Pop quiz, hot shot: What is the only airline with a direct flight between Los Angeles and Sao Paulo?

Korean Air

Three times a week, a Korean Air 777-300ER flies from Los Angeles to Sao Paulo on Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays. The return leaves Sao Paulo on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Redeye outbound, daytime return

This flight isn’t just a novelty. It’s a legitimately great use of Delta SkyMiles–the least valuable and most reviled currency among the legacy airlines. Learn how to get on the flight yourself after the jump.

On the Mile Value Leaderboard, I rank Delta miles at the bottom.

  1. US Airways Dividend Miles                                           1.95
  2. United Mileage Plus                                                        1.81
  3. American Airlines AAdvantage                                    1.77
  4. British Airways Avios                                                      1.70
  5. Southwest Rapid Rewards                                             1.69
  6. Delta SkyMiles                                                                  1.22

That’s because Delta doesn’t open up much award space, the SkyTeam alliance isn’t as impressive as the Star Alliance or oneworld, and Delta charges fuel surcharges on a number of its partners.

Probably for those reason, SkyMiles are very easy to earn. There’s the Delta credit card (do you qualify for the 45k offer?), of course, but Delta is also a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, which has had a number of large sign up bonus offers this year including the current 75k offer for the Business Gold Rewards card.

Getting incredible Delta redemptions, then, is the dream. Turning easy-to-earn miles into dream trips is the whole point. Enter Korean’s flight from Los Angeles to Sao Paulo. It is a high-value award with none of the three problems that plague Delta awards.

1. Award space is wide open.

Unfortunately I can’t show you that easily because delta.com award calendars stink, but from my searches, economy and business class award space is open almost every day the flight operates (Mon, Wed, Fri south and Tues, Thurs, Sat north).

2. This is a route unique to SkyTeam.

SkyTeam’s route network is undoubtedly weaker than the Star Alliance, and weaker than oneworld’s where I want to go.

But Korean is the only airline to fly Los Angeles to Sao Paulo direct, cutting out several hours of flying and layovers for west coasters. (American is set to fly LAX to Sao Paulo from November 21 according to wikipedia.)

That means while it would also cost 60k American, United, or US Airways miles for a roundtrip to Brazil from Los Angeles–or 100k in business class–60k or 100k Delta miles gets you there more conveniently.

3. There are no fuel surcharges on the route.

Delta doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on Korean flights. The award has taxes of about $90 roundtrip.

The Product

For the most part, economy class is economy class, so for 60k miles, you’d get what you’d expect in the back of the plane.

But for 100k miles, you can get a fully flat bed in Prestige Class both directions.

Looks comfy

It would be pretty nice to get into one of the eight first class seats at the front of the plane, but Delta miles cannot be used for three-cabin first class, so the most luxurious option is business class.

You don’t live in Los Angeles

That’s a bit of an issue. Delta miles are far more valuable for people who live in cities served by Delta partners. Why?

Delta has bad award availability on its own flights, but its partners offer fine award space. And all partner award space prices at the low miles price. So if you live somewhere where you can fly Delta partners, you can get a good deal. If you live somewhere else, you can’t necessarily find award space on Delta to get to the partner flights.

But all you can do is search delta.com for award space that connects to the Los Angeles to Sao Paulo flight. If you can find that–make sure to check economy and first class space–you are in business and ready to samba.

Getting 100k Delta Miles

Currently getting 100k Delta miles is fairly easy.

Most people report being targeted for a 45k mile Delta personal card after $5k in spending in three months by going to CardMatch.

In addition, the Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express currently has a 50k Membership Rewards sign up bonus after spending $5k in the first three months. For more information, see this chart from JAPT.

Membership Rewards transfer 1:1 instantly to Delta (among two dozen other partners), so getting both cards and unlocking the bonus would result in your having 105k Delta miles, enough for the fully flat beds roundtrip to Brazil.

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