A few months ago I booked Iberia Business Class from São Paulo to Madrid with 42,500 Avios because of the great mileage price tag and the lack of fuel surcharges departing from Brazil where fuel surcharges are illegal. This left a hole in my itinerary between Buenos Aires and São Paulo.
Here’s an index to give my whole travel experience from Argentina to Spain some cohesion. You can see which posts I’ve already written and which to expect soon.
- Anatomy of an Award: Buenos Aires to São Paulo in Gol Economy for 9k Etihad miles (this post)
- São Paulo’s LATAM VIP Lounge Report
- Anatomy of an Award: São Paulo to Madrid in Iberia Business Class for 42,500 British Airways Avios
- Trip Report: São Paulo to Madrid in Iberia Business Class (future post)
I set a Google Flights Price Tracker and watched the cash price of tickets fluctuate over time, but the market between Argentina and Brazil can be seriously pricey. The price never dropped to a reasonable amount, and with my Iberia flight impending, I started to look at options booking with miles.
Looking at My Options
Spending a night in São Paulo would be expensive, so my travel date to São Paulo had pretty much no flexibility as my Iberia flight was booked and I needed an award that connected to it reasonably. I knew that would narrow down my options of what miles to use so I checked out award space first.
These are the airlines that fly direct between Buenos Aires and São Paulo:
- Aerolíneas Argentinas (SkyTeam)
- Gol (no alliance)
- LATAM (oneworld)
- Qatar (oneworld)
- Turkish Airlines (Star Alliance)
Note that there are flights from both EZE and AEP airports in Buenos Aires to São Paulo.
Finding Award Space
I did not search oneworld award space on aa.com, as neither LATAM nor Qatar award space show up there. Instead I looked on britishairways.com, which displays both. There wasn’t anything available that lined up with my 3 PM departure out of GRU.
You can find Gol and Aerolíneas Argentinas award space on delta.com. There were multiple options flying both that lined up well enough with my Iberia flight.
United.com didn’t show any award availability flying Turkish Airlines.
Considering the award space and the my rewards balances, that left with the following options…
Transferred to Etihad
Not that long ago a reader pointed out a few sweet spots to us on Etihad’s award chart flying GOL*, so I’ve had Etihad in mind for this redemption ever since I booked the Iberia flight. Etihad is not a member of SkyTeam but has a non-allied partnership with Gol.
Buenos Aires is within a 1,500 mile radius of São Paulo, making the award 9,000 Etihad Miles.
*Note that you might have trouble opening that chart if you’re located in the United States, but all you have to do to view it is use a VPN for a different country and change the country at the top of Etihad’s site.
Transferred to Delta Miles
Delta miles can book two carriers that fly between Buenos Aires and São Paulo: Aerolíneas Argentinas and Gol. Delta no longer publishes an award chart, but to fly one way in economy between two countries in Southern South America costs 12,500 miles + taxes.
Delta miles would have been useful for the Aerolíneas Argentinas award space if Gol wasn’t available, but Gol was available and it would cost less points to transfer to Etihad (9,000 vs. 12,500).
Transferred to Flying Blue
It costs 15,000 Flying Blue miles (redeemable on Gol and Aerolíneas Argentinas) to fly economy one way between Buenos Aires and São Paulo, so without even considering out of pocket cost I could rule out that option.
Transferred to Alitalia
It costs 20,000 Alitalia miles (redeemable on Gol Aerolíneas Argentinas) to fly economy one way between Buenos Aires and São Paulo, so without even considering out of pocket cost I could also rule out that option.
What That Meant
The best option was to transfer 9,000 of my Membership Rewards to Etihad Guest. Membership Reward transfers to Etihad are typically instant so I wasn’t worried about losing my desired award flight.
Even though the taxes (no fuel surcharges) on the award were high, it was still a better deal to pay 9,000 Membership Rewards + $69.10 than the cash price of the ticket.
I first my Etihad Guest Account to my Membership Rewards account online.Then I transferred 9,000 Membership Rewards to Etihad.
The transfer was instantaneous, so I booked my award immediately after. Partner award space is not bookable online with Etihad miles. I called Etihad Guest at (+44 0345 6081225), the UK office number, which I recommend calling over the US office as the agents in the UK have been much more proficient in my experience. I told the agent the partner airline I wanted to fly (Gol), then fed them the date, flight number, and cabin of the award space I found on delta.com.
My Gol flight left at 5:20 AM–ouch–and arrived at 8:05 AM on May 25. My Iberia flight didn’t leave until 3 PM but I knew I’d have access to a lounge at GRU in São Paulo so I wasn’t worried about the layover. And what a lounge it ended up being!
The price of revenue tickets between Argentina and Brazil can be absurd certain times of the year and stays pretty pricey, normally, throughout the year. It’s often a good route to redeem miles on for that reason.
The time window I had for travel was narrow as my Business Class ticket to Spain was already booked, so I was left with Gol and Aerolíneas Argentinas award space. Luckily, Etihad (a partner of Gol) has very reasonable prices on their award chart flying Gol within South America, and I had an influx of Membership Rewards from the sign up bonus on the Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express.
Do you also travel often within South America to places where Gol flies? Maybe Etihad miles are exactly what you need. Etihad miles are a transfer partner of three of the four major transferrable point types: Membership Rewards, ThankYou Points, and SPG points. Check out our Top 10 Travel Credit List to learn how to boost your point balances fast.