I’m not sure how I missed the press release two weeks ago, but US Airways has a new route debuting May 5, 2013: Charlotte (CLT) to Sao Paulo (GRU). The Wandering Aramean didn’t miss the press release.
A new international route for US Airways is always big news. This is only its second South American route; Charlotte to Rio de Janeiro is the other. And other than Tel Aviv, US Airways doesn’t fly to Asia, Africa, or Australia.
The main reason that a new US Airways route is big news to me is US Airways’ incredible off peak awards. US Airways offers steeply discounted awards to Europe, South America, and the Caribbean during off peak times of the year.
The rules for off peak are pretty simple. You fly the off peak dates listed for a region, you fly only US Airways operated flights (no partners), and you find off peak award space. Follow those three rules, and you get a 40+% discount to South America or Europe in economy or business class.
Amazingly this discount is stackable with the 5,000 mile discount on all US Airways operated awards offered to US Airways MasterCard holders, so cardholders can fly to Brazil or Europe for only 30k miles roundtrip.
US to Sao Paulo for 30k Miles Roundtrip
I’ve done some digging into the new Sao Paulo route. The route is operating seasonally from May 5 to October 25, 2013 (and one day later on the return).
The southbound flight 802 leaves Charlotte at 5:50 PM and arrives in Sao Paulo at 4:30 AM the next day. The northbound flight 803 leaves Sao Paulo at 8:25 AM and arrives at 5:25 PM the same day.
The aircraft is a Boeing 767, which is bad news for people seeking flat bed business class. US Airways has a world class business class product on its A330s, a fully flat bed that it calls The Envoy Suite.
The Sao Paulo route’s start is in the middle of the second off peak window to South America on US Airways from May 1-31. Unfortunately there is no off peak business class space being offered in either direction from Charlotte to Sao Paulo. In fact, there is zero low-price business space for the entire duration of the route.
The above chart shows the space for August from Charlotte to Sao Paulo. Those are the each-way prices listed below the chart. Since there is no low-price space for the duration of the route, a roundtrip business class ticket would cost at least 200k miles. That’s a horrible redemption, considering I booked an award in business class to four continents for only 100k US Airways miles.
The good news is that there are plenty of off peak seats available in economy class.
Combining two of the blue-green days would result in a 35,000 mile roundtrip to Sao Paulo–30,000 miles if you have a US Airways MasterCard.
Weatherspark.com makes the weather look pretty nice in Sao Paulo in May.
Most of us don’t live in Charlotte, so we’ve got to worry about one more step: finding US Airways award space to Charlotte at the low level price. Remember that US Airways off peak awards have to be flown entirely on US Airways metal.
I live in Los Angeles for the time being, so I performed a search in May for LAX to GRU to see whether I would be able to book for 30k miles roundtrip.
Unfortunately this calendar doesn’t look nearly as nice as CLT-GRU did. Since we know CLT-GRU has plenty of space, the culprit must be getting from Los Angeles to Charlotte and back.
Two forces are working against us. The first is that US Airways domestic award space isn’t great. It’s far better than Delta’s, but it isn’t as good as United’s or American’s. The second is the flight times to/from Sao Paulo, which require catching the first flight out from LAX and the last one back to it.
If I wanted to book for 30,000 miles, I would have two options. I could book May 6 -25, which does have space.
That means I could overnight in Charlotte one direction. Itineraries with an overnight in Charlotte wouldn’t be picked up by a simple award search. But they are easy to find if you search LAX-CLT roundtrip and CLT-GRU roundtrip separately.
For instance, here’s LAX to Charlotte roundtrip, and we need low-price availability to pair with the off peak international space.
Now I have a lot of options. Say that I was happy returning May 25–the one day with off peak availability from GRU-LAX–but I wanted only a two week vacation. I can fly LAX-CLT on May 13.
This flight arrives at 8:52 PM on May 13, missing the flight to Sao Paulo, which leaves at 5:50 PM. I can catch the 5:50 PM flight the next day–a 21 hour layover–or any subsequent day–a stopover.
I can stay in Charlotte as long as I’d like–one day, two days, three days–and fly out on any day with off peak space CLT to GRU, which was most days as you’ll recall.
So by overnighting in Charlotte or even staying a few days, I can greatly expand the off peak options that would price at 30,000 miles roundtrip to Sao Paulo.
With the flights I’d found noted, I would call US Airways at 800-622-1015 to book the award.
30k Roundtrips to Rio
Rio de Janeiro is the tourist capital of Brazil. If you’d rather go there instead, US Airways has a year round route operated by a 767. The off peak space for next March and May is still widely available.
Note that if you combine two different level awards, you just sum the each way prices. So one way off-peak and one way low is 47,500 miles total. One way medium and one way high is 97,500 miles total.
How to Get US Airways Miles
I can’t get enough US Airways miles. I list them as the most valuable legacy-airline mile because they can access the same great Star Alliance partners United has with a cheaper award chart and better routing rules.
The current US Airways MasterCard offer from Barclay’s comes with 40,000 US Airways mile on first purchase, 5,000 mile discount on US Airways operated awards, first class check in, Zone 2 boarding, and an $89 annual fee.
Application Link: US Airways World MasterCard
US Airways has a new route to Sao Paulo, which means a new way to get to Brazil for 30k miles roundtrip. The availability to/from Sao Paulo and Rio is phenomenal, especially if you are willing to overnight in Charlotte.
Application Link: US Airways World MasterCard