Anatomy of an Award: Bogota to Buenos Aires in Business Class for 20,000 Singapore Miles

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Last week I redeemed 20,000 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles and $27 for a one way trip in Business Class from Bogota to Buenos Aires with an overnight in Lima. I will fly the award in a few months.

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That’s over seven hours of flying up front for only 20,000 miles. United would have charged 40,000 miles for me to book the exact same award space. American Airlines would have charged 32,500 miles to fly its partner LAN Airlines in Business Class.

I got the 20,000 Singapore miles by transferring Citi ThankYou Points 1:1 to Singapore miles, which took about 19 hours to post. (Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints also transfer to Singapore miles.)

I earn ThankYou Points with my Citi Prestige® Card. The Prestige comes with 40,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months.

Getting the miles and searching for award space were very easy, so I’ll focus a lot on award chart sweet spots and setting alerts when the exact space you want is not available.

  • How did I discover this sweet spot on the Singapore award chart?
  • How did I search for award space?
  • How did I book the award?
  • How did I set an alert for better award space?

Finding Sweet Spots

I always scour award charts for hidden value on awards that never touch the United States. That’s how I found:

It’s also how I found that Singapore Airlines only charges 12,500 miles for an award within South America and only 20,000 miles in Business Class.

(Singapore Award Chart)

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Roundtrip Singapore Award Chart. Divide by two for a one way award.

Singapore’s intra-South America awards are probably so cheap because it only has one region for all of South America. United and American both break South America into two regions, so my award would have been 40,000 United miles for the exact same Business Class flights or 32,500 American Airlines miles on partner LAN Airlines.

Fuel Surcharges

Singapore Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance, so its miles can be used to book awards on all 27 member airlines of the alliance.

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Singapore collects fuel surcharges on award flights, though, so you only want to use Singapore miles to book awards on United, Copa, TACA, and Avianca, since Singapore doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on these airlines’ flights.

(You might also want to use Singapore miles to book Singapore Suites with fuel surcharges.)

Searching Award Space

I wanted to fly the direct Avianca flight from Bogota to Buenos Aires. I flew it last year (trip report), and it was a comfortable nearly-flat bed, in addition to being the quickest way between Bogota and Buenos Aires. Unfortunately award space is very rare on the direct flight, which you can search on united.com.
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My back up plan was a connection in Lima. There are some itineraries with short layovers in Lima, but I decided to book an 18 hour layover instead. Peru is one of my favorite counties (my Peru Top Ten), and I haven’t been there in a few years. I will greatly enjoy my night out in Miraflores and possibly re-connecting with old friends.

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I noted the date, cabin, and flight numbers of the TACA flights I found on united.com. Here’s how to search united.com

Transferring ThankYou Points

Once I found award space, I transferred 20,000 ThankYou Points to Singapore miles. For the miles to arrive takes between 19 and 36 hours, and I detailed the process here.

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There is no way to hold the space while you wait for the miles to hit. Luckily space disappearing seemed nearly impossible in this case, since there is Business Class award space every day on the route if you are willing to connect.

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If space had disappeared, I would have used my new Singapore miles for something else. They are super valuable to me as you’ll see in the links at the end of this post.

Booking a Singapore Airlines Award

Once the Singapore miles posted, I checked united.com, and the space I wanted was still there, so I called Singapore.

Singapore Airlines only displays its own award space online, so to book a partner award, you have to call (800) 742-3333. Luckily there is no phone ticketing fee.

I gave the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of the award space I wanted. The award had 86.3 Singapore Dollars worth of taxes, about $62.

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From flying a similar award last year, and departing Colombia three times in the last year, I am expecting about $35 in taxes to be returned to me at the airport because I am not Colombian, and I was in the country for less than 90 days. That will make the total taxes only $27.

Setting an Alert to Move to the Direct Flight

If Avianca opens up award space on its direct flight from Bogota to Buenos Aires, I would like to switch to that flight. Singapore charges $20 for changes, which I would gladly pay!

I could frequently check united.com to see if space opens up on the direct Bogota to Buenos Aires flight, but there is an easier way. Set up an alert on Award Nexus.

Will space open up for me?

No one knows for sure, but I don’t think it will. I’d give my chances of flying directly from Bogota to Buenos Aires at about 10%.

As I said in “Will You Find Last Minute Space? Here’s How To Estimate Your Chances,” the best way to estimate is to look at space on the route for the next few weeks.

Space is terrible on the direct flight with award space on only one day in the next two months.

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Bottom Line

Seven hours of flying in Business Class for 20,000 miles + $27 is a steal.

You should always check the award charts of all the partners of your transferable points currency to see if there is a sweet spot on one of the charts for the award you want. I saved myself 20,000 miles by not blowing 40,000 United miles for these flights, which is what I think most Americans would have unknowingly done.

Singapore miles are extremely easy to get (with a 19-36 hour delay) because they are transfer partners of every transferable point. My favorite way to rack up Singapore miles is with my Citi Prestige® Card. It comes with 40,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. It also comes with 3x points per dollar on airlines and hotels and 2x on dining and entertainment.

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