Booking Awards While Avoiding Fuel Surcharges with Aeroplan Miles to Central/South America

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Part I Europe
Part II Asia
Part III Africa/Middle East
Part IV Australia/New Zealand
Part V Central/South America

Air Canada Aeroplan miles are roughly line with other award charts for travel to Central and South America, though a bit better value than United miles for awards to Southern South America (e.g. Brazil and Argentina).

Air Canada charges 60,000 miles (30k oneway) for roundtrip business class awards to Central & Northern South America and 85,000 miles (42.5k oneway) for first class awards. Southern South America awards are 95,000 miles (47.5k oneway) in business and 135,000 miles in first class.

Aeroplan Award Pricing

Aeroplan Roundtrip Pricing ex-US

The Central and South American regions are broken down by Air Canada as follows:

Aeroplan Regions

Many European and Asian Star Alliance carriers must be avoided when booking Aeroplan awards, as their pricey fuel surcharges eat up any potential savings.

Luckily, there are relatively few instances of fuel surcharges when booking Aeroplan awards to Central and South America.

What are the Star Alliance carriers to avoid when booking with Aeroplan miles? Which are the best to get you to Central and South America? Are there any fifth-freedom flights you can take advantage of?

Star Alliance Carriers with Fuel Surcharges

Air Canada assesses fuel surcharges on all its own flights, so a business class award on Air Canada metal makes little sense. A roundtrip to Chile would be over $900 in fees the majority of which is fuel surcharges!

Click on any screen shot to enlarge.

Air Canada YYZ-SCL (YQ)

Air Canada YQ Breakdown

Star Alliance Carriers with NO Fuel Surcharges

Copa Airlines has excellent economy and business award space to their Panama hub and other Central American destinations. There are no fuel surcharges on Copa flights.

Copa IAD-PTY

TAM Airlines also doesn’t have fuel surcharges. They used to be ridiculously stingy with first class award space, but recently opened up tons of seats on their New York and Miami nonstops to Brazil. I speculatively booked one of those awards just in case. Note they are leaving the Star Alliance on March 30th, so you can’t book a TAM award with Aeroplan miles after that date.

TAM JFK-GRU

United flights are surcharge-free, though their award space is lacking on certain routes. Scott wrote about this phenomenon in his post, If You Have United Miles, I Hope You Don’t Want to Visit Buenos Aires.

United EWR-GRU

Interesting Fifth Freedom Flights with No Fuel Surcharges

Turkish operates a flight between Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires. There are no fuel surcharges on Turkish segments. I might even add this leg to my existing TAM first class itinerary!

Turkish GRU-EZE

Air China has a flight from Sao Paulo to Barcelona, though the business class seats aren’t fully lie-flat. Aeroplan miles are actually a good value for economy and business class awards between Europe and South America relative to United miles.

Air China GRU-MAD (5)

Singapore operates a fuel surcharge-free flight from Sao Paulo to Barcelona. This is an intriguing option for those with Singapore miles, but premium cabin space isn’t readily available to Star Alliance partners.

Singapore GRU-BCN

Ethiopian has a flight from Togo to Sao Paulo and they don’t have fuel surcharges. Africa to South America is an expensive award (unless you book an amazing US Airways itinerary like Scott did).

Ethiopian LFW-GRU

Getting Aeroplan Miles

Aeroplan is a transfer partner of Starpoints and Membership Rewards.

Starpoints

You can earn Starpoints from the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express.

Both cards offer 25k bonus Starpoints after spending $5k in the first six months. Meet both spending requirements and you’d have 60k Starpoints (50k bonus + 10k for spending), which transfer to 75k Aeroplan miles. Aeroplan often runs promotions in which you get a big bonus for transferring in hotel points. During the last promotion, 60k Starpoints would have become 85k Aeroplan miles.

Membership Rewards

Aeroplan is a transfer partner of Starpoints and Membership Rewards.

Starpoints

You can earn Starpoints from the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express.

Both cards offer 25k bonus Starpoints after spending $5k in the first six months. Meet both spending requirements and you’d have 60k Starpoints (50k bonus + 10k for spending), which transfer to 75k Aeroplan miles. Aeroplan often runs promotions in which you get a big bonus for transferring in hotel points. During the last promotion, 60k Starpoints would have become 85k Aeroplan miles.

Membership Rewards

Membership Rewards can most quickly be earned from the American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card or The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN.

Both cards offer huge category bonuses. I especially love the category bonuses on the Business Gold card.

  • Get 25,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership
  • Built with business-sized purchasing power and fast rewards
  • 3X points on airfare purchased directly from airlines
  • 2X points on US purchases for advertising in select media, shipping, at gas stations, and made directly from select computer hardware, software, and cloud computing providers
  • Up to $100,000 in each category per year, then 1 point
  • Use points to entertain clients, reward employees, reduce travel costs, or just offset the everyday expenses of moving your business forward
  • Terms and limitations apply

Application Link: The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN

Membership Rewards transfers are instant, and you can transfer to anyone’s account. Starpoints transfers take days to post, and names must match between Starwood and Aeroplan accounts.

 

Recap

The Air Canada Aeroplan award chart is roughly in line with most other frequent flyer programs for travel to Central and South America. American Airlines is still the best of the legacy carriers, but I don’t anticipate that lasting.

After United’s devaluation, it makes sense to Star Alliance flights to South America with Aeroplan miles, as you can save 2.5k miles on business class awards and 5k miles on first class awards each way.

Air Canada assesses fuel surcharges on their own flights, so avoid them when flying to Central and South America.

Thankfully, Copa, TAM and United are surcharge-free when booking with Aeroplan miles. TAM is departing the Star Alliance in a little over a month’s time, so they won’t be an Aeroplan nor United miles option much longer.

Go back to Aeroplan Fuel Surcharges to Australia/New Zealand

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