In February, my parents flew down to South America to join me for a trip in Rio de Janiero, followed by a week spent in Buenos Aires, the location I call home for at least half the year.
I booked them in United Business between Charleston, SC and Rio de Janiero using United miles, and LATAM Business between Buenos Aires and Miami using American Airlines miles. They purchased a cheap economy flight between Miami and Charleston on their Barclaycard Arrival Plus for the final leg home since there was no economy Saver award space the day their flight arrived into Miami.
That leaves the travel between Rio and Buenos Aires yet to be explained.
For myself, I ended up booking a roundtrip on GOL (Buenos Aires <> Rio de Janeiro) with Delta miles. For my parents, I booked a one way on Gol (Buenos Aires > Rio) with Flying Blue miles. This post will go over the process I went through looking at options with the types of rewards we had at the time, combing through award space, and booking.
Looking at My Options
Cash flights between Buenos Aires and Rio can be ridiculously expensive in February due to peak tourism season. Carnival is at the conclusion of February, and many, many South Americans (not to mention people from around the world) travel to Rio during this month. Even though it’s a short distance between Buenos Aires and Rio, with the prices I was seeing, I knew redeeming miles was going to be our best bet.
At the time I was looking to book, these were the rewards I had decent sized balances of:
Alaska miles can book one carrier that flies between Buenos Aires and Rio: LATAM. It costs 25,000 + taxes to book one person roundtrip in economy anywhere in South America. Not the best value when Brazil and Argentina are so close, but good to point out if you’re trying to fly from one end of the continent to the other.
Delta miles can book two carriers that fly between Buenos Aires and Rio: Aerolíneas Argentinas and Gol. Delta no longer publishes an award chart, but Travel is Free made the most recent one by hand last November. It says that one way in economy between two countries in Southern South America costs 12,500 miles + taxes, which is still accurate. Same price as using Alaska miles–25k roundtrip–flying Aerolíneas Argentinas or Gol.
American Airlines Miles
American Airlines miles can book one carrier that flies between Buenos Aires and Rio: LATAM. It costs 10,000 American Airlines miles + taxes to fly one way in economy between two countries in South America Region 2.
I also had balances of Asiana and Singapore miles, but there are no Star Alliance carriers that fly between Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro.
That left with me two options:
- Redeeming American Airlines miles on LATAM (versus Alaska–no reason to do that when the Alaska award would utilize the same award space as the American award, the Alaska award costs more miles, and I value Alaska miles more highly than American miles).
2. Redeeming Delta miles on Gol or Aerolíneas Argentinas
Finding Award Space
I did not search LATAM award space on aa.com, as that is a oneworld carrier who’s award space doesn’t show up there. Instead I looked on britishairways.com, which does display LATAM space.
Both Gol and Aerolíneas Argentinas award space appear on delta.com.
When looking for roundtrip award space, out of ease and habit I never search for both at the same time. I find it easier to look for one direction at a time (and if necessary, depending on the search engine, segment by segment).
There ended up not being any LATAM award space around our desired travel dates. Luckily, there was plenty of SkyTeam availability on both Aerolineas and Gol, depending on the day and hour.
What That Meant For My Parents
As there were was only one type of award space available on the day we desired to travel to Buenos Aires from Rio–Gol–and the only reward type my parents had at the time that could book it was Flying Blue miles via Ultimate Rewards.
It costs 15,000 Flying Blue miles + taxes to fly one way between Brazil and Argentina. That, ridiculously enough, was still a better deal than paying for the cash flights that had been available at the time.
I first told my dad to transfer 30,000 Ultimate Rewards to Flying Blue.
Then I booked him and my mother on the following award flying Gol for 30,000 Flying Blue miles and about $60 in taxes:
Then I booked myself on the same flight with 12,500 Delta miles and $35:
Finally, I booked my outbound award for 12,500 Delta miles and $69, flying Aerolíneas Argentinas:
Pro tip: If you’re ever flying out of Buenos Aires to a surrounding country or to somewhere else within Argentina, always try to get a flight out of Aeroparque (AEP) as opposed to Ezeiza (EZE). Aeroparque will be much closer to where you’re staying in Buenos Aires and much easier to deal with than EZE, I can almost guarantee that.
The price of revenue tickets between Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro can be absurd certain times of the year. It’s often a good route to redeem miles on for that reason. Our first choice for the awards would have been redeeming American Airlines miles as it’s just 10k one way per person in economy, but there was no LATAM award space, only SkyTeam. Delta and FlyingBlue miles had to suffice.
A reader recently pointed out an Etihad sweet spot flying Gol within South America. You can redeem just 9,000 Etihad miles + taxes one way in economy between Buenos Aires and Rio de Janiero, among other cheap short distance flights, thanks to Etihad’s distance-based award pricing on it’s Gol award chart. At the time I nor my parents had any access to Etihad miles, so we couldn’t have taken advantage of the sweet spot. It’s certainly on my radar now that I have a stash of Membership Rewards from the bonus I recently received on my Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express.