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Or: The Whole is Less than Either of its Parts

If you take a look at the American Airlines award chart, you’ll see that Honolulu to Dallas costs 22,500 miles each way in economy. And Dallas to Buenos Aires costs 30,000 miles each way in economy.

Luckily both Hawaii and South America Zone 2 (most of South America including Argentina) have some dates when you can fly in economy at a discount.

Hawaii’s off peak pricing of 17,500 miles each way runs from January 12 to March 8 and August 22 to December 15. South America Zone 2’s off peak pricing of 20,000 miles each way runs from March 1 to May 31 and August 16 and November 30.

Those are the listed off peak dates, but I’ve already cracked how to enjoy off peak pricing all year round by choosing an appropriate date for your free oneway.

So I wanted to see whether I could get a date listed as a peak date to Hawaii plus a date listed as a peak date to South America Zone 2 to price below what either one should cost. And it’s actually quite easy. Here’s my goal.

  • What a peak flight Honolulu to Dallas costs (22.5k) + what a peak flight Dallas to Buenos Aires costs (30k) = 52.5k
  • Peak flight Dallas to Buenos Aires = 30k
  • Peak flight Honolulu to Dallas = 22.5k
  • Goal: Peak flight Honolulu to Dallas + peak flight Dallas to Buenos Aires = 20k total

What I learned when I figured out how to get off peak pricing of 20k miles to Europe all year round is that American Airlines determines whether your award is off peak or peak based only on the date of the first flight of the itinerary.

I could fly a peak July flight from Los Angeles to Berlin for 20k miles as long as I added a flight beforehand from somewhere, say San Francisco, to Los Angeles during Europe’s off peak season.

The same principle applies to this award. The first leg–Honolulu to Dallas–must occur during the off peak window to South America Zone 2 for the entire award including the flight to Buenos Aires to price at the South America Zone 2 off peak price of 20k miles one way.

What I wasn’t sure about was whether there was an additional date requirement for the flight from Honolulu to Dallas. After all, Honolulu to Dallas on its own can cost 17,500 miles or 22,500 miles depending on whether it is flown during a peak or off peak period.

I was wondering whether I needed to fly from Hawaii to Dallas during the Hawaii off peak season, and it turns out I don’t. The only requirement for Honolulu-Dallas//Dallas-Buenos Aires to price at 20,000 miles is that Honolulu to Dallas be flown during South America Zone 2’s off peak season.

In case you’re confused about why this screen shot is showing such an incredible deal, consider it compared to the next two screen shots. The above picture is 20,000 miles. The same exact flights, booked separately, each cost more than 20,000 miles and total 52,500 miles.

I don’t think this is theoretical either. This trick should have lots of practical applications.

Best Use

The best use is if you live at a city in the continental US and can have parts of two vacations on one award. If you lived in Dallas, you have half your trip to Argentina and half your trip to Hawaii figured out for 20,000 miles total. The other halves can handled by cash tickets or oneway awards with United, British Airways, or American miles.

You don’t have to live in Dallas to take advantage. You can also live in Miami, New York, or Los Angeles. What’s special about these cities? They have direct flights on American or LAN (a oneworld partner) to South America Zone 2. Direct flights are important to satisfy American’s stopover rule. See The Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards.

If you don’t live in any of those cities, you are hardly out of luck. If your home airport has a direct flight operated by American Airlines to one of those cities, you can still enjoy substantial savings by using this one easy trick.

Or you can use Buenos Aires as a hidden city.

If you live in Dallas, and you just want a return trip from Hawaii, 20k miles represents a discount over the peak price of 22,500 miles. You could book the itinerary in this post, adding Buenos Aires as a hidden city you never plan to fly to. Get off in Dallas and save your 2,500 miles.

This isn’t a great use of this trick. One of the many reasons is that you could find a better hidden city. If you choose a Central American city, the award would only cost 17,500 miles meaning a Central American hidden city would save 5,000 miles.

Recap

Honolulu to Dallas is 22,500 American Airlines miles.

Dallas to Buenos Aires is 30,000 American Airlines miles.

Honolulu to Dallas to Buenos Aires is 20,000 American Airlines miles.

This trick is valuable for those who live at a oneworld gateway to South America, and it’s valuable for anyone who lives within one direct flight of such a gateway.

Bonus

If you travel to EZE airport on an American passport, you have to prepay a $160 fee and print your receipt before flying. I was once chided in the comments for not mentioning that. I rarely mention things like visas and entrance fees because I don’t keep up with those things. Before taking any trip, do what I do and look up your destination’s info on travel.state.gov.

That’s how I learned Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya would ding me for $175 total. (Thanks for not charging me, Rwanda.) I also know that Chile and Brazil charge Americans $160.

 

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