I’m going to show you how to book a mega-award with seven stops to South America with Asia Miles. You already have Asia Miles because they are a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points, AMEX Membership Rewards, and SPG Starpoints.

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Asia Miles can be used to book any oneworld airline‘s award space plus space on its partners Aer Lingus and Alaska Airlines.

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Asia Miles charges fuel surcharges on award tickets when the equivalent cash tickets would have fuel surcharges. In practice, that means all Asia Miles awards will have fuel surcharges except flights on:

  • airberlin
  • Niki (Austrian low-cost subsidiary of airberlin that flies to these destinations)
  • S7 (Russian airline)
  • American Airlines flights within the Americas
  • LAN Airlines (South American airline)
  • TAM Airlines (Brazilian Airline with Paraguayan subsidiary)
  • Alaska Airlines

Since I like to avoid fuel surcharges, I would almost exclusively book those flights with Asia Miles. Asia Miles awards that don’t include a segment on Cathay Pacific (which I would book with American Airlines or Alaska miles, not Asia Miles) can have 5 stopovers, 2 open-jaws, and 2 transfers. I’ll discuss these rules in detail later.

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Add up the distance flown on all the flights, and then read the award price off this distance-based award chart.

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As you can see, there are a number of sweet spots in economy since the price barely rises from 1,001-4,000 miles flown or from 4,001-7,000 miles flown or from 10,001-20,000 miles flown.

In Business Class, the prices rises more steadily, but just under 9,000 miles flown looks pretty sweet.

The First Class chart is largely irrelevant because the only First Class by an airline on the no-fuel-surcharges list is American Airlines First Class, which isn’t that great and is being removed from most planes.

Rules for Awards

There are two award charts, each with its own set of rules. This post will only focus on the chart for awards that contain:

  • Two oneworld alliance airlines, where Cathay Pacific or Dragonair is not included; or
  • Three or more oneworld alliance airlines when Cathay Pacific or Dragonair is included.

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Cathay Pacific and Dragonair don’t fly to South America, so we’ll always be on the “oneworld Multi-Carrier Awards Chart.”

The big rule of the multi-carrier award chart is:

  • You can make a maximum of five stopovers, two transfers and two open-jaws at either origin, en-route or turnaround point, subject to airline partners’ terms and conditions.

Ideally I’d book several Asia Miles awards on my own to figure out what the rule means in practice, but that’s impractical because my Award Booking Service clients rarely request an award for which Asia Miles make sense, and I don’t have a need for such an award myself at the moment.

So I’ve investigated the next best way: by reading threads on FlyerTalk to see the reported experiences of others. With that in mind, here’s what I’ve figured out:

  1. As usual a transfer is a layover of less than 24 hours. A stopover is a layover of more than 24 hours.
  2. If you need more transfers than the 2 allowed, you can ask an agent to count a transfer as a stopover. As an example, say you want to have 3 transfers and 3 stopovers–something like JFK-MIA-BOG; BOG-LIM-SCL; SCL-EZE; EZE-MIA-JFK where the stopovers are denoted by a semicolon after the airport code–this is illegal. But if you make a transfer a stopover, now you have 2 transfers and 4 stopovers, which is OK. Ask the agent to make the first Miami transfer a stopover even though it is under 24 hours.
  3. You get 5 stopovers and zero destinations for 5 total 24+ hour stops. Ordinarily if an award is allowed one stopover, like a roundtrip United award, that’s in addition to your 1 destination, so you really get to stop 24+ hours in 2 places. Here you get 5 total, not 5 + 1.
  4. Open jaws do NOT count as a stopover. As an example, a super-simple award like Miami to Lima, returning Quito to Miami has 1 open jaw, zero stopovers, and zero transfers. That is an award that sees two places with no stopovers.
  5. That means your 5 stopovers plus 2 open jaws, which each can see two places without burning a stopover is already 9 places you can see. Add in the under-24 hour transfers, and you can see 11 places.
  6. Unfortunately not all agents are well trained on the point that open jaws do NOT count as stopovers. Some agents will count open jaws as stopovers, but you should just ask them to try putting your routing into the system and the system will accept a routing with 5 stopovers plus 2 other open jaws. You may have best results calling the agents on the Cantonese line and then speaking English with them because these are the best-trained agents.
  7. An open jaw may be at any point during the award or even between where the award begins and ends. Some agents say that if there is an open jaw between the first and last city of an award, both cities must be in the same country.
  8. You may be able to later transit your origin region or even stopover there (which would allow you to combine two separate trips onto one cheap award. Here is an example of someone who ticketed Brazil/Argentina/Peru and a later trip to San Francisco onto one award.)
  9. The Asia Miles website suggests filling out a form to request your award. FlyerTalkers all call in to book their awards
  10. The ticketing time on awards–the time from your call until you receive a final confirmation that everything is ticketed–is between 15 hours and one week.

Here’s am award that follows all those rules that sees 11 cities in South America.

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  • Miami to Baranquilla, Colombia (1) on American Airlines. Stopover #1
  • Baranquilla to Bogota, Colombia (2) on LAN Airlines, layover of less than 24 hours, enough time to see a few museums and go out for a night. Transfer #1
  • Bogota to Lima, Peru (3) on LAN Airlines. Stopover #2
  • Lima to Santiago, Chile (4) on LAN Airlines. Stopover #3
  • Santiago to Buenos Aires, Argentina (5) on LAN Airlines. Stopover #4
  • Buenos Aires to Sao Paulo, Brazil (6) on LAN Airlines, layover of less than 24 hours, enough time to eat at a churrascaria and go out for a night. Transfer #2
  • Sao Paulo to Foz do Iguacu, Brazil (7) on TAM Airlines. Open Jaw #1 because you will not fly out of Foz do Iguacu
  • Porto Alegere, Brazil (8) to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (9) on TAM Airlines. Stopover #5
  • Rio de Janeiro to Natal, Brazil (10) on TAM Airlines. Open Jaw #2 because you will not fly out of Natal
  • Recife, Brazil (11) to Miami on American Airlines.

There are holes in two spots in Brazil that you can fill with buses or separate cash or award tickets.

The flown distance is 12,330 miles according to Great Circle Mapper, so this award would cost 85,000 Asia Miles in economy or 115,000 Asia Miles in Business Class plus government taxes. There would be no fuel surcharges.

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Practical Considerations

If you don’t live in Miami or Dallas, you’ll probably need to use your two transfers to get to and from those cities. The vast majority of South American flights on oneworld leave from Miami and Dallas, so if you live somewhere like Los Angeles, you will probably need one transfer in each direction to start and finish the award.

Here is an award from Los Angeles with four stopovers in South America, two transfers in the United States, and zero open jaws.

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That’s not to say that all international flights to the Americas leave from Miami and Dallas. The following cities all have international flights on American, Alaska, or US Airways. The black dots mostly have flights to Mexican vacation destinations, of which only Cancun is well connected to South America.

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Open jaws are so powerful because they don’t cost you a stopover and you get two see two places. Some easy open jaws:

  • between Buenos Aires and Montevideo, which is served by a two-hour ferry
  • between Foz do Iguacu, Brazil and Puerto Iguazu, Argentina, which is a short car ride (and Ciudad del Este, Paraguay is right there too, but that is the sketchiest and most boring city I’ve visited in South America)
  • Punta Arenas, Chile and El Calafate, Argentina are a five-hour bus ride apart
  • Many Central American capitals are very close
  • Santiago, Chile and Mendoza, Argentina are a common bus-ride apart
  • Punta Arenas, Chile and Ushuaia, Argentina are not convenient A to B, but an open jaw between the two would allow you to explore Patagonia by boat, bus, and small airplane like I did last December

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Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Buenos Aires all have at least two major airports. I do not know whether flying into one airport and out of another airport in those cities counts as an open jaw or whether the airports are considered coterminal like JFK/LGA/EWR usually are in New York.

Fun Considerations

LAN flies to the Galapagos Islands (GPS is one airport) from Guayaquil and Quito, Peru.

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LAN flies to Easter Island from Santiago and Lima.

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There’s no reason your award has to start in the United States. It could make sense to book awards from the United States to South America and then just hop around in South America on an Asia Miles award. This one would be 35,000 miles in economy, and you can still add more segments and stops.

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If you convince an agent to let you stopover in your city of origin, you can have two trips on a single cheap award. This award is Dallas to Cancun roundtrip, followed months later by Dallas to Bogota to Lima, open jaw returning Cuzco to Lima to Dallas. It would cost 65,000 Asia Miles in economy and 95,000 in Business Class.

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Getting the Miles

Asia Miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points. The transfer takes one business day.

Asia Miles are also a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards and SPG Starpoints.

Searching

The relevant airlines for a South America awards are American Airlines, US Airways, Alaska Airlines, LAN, and TAM.

American, US, and Alaska are best searched on aa.com. You can only use MileSAAver award space.

LAN and TAM are best searched on ba.com. You can use any award space you see there.

Booking

Once you’ve found the award space, call Asia Miles at 866-892-2598 to book the award. Feed the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of each flight you found with award space.

If your award comes close to maxing out the 5 stopovers, 2 open jaws, or 2 transfers, I would proactively lead the call by saying things like, “Next is Bogota to Lima on January 10 on LAN flight 123 in economy. Bogota is my first open jaw because I continue the award from Quito. The next flight is…” The agents seem to have some discretion in their counting, so you want to suggest how they count.

If you’re having trouble with the Asia Miles agents at that number, call the Cantonese line at +852 2747 3838 from your gmail account for 2 cents per minute.

Bottom Line

Asia Miles offers a distance-based award chart that allows you to visit 11 places on a single 9-flight award by maximizing the 5 stopovers, 2 open jaws, and 2 transfers.

Asia Miles is a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points, American Express Membership Rewards, and SPG Starpoints.

Asia Miles awards have fuel surcharges when an equivalent cash flight has fuel surcharges. Avoid fuel surcharges by flying to and around South America. (There are also European partners with no fuel surcharges, which I’ll cover in a separate post.)

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