

As you can see, this award prices out to 20k miles and minimal taxes–an incredible deal for half a trip to Los Angeles and one way to Argentina during the peak summer travel season.

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 12.31.11 AM

Here’s what the award looks like visually.

Red: Free oneway from Los Angeles to Miami. Blue: Main trip from Miami to Buenos Aires. Green: Optional leg if you prefer to go all the way to Bariloche instead of Buenos Aires. More on this in the Variations section below.

Red: Free oneway from Los Angeles to Miami. Blue: Main trip from Miami to Buenos Aires. Green: Optional leg if you prefer to go all the way to Bariloche instead of Buenos Aires. More on this in the Variations section below.

Variations

Going Somewhere Other than the Big Cities

American’s partner LAN Airlines has hubs in Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina in Southern South America. LAN award space is not searchable on aa.com.

If you want to add LAN award space to your award, so that you can fly somewhere American doesn’t serve, like Bariloche, Argentina, search for LAN award space on ba.com and call American Airlines at 800-882-8880 to book your entire award.

When you call, don’t use the words “free oneway” or make a big deal out of the great deal you’re getting. Just feed the agent the flights, cabins, and dates of every segment as usual.

Starting from Somewhere Other than New York, Miami, or Dallas

You should read How to Get Almost Free Oneways on AA Awards If You Don’t Live at an International Gateway City.

What you will do is book the main American Airlines award through Miami, New York, or Dallas and then use Avios to get from your airport to one of those three airports.

The deal is slightly less good for you, but still very good.

The Return

This discounted price of 20k miles is available all year round on the outbound. On the return, you either have to book a one way award with United, American, or any other airline that allows one way bookings at a fair price. Or you can buy a one way cash ticket.

Recap

You can fly to Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, or Paraguay all year round for 20k miles if you live in Miami, New York, or Dallas, and you add a free oneway beforehand that takes off between December 1 and February 28 or June 1 and August 15. This works because American determines the date of your trip by the date of the first segment.

Not only does the free oneway drop the price 10k miles, but it gives you half of a free trip to anywhere in the US, Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean.

Bonus

The “free oneways” in this post are really negative-price oneways since their presence makes the award 10k miles cheaper.

Two other examples of this phenomenon?

Adding a free oneway to/from the Caribbean onto a roundtrip economy United award to Europe drops the price 2,500 miles to 57,500. (This deal dies on the February 1, 2014-and-beyond chart.)

Adding dummy legs to a four continent US Airways award allows it to price at 100k miles instead of 200k-300k. (I’m not sure how it would price without the dummy legs.)

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13 Responses to 20k Miles (or Less) to All of South America All Year

  1. Nice post. A couple of issues i see though:
    -award availability to Ezeiza, from any of the US gateway cities (JFK, DFW, MIA) is pretty scarce in Saaver. so there are very few dates for 30K (or 20K). Usually a couple of days per month.
    -even if you find some date you like to EZE, if you want to continue to other destination, like, say Montevideo, you need to find availability in Lan, which is even more scarce, normally no more than 1 day per month. So overlapping both availabilities, you end up with probably no feasible trip option.
    My experience has been that flying on Saaver Award with AA/Lan is very very tricky. Some dates, like November, work best.
    Obviously, YMMV

    • I would rather fly the direct MIA-MVD flight than connect in Buenos Aires. Saver award space isn’t great at the moment to BsAs, but it’s better to some other cities in Brazil and Chile.

  2. Hey Scott,
    I have used your advice on the off-peak AA trick and have a question:

    I have free oneway (EWR-LAX) scheduled in Feb ’14 as part of a trip to Europe (LAX-BER) in June ’14 (at 20k). What time frame do I have to change my 1st leg without affecting the 20k price? I may not be able to take in Feb after all.

    Clearly I have also used your tip on switching the direction of the free oneway. Thanks!

  3. What happens if you miss LAX-MIA – is the second leg canceled?

  4. Pingback: How to Get More Free Stopovers and Use Fewer Miles on Your Next Trip to South America | milevalue.com

  5. What do u recommend when u only have the outbound oneway booked on day of dept and they wanna see your return ticket info? Just book a refundable dummy tkt?

  6. In your personal experience, what months do you recommend visiting south america? I have issues with bug bites so probably not the rainy season if that helps. thank you Scott.

    • Each country is very different. I think Peru is great all year round (though Lima is best in January.) Argentina is best in the summer Dec – March.

  7. Hi Scott,
    What happens if you end up not flying the free one way stopover tucked on towards the end of your booked one way trip to Asia? For example, if I book using AA miles one way from Hong Kong (Sept.2014) and get ticketed on Jan.4, 2014- LAX (stopover), then MIA (Jan 2, 2015). I would have completed HKG-LAX segment, but then I’m not able to fly to Miami? Is there a penalty? Will I be charged for LAX-MIA if I called to cancel or if I just don’t show up?

  8. Pingback: Family challenge for a trip to Rio | Miles For Family

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