Home > British Airways, Chase, Credit Cards, LAN > Using Avios for South America

Using Avios for South America

The Chase British Airways Visa currently has an offer of 50,000 Avios on first purchase and up to 50,000 additional Avios for spending up to $20,000 on it in the first year. That means 100,000 Avios for big spenders. There is also a thread on FlyerTalk that details getting the card and receiving the 100,000 Avios without massive spending, so long as you keep it for a year and pay $150 in fees. Either way, it’s a great way to earn Avios for cheap.

Even though Avios are the program for British Airways, I actually don’t ever see myself using them for British Airways flights to Europe or beyond. You’ll see lots of nasty fuel surcharges. For example, an Economy Class ticket from New York to London will cost you $841.31:

If I wanted to use Avios, it would be 40,000 Avios round-trip plus $655.31, meaning that 40K Avios saves you only $186 (under half a cent per Avios, which is BAD).

That’s because British Airways has some pretty nasty fuel surcharges. In this case, the base fare for the round-trip is $186, and fuel surcharges, airport taxes, and fees add up to $655.31. The miles only take care of taking off the base fare.

Fuel surcharges also apply for flights to Europe on American Airlines. The surcharges are a lot lower on Aer Lingus, but they only fly to Dublin and Shannon from a few spots on the east coast.

However, one place where Avios is really helpful for North Americans is for domestic trips on American Airlines or Alaska Airlines, and trips down to South America on LAN or American Airlines. Both airlines have great service to/from South America, and LAN serves a lot of places within South America.

First, keep in mind that there is no reward chart with British Airways Avios. That’s because in these scheme, you pay per segment based on the distance of each segment. Therefore, if I fly LAX to JFK to Lima, I will pay for the LAX to JFK flight and the JFK to Lima flight. This means that non-stops are cheaper than connecting flights. Below is a rough guide to how many Avios you’ll need for certain distances … Blue Class corresponds to Economy. For first class, the price is 3x Economy.

Zones 1-3 (short-hauls) can be quite a deal.
Zones 4-6 are competitive with other programs.
Zones 7-9 (long-hauls) are rather expensive compared to other programs.

Like I said, South America is one of the regions where using British Airways Avios can really help out. Both American Airlines and LAN fly between the two continents, and LAN has great coverage throughout the continent. Both airlines offer Economy and Business Class, while AA offers First Class on a few routes with their Boeing 777 Aircraft (like New York to Buenos Aires and New York to Sao Paulo). I flew LAN business class earlier this year and thought it was a great product.

Getting from North America to South America

The main gateway from the U.S. to South America is Miami, which makes Avios great for those in South Florida or those who are a short flight from MIA. Afterward comes New York JFK and Dallas/Fort Worth DFW with a decent number of flights to South America. Los Angeles and San Francisco only have LAN service to Lima, while Chicago does not serve any South American cities.

Rather than list out every possible route, I’ll simply link to the OneWorld Route Map. Just enter one of those U.S. gateways (MIA, JFK, DFW, LAX, or SFO), deselect “include connections” and select “non-stop flights” and “include codeshares.”

Checking out where I can go directly from MIA. (Click to see bigger picture)

Afterward, I would use the Wandering Aramean’s Avios Calculator … plug in the cities you are interested in and see how much that routing would cost. You’ll notice that Miami to Quito is only 10,000 Avios one-way in Economy, a fantastic deal. If you live in the Southeast, a connecting flight is only 4500 Avios one-way in Economy, so an Atlanta – Miami – Quito flight would be only 14500 Avios one-way, or 29000 Avios round-trip.

Using Avios within South America

LAN has a great footprint within western South America, and has subsidiaries in Chile, Peru, Argentina, Ecuador, and Colombia. Best yet, there is no fuel surcharge, just nominal airport taxes. When I went to Machu Picchu, revenue fares were about $450 for non-Peruvians (you have to show Peruvian ID at the airport to use thy fare). I instead redeemed 9,000 Avios and paid $13 in taxes — much better!

There are a bunch of places served by LAN — the OneWorld map tool above can show exactly where they fly.

  1. zman
    July 23, 2013 at 8:04 am

    how do you book a flight In LAN and pay with avios?

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