Part I – Getting To South America Using Your MRs

As I mentioned in the Introduction Post, American Express Membership Rewards points (much like all of the transferable currencies) are great points to stockpile because they are so versatile. Amex MRs are also fairly easy to earn, which makes them just that much better to use for your award travel to South America!

Please note, I do not earn a commission off of any of the credit card links contained herein. I do, however, earn a referral bonus of points from some of the links contained herein. These referral links are currently the highest publicly available offers and I will always link to the highest publicly available offer for your benefit.  As always, your support by signing up via my referral links is greatly appreciated!

Introduction – Getting To South America Using Your MRs, URs, TYPs or Starpoints
Part I – Getting To South America Using Your MRs
Part II – Getting To South America Using Your URs
Part III – Getting To South America Using Your TYPs
Part IV – Getting To South America Using Your SPG Starpoints

American Express offers many cards that earn Membership Rewards points, including their EveryDay card (which earns 20% more MRs every month you make 20 or more purchases with the card). Please note that the PRG offers a 50k offer and the EveryDay offers a 25k offer using the Incognito trick. While I appreciate your support, that’s a substantial number of points so make sure you’re looking for the higher offers! American Express offers several other card options that earn MRs, so I highly encourage you to head over to the American Express site and check out the other options as well.

Now that you know how to earn the MRs, the more complicated process is how to use those hard earned MRs to get you to South America! Your MRs will transfer to 17 different airlines across all 3 major airline alliances. Those airlines include:

AirlineAllianceTransfer RatioTransfer Time
DeltaSkyTeam1:1Same day
AlitaliaSkyTeam1:1Same day
Air France/KLMSkyTeam1:1Same day
AeromexicoSkyTeam1:1Up to 7 days
British AirwaysOneWorld1:0.8Same day
IberiaOneWorld1:0.8Up to 7 days
Cathay PacificOneWorld1:1Up to 7 days
Air CanadaStar Alliance1:1Same day
ANAStar Alliance1:12-4 days
Singapore AirlinesStar Alliance1:1Up to 3 days
Virgin AmericaN/A1:0.5Same day
Virgin AtlanticN/A1:1Same day
Jet BlueN/A1:0.8Same day
Hawaiian AirlinesN/A1:1Same day
El AlN/A50:1Same day
EmiratesN/A1:1Same day
EtihadN/A1:1Same day

As I said before, the transfer times are just an approximation based upon data points I could find (as well as personal experiences), but it is important to be cognizant of these transfer times when you are planning your award booking(s).

Another caveat is that although I will be including general advice for getting to South America on your MRs, your home airport will play an important role in finding availability or determining cost. For example, since British Airways operates under a distance based award chart, the cost for someone traveling from the North may be higher than the cost for someone traveling from the South. I will also assume for purposes of this post that you would be flying into Lima, Peru (LIM) as Machu Picchu tends to be one of the most popular destinations in South America.

Delta

Unfortunately, approximately two years ago, Delta decided to take down its award chart. Without a published award chart, that means that it is difficult to give a number of miles that it will take to get to South America.

As a general ballpark, from a Delta hub airport like Atlanta (ATL) to Lima (LIM), you can expect to see roundtrip award tickets cost approximately 60k in economy and 150k in DeltaOne (business class). Oddly, I could not get Delta Comfort+ award seating to price out on this route, even though I know for a fact that it is offered. One-way flights are available for half the quoted cost.

While Delta’s economy class rate is somewhat competitive, their business class redemption rates offer horrible value unless you already have a large stash of SkyMiles you are looking to burn. If you are looking solely at transferring miles to Delta for a premium cabin redemption to South America, I would look elsewhere.

Alitalia

Alitalia is a SkyTeam alliance member that is based out of Rome (FCO). That means that their route network is not especially well suited for redemptions to South America (especially if you are flying from the U.S.). Thankfully, you can redeem your MilleMiglia miles for travel on Delta, Aeromexico and Aerolineas Argentinas flights. Alitalia will levy fuel surcharges on partner award tickets, though they are not going to be as bad as the likes of British Airways. The trick to booking Alitalia awards is to have some miles in your account so they consider it active. From there you can call and place your award ticket on hold for about two (2) weeks. You can then transfer the needed miles and then call back to get the ticket booked.

Alitalia has a separate award chart for SkyTeam partner redemptions and breaks South America down into two separate zones:

  • South America 1 – Colombia, Ecuador, French Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago & Venezuela
  • South America 2 – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile & Uruguay

For award flights between the Continental United States and South America 1, you can expect a roundtrip award ticket cost of 35k miles for economy and 60k miles for business class.

For award flights between the CONUS and South America 2, you can expect a roundtrip award ticket cost of 50k miles for economy and 75k miles for business class.

From what I can tell, availability is quite good for both economy and business class space. While all of Alitalia’s rates to South America are extremely reasonable, the fuel surcharges are likely going to make FlyingBlue the better choice.

Alitalia does not allow one-way award tickets on partner airlines, so you have to book roundtrip tickets when utilizing partners. Lastly, while you must book the most direct itinerary, you are allowed one voluntary stopover. That means that if you are looking to utilize the stopover enroute, it is better to transfer your MRs to Alitalia rather than Delta or FlyingBlue – even factoring in the fuel surcharges.

The US phone number for Alitalia is 800.223.5730.

Air France/KLM (FlyingBlue)

Air France and KLM share a frequent flyer program called FlyingBlue. Since FlyingBlue is a SkyTeam alliance member, you can redeem FlyingBlue miles for travel on Delta, Aeromexico and Aerolineas Argentinas flights. FlyingBlue can be finicky to work with, but they offer some decent value for flights to South America. FlyingBlue divides South America into two separate award zones:

  • South America 1 – Colombia, Ecuador, Peru & Venezuela
  • South America 2 – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile & Uruguay

For roundtrip award tickets between the Continental United States and South America 1, you can expect a cost of 35k miles for economy and 87.5k miles for business class.

For roundtrip award tickets between the CONUS and South America 2, you can expect a cost of 50k miles for economy and 125k miles for business class.

One-way award tickets are allowed at half of the above quoted rates. While the economy class rate is right in line with some of the other MR transfer partners, the business class rates are not very competitive. Accordingly, I would be looking to Alitalia (if you want a stopover) or Delta for business class tickets. I personally find FlyingBlue slightly easier to use for award tickets than Alitalia, but considering the cost difference and the free stopover Alitalia offers, I would strongly recommend going with Alitalia over Flying Blue. With that said, searching for space via FlyingBlue will give you a good idea of what inventory should be bookable by Alitalia.

Aeromexico

Aeromexico is another SkyTeam alliance member, which means you can again redeem Club Premier miles for travel on Delta, Aeromexico and Aerolineas Argentinas flights. Aeromexico is a unique program in several regards. First and foremost, your MRs will transfer to Club Premier at a 1:1 ratio for miles. This is important because Club Premier uses kilometers instead of miles. Your Club Premier miles will be transferred to kilometers at a 1:1.6 ratio, which means for every 1,000 MRs you transfer, you would actually receive 1,600 Club Premier kilometers. I will do the conversion math for you so you can easily reference how many MRs it will cost you if you transferred to Aeromexico.

Second, for flights operated by Aeromexico, Aeromexico uses a two-tiered award chart which has a high season price and a low season price. For flights between the Continental United States and both South America zones, the high season and low season price are the same.

Aeromexico breaks South America into 2 separate zones:

  • South America 1 – Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname & Venezuela
  • South America 2 – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay & Uruguay

For roundtrip flights between the CONUS and South America 1, Aeromexico charges 70k kilometers (43.75k MRs) for economy and 140k kilometers (87.5k MRs) for business class.

For roundtrip flights between the CONUS and South America 2, Aeromexico charges 90k kilometers (56.25k MRs) for economy and 180k kilometers (112.5k MRs) for business class.

One-way award tickets are allowed and cost half the amount of the roundtrip price.

As you can see, there are better deals to be had out there for award tickets to South America than Aeromexico – especially in business class. The only way I would consider this redemption would be if you have a large stash of Club Premier kilometers you need to burn off. Otherwise, look elsewhere for transfer options.

British Airways/Iberia

British Airways and Iberia somewhat share an award program where both have a distance based award chart, so your home airport is really going to make the biggest difference here in how much an award ticket to South America will cost you. Unfortunately, last year American Express and British Airways/Iberia devalued their transfer rate slightly to 1:0.8. As both British Airways and Iberia are members of the OneWorld alliance, you can use your Avios to book American Airlines and LATAM flights to South America.

The upshot of using Avios is that you can build in an itinerary that flies from the U.S. to several places throughout South America if you wanted. The downside of this is that due to the distance based award chart, your particular routing may cost you substantially more Avios.

There are several direct flights between the Continental United States and South America operated by a OneWorld carrier, so if you happen to live at one of these hub cities, your redemption cost is going to be substantially lower than someone that needs to connect. Here are the one-way award ticket costs you can expect for the various most direct routings:

  • American Airlines – MIA-LIM – 12.5k Avios + $20 in economy and 37.5k Avios + $20 in business class.
  • LATAM – JFK-LIM – 20k Avios + $20 in economy and 60k Avios + $20 in business class.
  • American Airlines – DFW-LIM – 20k Avios + $20 in economy and 60k Avios + $20 in business class.
  • LATAM – MCO-LIM – 12.5k Avios + $20 in economy and 37.5k Avios + $20 in business class.
  • LATAM – MIA-LIM – 12.5k Avios + $20 in economy and 37.5k Avios + $20 in business class.
  • LATAM- LAX-LIM – 25k Avios + $20 in economy and 75k Avios + $20 in business class.

Again, keep in mind that these are price ranges for flights between OneWorld hub airports and Lima (LIM) with the most direct routing, so your award ticket cost may vary from these numbers depending on your home airport, number of connections needed and destination in South America. Also keep in mind that British Airways does not levy their usual hefty fuel surcharges on partner redemptions.

Award space tends to be best on these routes either very close in, or very far out. LATAM award space seems to either be an all or nothing approach – either there is a ton of availability on a given flight, or there is none/a single seat.

Lastly, it is important to remember that the transfer ratio is 1:0.8, so your flight that costs 45k Avios will actually cost you 56,250 MRs. In light of the cost, unless you have a glut of Avios you want to burn, you are better off transferring your MRs elsewhere for a redemption to South America – especially if you are looking to travel in a premium cabin.

Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles program uses a distance based award chart, so this is another airline that will depend on your home airport for redemption costs. Cathay Pacific is a member of the OneWorld alliance, so you can use your Asia Miles to book American Airlines and LATAM flights to South America.

Cathay Pacific utilizes a somewhat unique award chart in that if you are flying solely on one partner airline, you redeem according to the Asia Miles Award Chart, but if you are flying on more than one OneWorld partner that does not include Cathay Pacific or Dragon Air, you redeem according to the OneWorld Multi-Carrier Award Chart.

For flights operated by a single OneWorld partner from the West Coast (LAX) or the East Coast (JFK) of the U.S. to Lima (LIM), you can expect a roundtrip cost of 45k miles for economy, 54k miles for premium economy, 80k miles for business class and 120k miles in first class. One-way award tickets are allowed at one half of the above quoted rates plus 5k miles (i.e., economy class is 25k miles for a one-way award ticket).

For flights operated by more than one OneWorld partner from the West Coast of the U.S. (LAX) to Lima (LIM), you can expect a roundtrip cost of 60k miles for economy, 85k miles for business class and 115k miles for first class.

For flights operated by more than one OneWorld partner from the East Coast of the U.S. (JFK) to Lima (LIM), you can expect a roundtrip cost of 60k miles for economy, 80k miles for business class and 105k miles for first class.

One-way award tickets are not allowed on partner redemptions that utilize more than one OneWorld partner. It is important to keep in mind that since the Cathay Pacific award chart is distance based, your home airport, destination and routing are going to play a huge part in your redemption cost. What is wild though is the Asia Miles program allows you to make up to 5 stopovers, 2 transfers and 2 open-jaws at either the origin, en-route or at the turnaround point (destination)! That means you could put together an itinerary where you hop all over South America all on one award ticket. Depending on how you routed yourself, that could offer some truly exceptional value.

If you can get the stopovers and open-jaws to work for your itinerary, Asia Miles should be a top contender for you to transfer your MRs to for your next trip to South America. If you will not be utilizing the stopovers, then I would say there are better options out there for your MRs.

Air Canada (Aeroplan)

Air Canada is a Star Alliance member, so you can use your Aeroplan miles for redemptions on Air Canada, United, Avianca or Copa flights to South America. In other words, you are going to have a decent amount of options.

Aeroplan maintains a single award chart for both Air Canada and partner redemptions which breaks South America into two award zones:

  • Northern South America – Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana & Venezuela
  • Southern South America – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru & Uruguay

For roundtrip flights between the Continental United States and Northern South America, you can expect a redemption cost of 50k miles for economy, 65k miles for premium economy, 75k miles for business class and 105k miles for first class.

For roundtrip flights between the Continental United States and Southern South America, you can expect a redemption cost of 60k miles for economy, 80k miles for premium economy, 110k miles for business class and 140k miles for first class.

Aeroplan does allow one-way award tickets at half of the roundtrip award ticket cost. While I do love Aeroplan miles in general, the redemption rates to South America are pretty competitive with the rest of the MR transfer partners. Depending on where you are looking to fly and which class of service, Aeroplan can offer some of the best value around, or some mediocre value, so make sure you are doing your comparisons before transferring your hard earned MRs to Aeroplan.

ANA

ANA is a member of the Star Alliance, so you can use your Mileage Club miles for Air Canada, United, Avianca or Copa flights to South America. Again, in other words, you are going to have a decent amount of options.

ANA is one of several airlines that utilizes a separate award chart for partner awards. As ANA does not fly between the Continental United States and South America, you would redeem according to the ANA partner award chart. Under the partner award chart, all of South America is contained within one zone.

For roundtrip partner flights between the CONUS and South America, it will cost you 55k miles for economy, 88k miles for business class and 165k miles for first class.

ANA does not allow for one-way award tickets (there is a way around this which I have previously outlined here, though I do not think it is necessarily worthwhile unless you have Mileage Club points to burn). ANA can present a very good option for coach or business class redemptions to South America, though the product on partner airlines may be somewhat subpar (think domestic first class recliner style seats on a lot of routes). If you are looking for a first class redemption, I would definitely take a look at Etihad or Singapore Airlines instead as they both offer less expensive first class options. Either way though, I would give ANA some serious consideration for your next trip to South America!

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance, so you can use your KrisFlyer miles for Air Canada, United, Avianca or Copa flights to South America. Again, in other words, you are going to have a decent amount of options.

Singapore Airlines is one of several airlines that utilizes a separate award chart for partner awards. As Singapore Airlines does not fly between the Continental United States and South America, you would redeem according to the Star Alliance partner award chart. Under the partner award chart, all of South America is contained within one zone.

For roundtrip partner redemptions between the CONUS and South America, it will cost you 60k miles for economy, 100k miles for business class and 140k miles for first class.

One-way award tickets are allowed at half of the above quoted rates.

Overall, Singapore Airlines is surprisingly decently competitive for redemptions to South America. There are definitely better redemptions to be had elsewhere with your MRs, but the Star Alliance footprint is greater in South America, so the KrisFlyer program does present a strong option to consider if award space is hard to find elsewhere.

Virgin America

From what I can tell, Virgin America does not offer any partner redemptions between the U.S. and South America. While you could potentially piece together multiple partner award tickets, it simply is not worth the hassle and frustration given the high taxes and carrier imposed fees that Virgin America passes on. You are better off looking elsewhere for MR transfer partners that can get you to South America.

Virgin Atlantic

From what I can tell, Virgin Atlantic does not offer any partner redemptions between the U.S. and South America. While you could potentially piece together multiple partner award tickets, it simply is not worth the hassle and frustration given the high taxes and carrier imposed fees that Virgin Atlantic passes on. You are better off looking elsewhere for MR transfer partners that can get you to South America.

JetBlue

JetBlue only flies to a few destinations in South America, so your options are going to be relatively limited when using your TrueBlue points. JetBlue flies to the following South American destinations:

  • Lima, Peru (LIM)
  • Quito, Ecuador (UIO)
  • Medellin, Colombia (MDE)
  • Bogota, Colombia (BOG)
  • Cartagena, Colombia (CTG)

JetBlue is somewhat unique in that they (like Southwest) tie their award ticket prices to the cash price for their tickets. Accordingly, your redemption cost will vary greatly depending on your origin, destination, when you are looking to travel and when you are booking. You can generally expect to receive ~1.4 cents per point in value from your TrueBlue points.

If you can find a good price on a ticket and have the TrueBlue points to burn, JetBlue is easily one of my favorite carriers worldwide to fly in economy thanks to their roomy seats and generally friendly service. JetBlue does not, however, offer any premium cabins on routes to South America, so if you are looking for a premium cabin redemption, you will need to look elsewhere.

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines does not fly to South America, however their partner JetBlue does. However, JetBlue only flies to Lima (LIM), Quito (UIO), Medellin (MDE), Bogota (BOG) and Cartagena (CTG) as outlined above. In addition, Hawaiian Airlines only offers an estimated mileage redemption amount for JetBlue flights as they, like JetBlue, tie their award ticket cost to the cash price for the flights. That, again, means that your redemption cost will vary greatly depending on your origin, destination, when you are looking to travel and when you are booking

For JetBlue operated flights, you can expect the following range of mileage redemption costs:

b6

If you can find a good price on a ticket and have the Hawaiian Airlines miles to burn, redemptions on JetBlue can make sense. JetBlue does not, however, offer any premium cabins on routes to South America, so if you are looking for a premium cabin redemption, you will need to look elsewhere. In addition, the redemption rates are rather poor when redeeming your Hawaiian Airlines miles for JetBlue flights. You are getting at best ~0.9 cents per point and at worst ~0.8 cents per point of value, so I would look elsewhere in general for your award flights down to South America.

El Al

El Al does not fly to South America, so you can go ahead and write this one off your list right away.

Emirates

Emirates uses a zone based award chart, so your redemption cost will largely depend on your departure airport and your arrival airport. If you are looking to redeem for flights operated by Emirates (I am not sure why you would as that would require a connection/stopover in the Middle East, but some may want to travel this way), I would recommend you use their Miles Calculator to determine the cost.

Emirates also partners with JetBlue, so you can redeem your miles for flights on JetBlue. However, JetBlue only flies to Lima (LIM), Quito (UIO), Medellin (MDE), Bogota (BOG) and Cartagena (CTG) as outlined above. Interestingly, Emirates only publishes an award chart for the following JetBlue routes to South America:

  • Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to Bogota (BOG) – 17.5k miles one-way; 35k miles roundtrip
  • New York (JFK) to Cartagena (CTG) – 20k miles one-way; 40k miles roundtrip
  • Orlando (MCO) to Bogota (BOG) – 17.5k miles one-way; 35k miles roundtrip

I was unable to find any information as to whether you can redeem your Emirates miles for connecting flights or flights to JetBlue’s other South American destinations, though it appears that you are not likely going to be able to do so. The rates for award tickets on these particular routes are actually not half bad, though given the limited footprint, unless you live in one of these departure cities and desire to go to either Bogota or Cartagena, I do think there is better value to be had from other MR transfer partners.

Etihad

Although Etihad is not a part of any major airline alliance, they do have several strategic partnerships with airlines such as Gol and American Airlines. Gol has recently terminated all of their routes to the United States though, so American is your only viable partner option when redeeming Etihad miles for a trip to South America. Interestingly, Etihad uses the pre-devaluation AAdvantage award chart still, which divides South America into 2 zones:

  • South America 1 – Colombia, Peru & Venezuela
  • South America 2 – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay

For flights between the Continental United States and South America 1, you can expect a roundtrip cost of 35k miles for economy, 60k miles for business class and 80k miles for first class. As you will not find a 3-cabin aircraft on American routes between the CONUS and South America 1, only business class redemptions will be available.

For flights between the CONUS and South America 2, you can expect a roundtrip cost of 40k miles (off-peak)/60k miles (peak) for economy, 100k miles for business class and 125k miles for first class. Off-peak dates are March 1st through May 31st and August 16th through November 30th.

One-way award tickets are allowed at half of the above quoted rates. If you are looking for award tickets to South America, Etihad offers some pretty good value provided you can find American Airlines sAAver space available.

To redeem for any partner awards you have to contact the Etihad service center at 888-8ETIHAD at least 14 days prior to the intended date of travel.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the MR transfer partners offer a lot of options for finding award availability to South America. Hopefully this guide has helped to shine a little light on how to utilize and maximize your MRs for a trip to South America!

Stay tuned for the next installments on your best redemption options for TYPs, URs and SPG Starpoints!

What is your favorite way to redeem MRs to get to South America?

Be sure you get all the latest content from the Jet Set Blog first by entering your e-mail address in the upper right hand corner of this page! Also be sure to like the Points Jet Setter on Facebook and follow @ThePointsJetSet on Twitter!

Leave a Reply