Part II – Getting To South America Using Your URs

As I mentioned in the Introduction Post, Chase Ultimate Rewards points are great points to stockpile because they are so versatile. Chase URs are getting a little more difficult to earn thanks to Chase’s 5/24 Rule, but if you already have the points or are new to the credit card game, they can be quite useful for getting you 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

Chase offers two personal card that allows for the transfer of Ultimate Rewards points to airline partners – the Sapphire Preferred card and the Sapphire Reserve card. Chase is pretty strict with their approvals for this card, so if you have picked up more than 5 credit cards in the past 24 months, chances are good you will be denied if you apply for this card, so plan accordingly/carefully. Chase also offers the business Ink credit card, which has been offering some great sign up bonuses lately.

Now that you know how to earn the URs, the more complicated process is how to use those hard earned URs to get you to South America!

Your URs will transfer to 7 different airlines across all 3 major airline alliances. Those airlines include:

AirlineAllianceTransfer RatioTransfer Time
Korean AirSkyTeam1:1Same day
Air France/KLM (FlyingBlue)SkyTeam1:1Same day
British AirwaysOneWorld1:1Same day
Singapore AirlinesStar Alliance1:1Same day
UnitedStar Alliance1:1Same day
Virgin AtlanticN/A1:1Same day
SouthwestN/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).

Also keep in mind that you should always be looking at the paid ticket prices for tickets through the Chase UR portal – especially if you are looking to fly economy class – as your URs can be redeemed towards a paid ticket.

Another caveat is that although I will be including general advice for getting to South America on your URs, 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 is generally going to 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).

Korean Air

Korean Air is a SkyTeam alliance member, which means you can redeem your SkyPass miles for travel on Delta, Aeromexico and Aerolineas Argentinas flights to South America.

Korean Air uses a two-tier system where award tickets solely on Korean Air flights are one rate, and award tickets on partners are another rate. Korean Air operates a fifth freedom route between Los Angeles (LAX) and Sao Paulo (GRU), though it will be discontinued the day after this post goes live on my blog. As such, for flights between the Continental United States and South America, you would need to redeem according to Korean Air’s partner specific award chart. The partner specific award chart lumps all of South America into the same award zone – South America (or sometimes referred to as Latin America by Korean Air).

For a roundtrip award ticket operated by partner airlines between the U.S. and South America, you can expect a cost of 50k miles in economy, 110k miles in business class. Keep in mind that Korean Air does not allow for one-way awards on partner redemptions.

You are also allowed one stopover on a one-way award ticket and two stopovers on a roundtrip award ticket.

While Korean Air Skypass miles generally offer pretty good value, they offer exceptional value for southern South America destinations – especially in business class. If you are looking to fly to a destination in northern South America, you are better off looking to FlyingBlue.

To complicate matters further, it can be difficult to work with Korean Air. If you are planning to use your miles to book an award ticket for another person, that other person has to be a family member (mother, father, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, wife, husband or child). You will also need to call in to Korean Air to book your partner award and the process is somewhat arduous. I would strongly recommend that you call in to make sure space is available and then place a hold on your award ticket(s) before transferring your URs to your Skypass account. If you are looking for a premium cabin seat, you are probably better off searching via Singapore Airlines instead.

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 UR transfer partners, the business class rates are not very competitive. Accordingly, I would be looking elsewhere for business class tickets.

British Airways

British Airways has 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 devalued their transfer rate slightly to 1:0.8. As British Airways is a member 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.

In light of the cost, unless you have a glut of Avios you want to burn, you are better off transferring your URs elsewhere for a redemption to South America – especially if you will need connecting flights or are looking to travel in a premium cabin.

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. 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 URs for economy class travel, 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. The business class rate for South America is actually among the best on offer, and Singapore Airlines is one of the few UR transfer partners that allows you to redeem your miles for first class travel.

United

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

United’s award chart breaks South America into two zones:

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

United usually uses a two-tier award system for their awards where partner flights in premium cabins cost more. However, that does not apply to redemptions between the CONUS and South America. I think that is mainly because United’s product on those routes is actually comparable or better than what their partners offer.

A roundtrip saver economy award ticket will cost you 40k miles for Northern South America destinations and 60k miles for Southern South America destinations.

A roundtrip saver business class award ticket between the CONUS and Northern South America will cost you 70k miles, while a saver first class award ticket will cost you 90k miles.

A roundtrip saver business class award ticket between the CONUS and Southern South America will cost you 110k miles, while a saver first class award ticket will cost you 140k miles.

When booking a roundtrip award ticket, United allows you one stopover. United also allows one-way award tickets (though you would lose out on the free stopover) at half the rates cited above.

As you can see, United’s value proposition varies greatly depending on your destination and class of service. For economy flights to Northern South America for example, you would be better off going with FlyingBlue. On the other hand, United offers the best business class and first class redemption rates to Northern South America. United is the perfect example of why it really pays to do your homework on these redemptions as it can offer both some of the best value among the UR transfer partners, as well as some of the worst.

Virgin Atlantic

From what I can tell, Virgin Atlatnic 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 UR transfer partners that can get you to South America.

Southwest

Unfortunately, Southwest does not currently fly to South America, nor do they have any partners that fly to South America. If you have a Chase co-branded Southwest credit card, there is a way around this to use your RapidRewards points for international travel, but the value is usually exceedingly poor and I will not get into how to do so here as it will rarely (if ever) work out in your favor.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the UR transfer partners offer some decent options for finding award availability to South America. While the UR transfer partners do not offer as many options as TYPs or MRs will, the UR transfer partners do offer some of the less expensive options among MR, UR, TYP and SPG transfer partners in limited situations.  Hopefully this guide has helped to shine a little light on how to utilize and maximize your URs for a trip to South America!

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

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

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