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This is another post in my Anatomy of an Award series, in which I take a real award I’ve booked and break it down step-by-step to elucidate the award booking process. If you have a real award you’d like to write up in a similar post, please contact me, and you can write a guest post.

A few months ago I used 62,500 American Airlines miles and $5 to book a oneway award from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires in American Airlines Flagship First Class. This is one of the simplest awards I’ve ever booked. I’ll run through the basics and the bells-and-whistles of an award to South America with AA miles.

Planning

As I said in my post “I’m Moving to Argentina,” I wanted to leave Los Angeles as soon after my brother left Los Angeles on the evening of February 18. I was flexible on dates, but I had a strong preferred date.

I had US Airways, Delta, and American miles available, but I wanted a oneway trip, since I don’t know where I’ll go from Argentina. That meant I had to use American miles, since the others–US and Delta–charge the roundtrip price on oneway awards.

With American miles, there are two options to South America: American or LAN. LAN was an intriguing choice. LAN flies directly from Los Angeles to Lima and Santiago, from which I could connect to Buenos Aires.

Searching for LAN space

LAN has a fully flat business class, which gets great reviews. I knew I was only interested in flying a fully flat bed, so this would be the cheapest option at 50k miles oneway.

If I flew LAN, I wanted to fly to South America directly from Los Angeles. That would make Los Angeles my North American international gateway city, which would allow me to add a free oneway before the main award. For more information on free oneways, including an explanation of North Amerian International Gateway Cities, see Master Thread: Free Oneways on American Airlines Awards.

I checked LAN availability on qantas.com. (How? Using Qantas.com for American Airlines Award Searches. Why? Best Practices for Searching oneworld Availability.) Unfortunately there was no availability from Los Angeles to South America on LAN near my preferred date. That’s not surprising since Los Angeles to Lima is operated on a 787 Dreamliner, and I was searching peak dates just a few months out.

Searching for AA space

I was down to one option for flat bed space to Buenos Aires with American miles: AA Flagship First. I expected there to be quite a bit of space in first class from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires on American. American’s domestic availability is fantastic as is its availability in first class from Miami to South America. Expecting it to be easy, I went straight to aa.com and did a search.

At the time of my search a few months ago, Los Angeles to Buenos Aires was wide open in first class, with 1+ seat every day. Now the February picture isn’t as great:

The March picture is fantastic in first class:

Business class space is a little worse:

And economy class space–at the off peak price of 20k miles each way–is almost non-existent:

In the end, my main goal was to get to Buenos Aires as soon as possible after my brother left Los Angeles. I was able to leave Los Angeles about five hours after he does, so I went with that itinerary.

I’m pretty excited about the rare nine-hour daytime experience in First Class. I’m sure I’ll sleep several hours after the redeyes to the east coast, and I’ll arrive ready to go out on my first night in my new city. This is the American Airlines Flagship First propaganda page for more information on my inflight experience.

My actual award was very easy to book and didn’t feature any fancy tricks, but I’ll talk about other things I could have done in case you want to maximize your next award to South America with AA miles.

What I could have done

Free Stopover in Miami

American Airlines awards are unique in that they allow free stopovers even on oneway awards. The catch is that the free stopover has to be at the North American International Gateway City. See The Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards.

My routing made Miami the North America International Gateway City. I could have stopped there for as long as I wanted, subject only to the rule that all award travel must be completed within one year of booking.

I actually strongly considered stopping in Miami for one day to catch Virginia vs. Miami in basketball, but I’m going to three games this year, and I am anxious to get to Buenos Aires.

Free Oneway from Hawaii

If I had flown Los Angeles to Lima to Buenos Aires on LAN, Los Angeles would have been my international gateway. When you “stopover” at your home airport, you unlock a free oneway. Free oneways on American Airlines can be from Hawaii, so I could have cut the cost of my upcoming trip to Hawaii in half if I had found space on LAN. For more details, see Master Thread: Free Oneways on American Airlines Awards.

Cheap Stopover in Tampa

I’ve written before about How to Get an Almost Free Stopover Almost Anywhere on American Airlines Awards.

The basic premise is to take add a cheap roundtrip Avios award to your American Airlines award to take your stopover at a city other than the North American International Gateway City. I even gave an example of stopping in Tampa on the way to Montevideo in the post. Here was my spliced graphic of a 9,000 Avios roundtrip on American Airlines from Miami to Tampa roundtrip with a oneway award from Los Angeles to Montevideo.

Flown Pretty Much Anywhere in South America

American Airlines offers incredible availability on its flights from Miami to South America in premium cabins, and American has an extensive route network flying to non-capitals like Maracaibo, Venezuela and Cali, Colombia.

American operates some routes with 757s, some with 767s, and some with 777s. If you want to get to your destination in style, look for the highest number plane you can get.

American flies to South American cities near (Maracaibo) and far (Montevideo) with two cabin 757s. Business class is a recliner like you would get in domestic first class, and there is no first class.

767-300s operate several major South American routes from Miami. On the 76-300, you can expect angled lie flat seats in business and no first class.

Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo are operated by 777-200s, which feature fully flat first class and angled lie flat business class.

Recap

I’m booked to Buenos Aires from Los Angeles in American Airlines First Class the whole way. Because American releases a ton of premium space to South America, the award was easy to book for 62,500 miles and $5 in taxes.

I maximized the award for my needs, but I left free oneways, free stopovers, and cheap stopovers on the table.

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