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Let’s talk about how to use American Airlines miles for awards to Central and South America. American Airlines flies more routes from the United States to Central and South America than any other carrier–by far!
What You’re Reading
For a limited time, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® offers 75,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $7,500 in the first three months. That means you’ll have 82,500 American Airlines miles after meeting the spending requirement. That’s enough miles for two roundtrips anywhere in Central and South America.
Included in the $450 annual fee, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® offers Admirals Club lounge membership, meaning you can access over 90 American Airlines Clubs in airports around the world whenever you’re flying–even if you’re not flying on American. Plus you can bring in any two guests for free OR your spouse and all children under 18 for free on each visit.
If you find this guide to redeeming the most valuable miles in the world to be useful and want to apply for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®, please use my link. The commission is what allows me to dedicate the time to writing this series.
“Redeeming American Airlines Miles” Series Index
- Part 1 — 5 Ways to Stretch American Airlines Miles on Economy Redemptions
- Part 2 — 6 Ultra-Luxurious First Classes to Book with American Airlines Miles
- Part 3 — Where to Search Award Space for All Partners
- Part 4 — Award Rules and How Many Miles You Need
- Part 5 — Taxes, Fees, and Fuel Surcharges
- Part 6 — Redeeming for Domestic Awards
- Part 7 — Redeeming for Hawaii
- Part 8 — Redeeming for East and Southeast Asia
- Part 9 — Redeeming for Middle East and Indian Subcontinent
- Part 10 — Redeeming for Australia and New Zealand
- Part 11 — Redeeming for South America
- Part 12 — Redeeming for Europe
- Part 13 — Redeeming for Africa
Central and South America
Central and South America (excluding Mexico) is divided into two regions.
Central America / South America Zone 1 is:
- Costa Rica
- El Salvador
South America Zone 2 is the rest of the continent:
- Chile (excluding Easter Island)
As I noted in the post on American Airlines award routing rules, awards to South America Zone 2 must fly directly from North America to the South America Zone 2 region. They cannot transit Central America or South America Zone 1. That would break the trip into two awards and increase the miles price.
The Partners for Central and South America Awards
American Airlines partners with direct flights from North America to Central America and South America:
- US Airways
- LAN (and its affiliates)
Award space on American and US Airways is searchable on aa.com. Here’s how to search aa.com.
Award space on LAN and TAM is searchable on ba.com. Here’s how to search ba.com.
From North America to Central America / South America Zone 1, American Airlines charges:
- 15,000 miles one way in economy from January 16 – June 14 and September 7 – November 14 flown exclusively on American Airlines and US Airways planes
- 17,500 miles one way for other economy awards
- 30,000 miles one way in Business Class
These are the same prices as United and Delta charge to Central America (except for American’s awesome off peak awards, which no one matches.)
These prices are steals to Northern South America. Delta wants 22,500 miles year round to Peru. American wants 1/3 less for more than half the year.
From North America to South America Zone 2, American Airlines charges:
- 20,000 miles one way in economy from March 1 – May 31 and August 16 – November 30 on any of its partners
- 30,000 miles one way for economy awards the rest of the year
- 50,000 miles one way in Business Class
- 62,500 miles one way in First Class
The off peak awards to Southern South America that you can fly on any American Airlines partner including LAN and TAM are a steal at 20,000 miles one way, 1/3 less than United and Delta charge year round. The Business and First Class prices are cheaper than United and Delta charge also. For instance, Delta charges 62,500 miles one way in Business Class.
Routes & Award Space
American Airlines has a massive, massive route network to the region from Miami.
American also has a smaller network from Dallas in addition to the LAN and TAM flights to South America from around the country and US Airways’ Central American flights from Charlotte.
While American flies to nearly every major city in the region, it doesn’t hit all the tourist destinations like Patagonia, Galapagos, and Machu Picchu. But even here American Airlines miles shine. TAM and LAN Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Argentina have massive route networks that get you wherever you need to go in South America for no extra miles.
Award Space on AA Flights
Award space varies by destination and season, but the general pattern on American Airlines flights is OK economy award space and poor Business and First Class award space that gets slightly better the last few weeks before departure. I also notice that there is often better premium cabin award space from South America to the United States than from the United States to South America.
For instance, here is Santiago to Miami. There are four days in the next week with two Business Class seats on the same flight.
Miami to Santiago only has one such flight in the next two weeks.
Similarly here is Miami to Rio de Janeiro. There are four days in the next three weeks with two Business Class seats.
But from Rio to Miami, there is much more Business Class award space–seven days out of the next three weeks.
Finally as I said, economy award space is just OK. Here is award space for two from Miami to Rio de Janeiro in March. You can find space if you’re flexible, but it is not available daily.
TAM and LAN Award Space
LAN’s award space from the United States to South America (Peru, Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador) is pretty bad.
TAM’s award space to Brazil isn’t nearly as bad. Here is a day in May with 8+ Business Class award seats and 8+ economy award seats from Miami to Sao Paulo on TAM.
Intra-South America, TAM and LAN both have pretty good award space. It’s a common sight to see several daily Lima to Cuzco flights with LAN award space.
I couldn’t find LAN Argentina award space from Ushuaia or Calafate to Buenos Aires this January–the peak of high season in Patagonia, but much of the year, there is such award space from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires.
LAN Ecuador has decent economy award space to the Galapagos Islands from Quito and Guayaquil if you are flexible, like this day with seven award seats from Quito.
TAM has great award space within Brazil.
Booking the Award
If the backbone of your award is American Airlines flights to Central and South America, begin your search on aa.com. If you need to add LAN or TAM flights, search for those next or simultaneously on ba.com.
If your award is only American Airlines flights, book online. If it includes LAN or TAM flights, you need to book by calling American Airlines at 800-882-8880. The good news is that you will pay zero phone booking fee, since that fee was waived when an award can’t be booked online.
If you want to fly a premium cabin, you can book economy now and if space opens up closer to departure, you can change the award for no change fee to a higher cabin.
If you want to take a grand tour of South America, consider hopping around with:
- Using Asia Miles (TY Points Partner for South America Trip Where You See 11 Places
- 10,000 United mile awards between Central America and Northern South America (make it a roundtrip and you can add in stopovers and open jaws.)
- Singapore Airlines awards: 12,500 miles one way within South America and 20,000 miles in Business Class
American Airlines miles are fantastic to get to pretty much every town and city in Central and South America in economy. There is some premium cabin award space, mostly right before departure with more on the flights to the United States than from the United States.
Awards to Central and South America are cheap, especially if you use plentiful off peak economy awards.
Right now, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® offers 75,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $7,500 in the first three months.
Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.