If you THINK BIG, and take an amazing multi-destination trip, you’ll need to book several tickets to hop between destinations.
In the United States, Europe, and Southeast Asia, flights are fairly cheap because of the many competing airlines, including low cost carriers. In other regions, like Africa and South America, short flights can be exorbitantly expensive as a lack of competition drives up prices.
When ticket prices are expensive, that’s the time to use miles. I’ve already laid out the cheapest intra-region bargain awards with American Airlines and United miles. There are also some excellent deals within a single region on the American Airlines, United, Singapore Airlines, and US Airways award charts.
The key to finding great miles uses within a single region is finding award charts with big regions.
For instance, Singapore Airlines categorizes all of South America as one region and charges only 12,500 miles each way in economy within the region. One route I’m looking at for a big trip in December is from Medellin, Colombia to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The ticket would cost $755 or 12,500 Singapore miles + $75. That’s over 5 cents of value per mile on an economy ticket!
With the demise of American Airlines Explorer Awards, big trips will require many awards. Choosing the right miles for each of the small awards will really add up, so make sure you know the top intra-region awards.
- What are the top intra-region awards with American Airlines, United, Singapore Airlines, and US Airways miles?
- What about British Airways Avios?
British Airways Avios
British Airways has a distance-based award chart with each award flight price based solely on its distance and class of service. There is no concept of a region in British Airways awards. (How Avios awards work.)
That will often make British Airways awards your cheapest option for short hops on big trips, especially if you can find a single direct flight.
There are fuel surcharges on most British Airways awards–When Does British Airways Add Fuel Surcharges to Avios Awards?–but these are usually small on shorter flights, and it may be worth paying them to save miles.
When there are no British Airways partners serving your destination, fuel surcharges are high, or the distance or number of segments drive up the miles price of your award, consider these other types of miles.
American Airlines has cheap awards within various countries. For 6,000 miles one way, you can book an award within:
- Ecuador (actually only 5,000 miles one way, and don’t forget about Galapagos)
These awards would all be flown on the local LAN affiliate.
For 10,000 miles one way, you can book awards wholly within:
The only good deals I see are Australia/New Zealand on Qantas, Brazil on TAM, and India on Jet Airways.
I find the intra-region awards even more interesting because you can find cheap deals for even longer awards.
For the most part, American Airlines has the same partners as British Airways, since both are members of oneworld, but American Airlines also partners with Etihad and Fiji, which are relevant for the intra-Middle East/India and intra-South Pacific cheap award below.
American Airlines has very cheap awards for only 10,000 miles one way in economy within several regions:
- Central America, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela
- Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay
- Korea, Japan
The Africa deal would be more exciting if there any other partner flights besides these British Airways flights within Southern Africa.
An award that stays within Asia 2 costs only 15,000 miles each way in economy. Asia 2 consists of Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Guam, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Saipan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam.
An award that stays within the Indian Subcontinent and Middle East costs 17,500 miles one way in economy.
An award that stays within the South Pacific costs 20,000 miles each way. You’d primarily use this on Fiji Airways’ flights within the Pacific and to Australia and New Zealand.
United doesn’t have as many intra-region deals as American does.
United does charge only 10,000 miles each way within Central America or Northern South America or between them.
United also charges only 17,500 miles each way in economy within Africa (excluding Egypt) and 35,000 miles in Business Class. United partners with South African and Ethiopian, so its options within Africa are substantial where cash ticket prices are often shockingly expensive.
Singapore KrisFlyer is an excellent frequent flyer program that has access to all the same Star Alliance award space that United miles can access.
You may not have any Singapore miles now, but Singapore is a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points, Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and SPG Starpoints, so you can get them in a hurry. My favorite card to earn Singapore miles is the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card which earns 40,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 over 3 months, and 3x points on gas and travel.
Singapore awards have fuel surcharges where the operating carrier charges them. Because of this, I’ll only list the cheap Singapore Airlines intra-regional awards that can be fuel surcharge-free.
Singapore charges only 20,000 miles each way in United Business or First Class within the continental United States, Alaska, and Canada.
Singapore charges only 17,500 miles each way in economy and 30,000 miles each way in Business within a mega-region that includes Hawaii, Central America, and the United States. See this post for full details.
Within South America, Singapore charges only 12,500 miles each way in economy and 20,000 miles in Business. Singapore has great South American partners like Avianca and TACA with hubs throughout the continent.
Within the South West Pacific, Singapore charges 12,500 miles each way in economy and 17.500 miles in business class. Air New Zealand flies extensively within the region. Some of the routes have a few dollars (think $6) in fuel surcharges.