Anatomy of an Award: Avios Within South America on a Very Expensive Route

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I just redeemed 5,650 Avios and $84 for a flight from Santiago to Buenos Aires (AEP), the closer airport to the city. Tickets to that airport were running over $400 one way.

Even tickets to the worse airport were $180+, meaning I was very happy to use an Avios & Money award.

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 9.25.58 AMAward Planning

I am planning to return to Buenos Aires in February. I am planning to come from Santiago (though I don’t have a ticket to Chile yet).

Buenos Aires has two airports, EZE and AEP. The vast majority of international flights fly into EZE, which is about 45 minutes and $30 by car from where I stay in the Palermo neighborhood. AEP is about 15 minutes and $7. I have never flown internationally into AEP, but as long as immigration procedures are roughly the same speed, it is the far better option.

First I checked out the Santiago airport Wikipedia page to see what airlines fly to Buenos Aires. Aerolineas Argentinas and LAN fly from Santiago to both Buenos Aires airports. Chile’s Sky Airline flies to EZE, and Air Canada and KLM fly to EZE as part of tag flights from their home countries to South America.

LAN flights can be booked with Avios. That is the best option because the flight is short, and the price of an Avios award is based on the distance of the flight. Also, LAN flights don’t have fuel surcharges, so the Avios award will not have fuel surcharges. The total price for economy is 7,500 Avios + taxes.

Aerolineas Argentinas and KLM flights can be booked with Delta miles, but they cost quite a bit more miles.

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 9.55.43 AM

Air Canada flights can be booked with any Star Alliance miles. Business Class has flat beds, but for 90 minutes in that air that isn’t very important to me. There is no chart that allows you to book the Air Canada flight for only 7,500 miles like you can book LAN with Avios.

Sky Airline can be booked with cash, which means you can use Arrival miles or the $250 Air Travel Credit on the Citi Prestige® Card to pay for the flight. I couldn’t find a good fare on the date I want to fly.

Award Search

I searched both Buenos Aires airport options at once on ba.com by using the city code BUE. Although ba.com doesn’t appear to recognize the code, it will still search the code as I explained yesterday.
Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 9.26.15 AM

Award space was available on the day I searched in economy on the flights to EZE and in premium economy to AEP.Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 9.26.21 AM Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 9.26.27 AM I wanted to research Premium Economy, so I clicked on the flight number to learn the aircraft type. Then I looked up the seat map on Seat Guru.Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 9.26.39 AM Unfortunately, Premium economy is just a few extra inches of legroom and still has a 3-3 configuration (so I am not sure how it is wider than economy.Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 9.27.33 AMAvios charges 50% more for Premium Economy awards compared to economy. I don’t think that is a good deal for this product, but I greatly prefer to fly into AEP airport, so I selected Premium Economy anyway.

As I’ve detailed, Avios awards often offer Cash & Avios options. Here were mine for this award.
Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 9.28.03 AM

The best option is clearly the bottom one. It allows me to save 5,600 Avios for 50 euros ($54), which is like buying Avios for 0.97 cents each.

I selected that and paid with my Citi Prestige® Card to earn 3x points per dollar on airfare.

Confirmation & Seat Selection

It is always a good deal to see if the operating airline sees your reservation. I typed in my British Airways confirmation code on lan.com, and it found my itinerary.

I selected a seat. The seat map online shows a 2-2 configuration in Premium Economy, which makes me think that the row is 3-3, but the middle seats are blocked.
Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 9.34.06 AM

LAN’s confirmation number, which is what I will use to check in, is different than British Airways’, so I noted that when I was on LAN’s site managing my booking.

Bottom Line

Avios are the best miles to use for short, direct, economy awards on airlines or routes without fuel surcharges. I just booked myself such an award, except in Premium Economy (50% more miles) from Santiago to Buenos Aires (AEP.)

Now I just have to book from the United States to Chile, which I plan to do with Asiana for 35,000 miles one way in Business Class.


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5 COMMENTS

  1. How does your value proposition change if you were flying IGR-SCL instead? So the connecting airport doesn’t matter, and the Avios price goes up relative to the SkyMiles price, which stays the same? Would you still fly LAN through AEP? (We are making this exact decision for a trip in July.)

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