American Airlines has some of the best award options for flights around the world. With the American Airline AAdvantage award program, you can fly practically anywhere in the world using miles that you earn from credit card bonuses and flying on AA flights. By learning some basics about the program you will be a pro at booking your next award flight. In a series of posts, we’ll discuss the different ways American Airlines points can be used to maximize your awards.
Part 1 – Introduction to Using American Airlines Miles and the Partner Airlines
Part 2 – Comparing American Airline’s 3 Award Charts
Part 3 – Taxes and fees and How to Book Awards (online vs. phone)
Part 4 – Stopovers and Open Jaw tickets American Airlines
Part 5 – How to Maximize American Airlines Explorer, oneworld and Other Airline Award Charts
Part 6 – How to Maximize AA MileSAAver Awards (includes off-peak)
Part 7 – Planning an International Award
Part 8 – Maximizing AA Miles to South America
Part 9 – Maximizing AA Miles to Asia
Part 10 – Maximizing AA Miles to Europe
Part 11 – Maximizing AA Miles to Africa
Part 12 – Maximizing AA Miles to Middle East
Part 13 – Maximizing AA Miles in the US and Hawaii
Flying to South America with American Airline rewards is pretty straight forward. You only have two airline options to get you there which are either American Airlines or LAN. However, there are lots of cities in South America that American Airlines and LAN fly to.
American Airlines splits South America into two award zones, Zone 1 which includes Central America and Northern-South America and Zone 2 which includes Southern-South America.
Chile (excluding Easter Island)
Buenos Aires, Argentina Ministro Pistarini International Airport
Buenos Aires, Aeroparque Jorge Newbery
Cordoba, Ingeniero Ambrosio Taravella International Airport
Mendoza, El Plumerillo International Airport
Salta, A Martín Miguel de Güemes International Airport
La Paz, El Alto International Airport
Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Viru International Airport
Belo Horizonte, Tancredo Neves International Airport
Brasilia, Brasília International Airport
Florianópolis, Hercílio Luz International Airport
Porto Alegre, Salgado Filho International Airport
Rio de Janeiro, Galeão International Airport
Sao Paulo, Guarulhos International Airport
Manaus, Eduardo Gomes International Airport
Santiago de Chile, Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport
Antofagasta, Cerro Moreno International Airport
Arica, Chacalluta International Airport
Balmaceda, Balmaceda Airport
Calama, El Loa International Airport
Castro, Mocopulli Airport
Concepcion, Carriel Sur International Airport
Copiapo, Desierto de Atacama Airport
Iquique, Diego Aracena International Airport
La Serena, La Florida Airport
Osorno, Cañal Bajo Carlos Hott Siebert Airport
Puerto Montt, El Tepual International Airport
Punta Arenas, Presidente Carlos Ibáñez del Campo International Airport
Temuco, Maquehue Airport
Valdivia, Pichoy Airport
Bogota, El Dorado International Airport
Medellín, José María Córdova International Airport
Guayaquil, José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport
Quito, Mariscal Sucre International Airport
Asuncion, Silvio Pettirossi International Airport
Lima, Jorge Chávez International Airport
Cusco, Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport
Arequipa, Rodríguez Ballón International Airport
Montevideo, Carrasco International Airport
Punta del Este, Capitán de Corbeta Carlos A. Curbelo International Airport
Caracas, Simón Bolívar International Airport
There are three award charts that you can use to fly to South America using American Airlines miles, but only two are useful: the American Airlines Awards Chart and the Oneworld and Other Partners Award Chart. The Explorer Chart is not useful for trips that are only to South America for reasons I’ll explain below.
With the American Airlines Award Chart you can’t book with any of the partner airlines, but you can still find a handful of flights operated by American Airlines headed to South America. Using the American Airlines Award Chart to book an award to South America is likely the cheapest way to get down there from North America.
The award chart has three different award redemption levels: MileSAAver Peak, MileSAAVer Off peak and AAnytime. The cost of awards in each level varies based on zone and time of year.
AAnytime Awards are the standard award price that are required to book an award with no discount included. These awards cost significantly more than MileSAAver Peak and MilesSAAver Off Peak awards. An Economy Award to Zone 2 costs 60,000 miles, 30,000 more than it would with a MileSAAver Peak award. The cost also stays the same year-round on AAnytime Awards.
MileSAAver Peak Awards are available for all three awards classes, which makes this a great deal. A First Class award costs 40,000 miles flying to zone 1 rather than 80,000 miles.
With MileSAAver Off Peak, you can get the most out of your miles when flying to either one of the South America Zones for as little as 15,000 miles zone 1 or 20,000 miles on zone 2. One drawback with Off Peak Awards is that there are no First or Business class awards offered, so your only award options are on Economy. The second caveat of Off Peak Awards is that there is a date range of when you can take book the discounted awards.
Off Peak dates vary by zone, but really, Off-Peak dates are available for most of the year. So unless you absolutely must travel during peak dates, you should be able to find Off-Peak award as long as there is award seat availability.
Zone 1 Off-Peak dates: January 16 - June 14; September 7 - November 14
Zone 2 Off-Peak dates: March 1 - May 31; August 16 - November 30
AAnytime Awards: 35,000 points
MileSAAver Peak: 17,500 points
MileSAAver Off-Peaks: 15,000 points
AAnytime Awards: 60,000 points
MileSAAver Peak: 30,500 points
MileSAAver Off-Peaks: Not available on Business Class
AAnytime Awards: 60,000 points
MileSAAver Peak: 30,000 points
MileSAAver Off-Peaks: 20,000 points
AAnytime Awards: 100,000 points
MileSAAver Peak: 50,000 points
MileSAAver Off-Peaks: Not available on Business Class
Regardless of the zone, if you want to book a flight using the least amount of miles, then MileSAAver Off-Peak awards in Economy are the best deal. The difference between Zone 2 from North America on Economy AAnytime compared to MileSAAver Off-Peak awards is 20,000 miles which is a significant jump. If you have the option to plan your itinerary based on the Off-Peak dates, then you can save a lot of miles.
MileSAAver Off-Peak nor the AAnytime and MileSAAver Peak are limited to the American Airline Award Chart. You’ll find the same mileage requirements on the oneworld and Other Partners chart, however, you’ll find that Zone 1 is not included. Another difference is that you can book awards with oneworld partners, which would be LAN, whereas with the American Airlines Award Chart your award must be on an American Airlines flight.
The American Airlines Explorer Chart is a distance based chart and can be a powerful way to maximize your miles. The chart is categorized into different zones which are based on distance traveled.
Must complete the trip within 16 segments
Complete all travel within one year of booking your award.
At least two segments must be on a oneworld alliance partner (in addition to AA)
It’s actually not overly easy arranging an Explorer Award to South America unless you plan to travel to a different continent. The reason being that you’re limited to the amount airlines you can fly on to South America.
A requirement of the Explorer chart is that the award must include two oneworld airlines in addition to American Airlines, however the only oneworld airline that services between South America is LAN. Even though Iberia is a oneworld airline, it only flies to Europe. For this reason, Explorer Award is not a logical chart to use for traveling to South America unless you plan to fly to Europe or Africa from South America.
Possible Explorer Chart Award:
1. Los Angeles to Buenos Aires with LAN Airlines
2. Buenos Aires to Cape Town with Qatar Airlines
Total Distance: 10,045 miles Zone 5
One great source to check the amount of miles you will be flying, is by using the Great Circle Mapper. It’s very easy to use, just input destinations and connecting cities using their airport codes. For example, If I am flying to Buenos Aires from Los Angeles, I would input LAX -EZE, then click “Distance”. This will total up the amount of miles that will be flown. Why this is great is because you can monitor your miles and you can visit several cities just as long as you have enough miles to cover the entire itinerary.
For example, say I wanted to fly to Buenos Aires and a week later fly to Lima before heading back to Los Angeles. This would total 19,025 miles which would fall into Zone 6. Zone 6 requires 100,000 miles for the entire trip.
If the distance falls on the lower end of the zone’s distance range, then you can add additional stops without going over the distance range of the zone.