How to Get to the World Cup 2014 in Brazil for Cheap with Miles & Points: Conclusion

In Part 1, I shared my experiences at the 2012 Euro Cup and how they informed my plan for the World Cup. I also discussed the flight and hotel awards I booked for myself. See How to Get to the World Cup 2014 in Brazil for Cheap with Miles & Points.

What are your options for using miles and points to get to Brazil? How can you get around Brazil and get match tickets? What is the one GOLD MINE route of Saver award space that you would never think of?

Flights to Brazil with United and US Airways (and any other Star Alliance) Miles

Don’t forget that US Airways leaves the Star Alliance March 30, so these flights are only bookable with US Airways miles until then.

United flies to Sao Paulo from:

  • Houston
  • Chicago
  • Washington-Dulles
  • Newark

During the tournament (June 12 – July 13, 2014), the best United space I see is between Washington-Dulles and Sao Paulo. All the space is in First Class, which United prices at 67,500 miles each way and US Airways charges 125k miles roundtrip for.

There’s award space for one passenger a few days in the middle of the tournament on the way down.

Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 3.22.01 PM

Return space is also available in First Class on seven days late in the tournament.

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 6.18.36 PM

The Chicago route is the only other route with any relevant space in either direction. It has First Class space to Sao Paulo on July 10 and 11, just in time to see the final (which is in Rio.)

Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 3.23.49 PM

United flies to Rio de Janeiro from:

  • Houston
  • (the Washington-Dulles flight to Sao Paulo continues to Rio)

There is no Saver award space to Rio on United flights.

US Airways flies to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo from Charlotte:

There is no Saver award space on either route during the tournament.

Copa flies to Sao Paulo, Brasilia, and Rio de Janeiro from its hub in Panama City:

There is no Saver award space from Panama City to Sao Paulo or Brasilia, but there is award space every day in both cabins between Panama City and Rio in both directions!

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 3.36.48 PM

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 3.37.20 PM

The specific flights that have space every day in both cabins are these:

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 3.36.57 PM Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 3.37.13 PM Getting to Panama isn’t too hard either since Copa flies to 10 cities in the US and Canada with excellent award space.

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 3.41.12 PM

Flying Copa costs the same 60k miles roundtrip in economy and 100k in business with United or US Airways miles.

Since the flight times are long, you may prefer business class, but be aware that Copa Business Class seats are simple recliners like you’d find in domestic First Class on any US-based airline.

Flights to Brazil with American Airlines and British Airways Miles

American Airlines is the king of Brazil with routes from Miami to nine cities all over the country.

Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 3.38.30 PM

Unfortunately I don’t see Saver award space on any routes in any cabin during the tournament. There was Saver award space on a few days in economy to the minor cities like Manaus (where the US has a Group Stage game) before the tournament’s draw a few weeks ago, but now I see nothing.

Flights to Brazil with Delta Miles

Delta flies from Atlanta to Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Brasilia. There is no Saver award space on Delta flights in economy or business during the World Cup.

SkyTeam partner AeroMexico flies from Mexico City to Sao Paulo, but there is no Saver award space during the World Cup.

Recap of the Saver Award Options

You can fly First Class from Washington-Dulles to Sao Paulo on United with United, US Airways, Lufthansa, Singapore, Air Canada, or any other type of Star Alliance miles. You can connect to Washington-Dulles from anywhere in the country easily.

You can fly Economy or Business to Rio de Janeiro via Panama on Copa with United, US Airways, Lufthansa, Singapore, Air Canada, or any other type of Star Alliance miles. You can get to Panama on a Copa flight or on United flights.

The Saver award options are minimal.

If you really want to go to Brazil during the World Cup, is it an appropriate time to book a “Standard” (double price) award?

I actually almost booked myself a Standard award.

Standard Award Options to Brazil

I think this is a decent time to book a Standard award with Delta miles in economy class if the United or Copa space doesn’t work for you. Delta charges 95,000 miles for a roundtrip economy Standard award from the US to Brazil. Standard award space–yellow on the chart–is wide open during the tournament.

Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 3.31.44 PM

While 95,000 miles is not an ideal price for an economy award, I only value Delta miles at about 1.2 cents and the ticket to Brazil is going for about $2,000 in economy from most cities in the US. I’d rather spend 95,000 Delta miles than $2,000.

In my case, I could have paid 100k Delta miles (it’s slightly more to originate in Hawaii) and $60 in taxes for a pretty good Delta itinerary from Honolulu to Sao Paulo. The cheapest cash ticket I can find is $2,100 and has a lot of stops.

Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 3.22.50 PM Standard Business Class awards are prohibitively expensive at 200,000 Delta miles roundtrip from the US to Brazil, so I’d skip those, but I think a Standard Delta economy award is an OK option given how expensive cash tickets are and how little Delta miles are worth since their newest Double Devaluation.

I am less keen on Standard (AAnytime) award with American Airlines miles. For one thing, American wants 120k miles roundtrip in economy for AAnytime awards. For another, American miles are far more valuable than Delta miles (1.77 vs. 1.22 cents each).

But if you really want to fly into a certain, smaller Brazilian city to follow a specific team, American AAnytime awards may be a good value for you. Run the numbers and see if you are getting at least 1.77 cents of value from the AAnytime award.

Hotel Option

I’ve found one hotel in Brazil available with points during the World Cup. If you’ve found others, please share them in the comments.

The Holiday Inn Sao Paulo Parque Anhembi is a $266 per night hotel 6 km North of the Sao Paulo city center for 20,000 IHG Rewards points per night.

The hotel isn’t particularly convenient to the international airport (nothing’s convenient to the airport as far as I can tell) or the stadium (it’s 23km from Sao Paulo, again not the hotel’s fault).

It is pretty close to the city center and the hotel offers a free shuttle for a 5km radius, which would get into parts of the city center.

The hotel is available most–but not all–days of the World Cup with points. Check your dates. If all your dates are not available, search one day at a time to figure out what day is not available with points in order to change your search.

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 5.08.03 PM Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 5.08.10 PMI just did a dummy search from June 11 – 22, and the hotel had award space the whole time for 20k points per night. That sure beats paying $266 per night for the property!

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 5.07.53 PMDon’t forget that you can buy IHG Rewards points for 0.7 cents each, so a 20k point night will cost you $140. You can also transfer Ultimate Rewards to IHG Rewards at a 1:1 rate. I wouldn’t do that because I want to get more than 0.7 cents of value from my Ultimate Rewards.

Getting Match Tickets

To get match tickets, you have to register an account at fifa.com and then request tickets from the lottery. Start the process here.

If you don’t win the ticket lottery, there is an official resale platform that will go live after the lottery. I bought my Euro Cup tickets on the resale platform two years ago. I found that matches played in Ukraine that year were widely available while tickets to matches in Poland were almost non-existent on the resale platform. The takeaway is that tickets to matches in more desirable locations like Sao Paulo and Rio will be much harder to get than tickets to matches in Manaus.

If all else fails, there will surely be a way to pay a scalper through the nose for a match ticket. I will look into the best way to do this if I can’t get a ticket through one of the official channels.

Here’s the schedule of matches I used to plan my trip’s dates.

Intra-Brazil Movement

The major Brazilian domestic airlines are TAM, GOL, Azul, and Avianca Brazil. TAM and GOL are searchable on kayak.com while Azul and Avianca Brazil are searchable on the Azul and Avianca sites respectively.

For the most part, I’ve found intra-Brazil flights to be insanely expensive like $800 roundtrip from Sao Paulo to Manaus. But some flights are cheap, so it pays to look around. I just booked Sao Paulo to Rio roundtrip for only $128 on TAM.

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I haven’t found award space on any of the airlines.

Buses are a cheaper way to get around, especially between nearby cities on the Atlantic coast, but I haven’t looked into buying bus tickets because I plan on staying just in Rio and Sao Paulo to avoid travel time and cost during the tournament.

Questions

Hopefully the hours I spent researching my dream trip to to the World Cup in Brazil next year will save you some time or convince you to book.

This is a tough World Cup. The size of Brazil, the strength of the real, and the popularity of the beautiful game there conspire to make trekking down prohibitively expensive for some. But looking ahead, the World Cups in Russia and Qatar in 2018 and 2022 will probably be even more difficult and expensive to go to. I don’t want to wait until 2026 to see the World Cup in person, so I pulled the trigger on a trip to Brazil.

And I’m doing it all for pennies on the dollar by booking a First Class award ticket and my hotel with points.

Who am I going to see in Brazil?

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16 Responses to How to Get to the World Cup 2014 in Brazil for Cheap with Miles & Points: Conclusion

  1. I don’t think the IAD-GRU flight continues on to GIG anymore

  2. If you’re a UA 1K and thinking of qualifying for status again in 2014, perhaps just pay for your ticket using Copa Airlines. I’ve always flown on paid flights to South America using Copa and as a Continental Platinum and UA 1K the past few years, have always gotten complimentary upgrades to Copa Business class. Just an FYI. I went to South Africa for the world cup when I was 28 years old and had a BLAST! Have a great time Scott! I think Brazil will be awesome but I’ll be skipping it this summer and simply watch it with friends back at a local pub at home (or while at work! ;))

  3. Scott, how do you book going thru Panama City for 60k round trip in economy? I find that one ways from Chicago to Panama city is 17,500, and another 20k to go from panama city to Rio, that’s 37,500. Should I look on United or Copa?

  4. Two days ago, the PTY-RIO goldmine was fully there. Green availibility on every date.

    Yesterday, it ALL disappeared. I should have pulled the trigger.

    Ideas? Route through Lima ???

    • I didn’t see anything that way. My next suggestion is Standard Delta economy award for 95k miles. (That’s obviously much worse, but I still think it’s the next best.)

      • Well, I may be hiring your ticket booking service then, if I get any game tickets assigned to me!

        • Bluecat I noticed the same thing, there’s still a lot of space PTY to Sao Paulo though.

          • Ying, that is something new! I swear I did not see that availability before, so thank you! Have you got tickets yet? I am wondering if I should hold something now and then cancel out if I don’t get my match tickets (I will know Feb 7). What are you doing about that? (Ying, you can also reach me at bluecatjumping at gmail dot com, and we can compare notes.)

            Scott, what is your advise? Get something and then cancel and pay penalty (I have no status with United) or wait, as it appears that Copa might be playing with availability.

            • It’s a tough dilemma. I booked the flights without knowing about match tickets because I am willing to pay whatever it takes to get into one game, so I firmly expect to get into one game some how some way. And even if I get into zero games, I’ll still have a blast.

              The award space could definitely disappear, so if you can handle the $200 cancellation fee in case you want to cancel the flights later, you might want to go for it.

              • Yeah, I’m now seeing that there is a bunch of awards at the standard level, on more than one alliance group. I’m going to sit tight and hope that I get some tickets first. A huge crapshoot.

              • If you really want to get into one game guaranteed, you could look into that official “packaging” deal that FIFA has, where tickets start at $700. And you get free parking and snacks. :-)

  5. Any other creative routing options? Doesn’t seem like delta has any double awards availability to RIO

    • I see plenty of Standard (95k roundtrip economy) award space from ATL-GIG. Maybe the problem is your home airport to ATL. In that case, try another airport if you can.

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