United announced yesterday on Twitter that it would begin a new daily service from Houston to Santiago, Chile on December 7, 2014. Flights in both directions will be red eyes of just under 10 hours.
Award space is phenomenal on the new route in stark contrast to United’s terrible award space to Buenos Aires.
The United flight can be booked with United, Lufthansa, Avianca, Aeroplan, ANA, and Singapore miles, which are all Star Alliance miles that are easily accessible to Americans from credit card sign up bonuses.
Chile is near the top of my list for new countries I want to visit because I love South America, I want to see Patagonia, and the former $160 entrance fee for Americans was discontinued this year.
- What is the award space picture December 2013 to May 2014?
- What cabins are available on the route?
- What are your connection options in Houston and Santiago?
- What miles are best to book United’s flight to Chile?
United will operate one daily flight in each direction between Houston and Santiago, Chile.
- Flight 847 will depart Houston daily at 9:05 p.m. and arrive in Santiago at 9:40 a.m. the next day.
- Return flight 846 will depart Santiago daily at 10:45 p.m. and arrive in Houston at 5:40 a.m. the following day.
The flights will be on Boeing 767-300 with 189 economy seats and 30 fully flat beds in United business. United business is a very solid product in my experience.
Award space is fantastic in both directions in economy, with nearly every day having Saver award space–even around Christmas–through the end of the schedule.
Award space is rare in business class on the flight to Chile, but available almost every Monday through Wednesday on the return flight to the United States.
Houston to Santiago
Yellow days have Saver economy award space. Blue days have Saver business award space. Green days have Saver award space in both cabins. White days have no Saver award space.
Santiago to Houston
Out of Pocket
The flight to Chile has taxes of $2.50. The return has taxes of $47.50. A roundtrip has taxes of $50.
United flights to South America do NOT have fuel surcharges, which means that whether you book with United miles or any other type of miles, you’ll just pay $50 in taxes on the award and no fuel surcharges.
Pay your $50 in taxes with the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®, and you can redeem Arrival miles to remove that charge. I always pay my award taxes with my Arrival Plus.
In February, Chile ended its ludicrous $160 reciprocity fee for Americans to visit. You can now enter without a visa and without paying a fee. [Current as of time of writing. Always check the State Department's website and with the country you're visiting for up-to-date info.]
Which Miles to Book With
As always, all United partners have equal access to the Saver award space you see when you search united.com without signing in. All the partners allow one way award bookings–except ANA–and will collect the exact same taxes, so which miles you use comes down to which miles you have more of, can get more of, or want to save for future bookings.
Major miles to consider:
All prices listed economy/business class one way unless otherwise noted.
- United: 30k/55k, transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards
- Lufthansa: 30k/52k, current 50,000 bonus mile offer on its credit card ends 6/30/14, transfer partner of Starpoints
- Singapore: 30k/50k, transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, and Starpoints
- Aeroplan: 30k/47.5k, transfer partner of Membership Rewards and Starpoints
- Avianca LifeMiles: 30k/50k, frequently sells miles for 1.5 cents that you can get for free with your Arrival Plus
- ANA: 55k/85k roundtrip on the direct IAH-SCL flights. Connections may add to the miles price. Read this post on ANA miles for more info. Transfer partner of Membership Rewards and Starpoints.
No matter the miles you want to use, search on united.com. Then book at the website of the airline whose miles you’re using if possible (United, Aeroplan, LifeMiles, ANA) or by phone (Lufthansa, Singapore.)
Connections in Houston and Santiago
The only Star Alliance flight from Santiago to somewhere else in Southern South America is a tag leg on Air Canada’s flight from Toronto that continues Santiago to Buenos Aires. That means that this new United flight is primarily useful for people who want to visit Chile or Argentina.
To/from Houston, connection options abound, so that anyone in North America can easily use this new United route. The flight times are extremely convenient to get to Houston by evening time to catch the red eye south and to connect in Houston to the first flight of the morning to your home airport on the way home.
These connecting flights add zero miles and only nominal taxes to the award price.
United’s new route to Chile offers exceptional economy award space in both directions and widely available business award space for the Santiago-to-Houston flight.
The new route begins December 7, 2014, just in time to get to Patagonia for the start of summer, which is very high on my list of travel goals.
The United flight is bookable with six easily accessible types of Star Alliance miles, which all have the same access to United Saver award availability.
Does this new route, plus the now-free entry into Chile, tempt anyone to visit?