Noob contributor, Mark, gives us a primer on finding a way to Chile.
Ahh, South America. The beaches of Rio, the food of Argentina, the stunning sight of Maccu Piccu all inspire travelers to visit the continent each year. One country in particular, Chile, has become world renowned for its wines and cuisine, as well as its world-class Andean skiing in their winter (the Northern Hemisphere’s summer).
Those stacked with points, though, run into trouble when booking flights south of the equator. There are several reasons for this. For one, US carriers don’t have ample flights to Chile like they do to the Caribbean or even to more northern South American countries like Colombia. Don’t be discouraged, though. There are a few options for you all. This post will try to detail just what to do when traveling to Chile on miles.
A Primer on Chile
Chile is a narrow country located on the western shore of South America, running nearly 2,700 miles. That being said, the north of the country is a vast desert, the east is dominated by the Andes, and the south is a smattering of islands and lakes, that are beautiful, but not great for a giant city that could support international travel. That leaves Santiago, your only direct destination from the United States. We’ll focus on getting there throughout this post, detailing alliance by alliance the best ways to get to Chile.
As you can see from the map, Santiago doesn’t have a lot of great direct connections for Star Alliance from the States. In fact, there’s none, with Toronto (via Air Canada) being the only one.
However, there are connecting flights available. Copa Airlines connects through Panama City from several cities in the US, and Avianca Airlines travels from Houston to Bogota, and then on to Santiago.
That’s about it, folks. So, how much will it all cost you? Assuming you’re earning on United Airlines, the trip will cost you 30,000 miles each way, since Chile is located in the “Southern South America” category. You can use United.com’s booking engine to find both Copa and Avianca flights.
SkyTeam is another alliance that has limited options getting to Chile, though more direct flights than SkyTeam. Delta Airlines operates non-stops from Atlanta, and SkyTeam partner Aeromexico operates flights connecting through Mexico City.
If you wanted to use Delta SkyMiles on your Atlanta-Santiago flight, it’ll cost you 60,000 miles round trip. Delta unfortunately charges the full round trip fare for one-way flights.
If you wanted to use AeroMexico, the same amount, 60,000 miles will be deducted from your account.
Finally, an alliance that really wins this battle. OneWorld not only has American Airlines in its arsenal, it has LAN, the official airline of Chile. LAN dominates the western half of the continent with flight schedules, so if you are planning a trip to Chile, Peru, or Ecuador, your best bet is LAN.
American Airlines does operate direct flights via its Dallas-Fort Worth and Miami hubs, and searching for flights during off-peak time, it is possible to get this round trip for 40,000 points. I even found some flights for 20,000 points from LAX to SCL for next week!
Otherwise, Economy MileSAAver fares are 30,000 each way, and you can book one-way flights. Using LAN as your carrier, you can find direct flights from New York-JFK, Los Angeles, and Miami.
Using your American Airlines miles to fly on LAN is also possible, but it requires a few hoops to jump through. For one, you’ll have to search on British Airways’ or Qantas’ website to find award availability, which isn’t possible on American Airlines’ site. The same amount of miles (anywhere from 40,000 to 60,000 round trip in economy) stays the same.
Check this Flyertalk thread for the best possible AA branded cards.
Starwood Preferred Guest’s points program is unique among other hotel loyalty programs in that they allow many airline transfers at a 1:1 ratio. What many do not know, though, is that when an SPG member transfers to LAN at a 1 Starpoint to 2 LANPASS KMs ratio. In addition, you’ll receive a 5,000 mile (or kilometer, in this case) bonus on every 20,000 points transferred from Starwood.
Lan’s award chart states that one flight round trip from the US to Chile costs 70,000 KMs, so that means that you must transfer 32,500 Starwood points to receive a free round trip, the best deal of all programs!
I would recommend OneWorld by a landslide for booking Chilean vacations for the foreseeable future. There are more flights than any other alliance, and it’s possible to fly cheaper on points than any other! American AAdvantage or British Airways Avios can be used to fly LAN. Love the options.
If you have access to a few Starwood points, I would utilize their transferability into LAN’s mileage program over all other options. One quick way to receive miles is through the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, which earns you 25,000 miles when you meet their spending requirements. If you sign up for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express, you’ll also receive 25,000 miles, leaving you with 17,500 leftover Starpoints in your account. It’s the best deal around, and Starwood hotels are some of the best.
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— Noob MasterRead More
Every summer, Jordan and I meet family in Mexico for a quick all-inclusive escape from the daily grind. This is mostly awesome, but usually we have to connect to and from Mexico, since there aren’t non-stop flights available (not awesome).
BUT, this year is different. Air Tran has a non-stop to Cancun from Austin, which makes me very happy. I didn’t have any Air Tran credits, but that wasn’t a problem. Since Southwest has acquired Air Tran, you can transfer Southwest Rapid Rewards points to Air Tran (and vice versa).
I actually didn’t have Southwest Rapid Rewards points because I’ve exhausted most of them by taking advantage of our Companion Pass. But…Ultimate Rewards points earned from the Ink Bold® Business Card, Ink Plus® Business Card, or Chase Sapphire Preferred® cards can transfer into Southwest, which can be transferred into Air Tran. Winning.
If you’re looking for a killer beach getaway, AirTran has non-stop service to destinations such as Aruba, The Bahamas, Bermuda, The Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Here are some recently added non-stop routes:
- Chicago – Cancun
- Denver – Cancun
- San Antonio – Mexico City
- San Antonio – Cancun
- Austin – Cancun
- Orange County – Cabo San Lucas
- Orange County – Mexico City
And here’s how I transferred my Southwest Rapid Rewards points to Air Tran and booked Business class flights to Mexico…
Checking Air Tran for availability
If you’re not an A+ member, you can sign up here. After you create an account, log in and click on “book a reward flight.” Enter your dates and destination.
From there, you will see a calendar with availability. I like that Air Tran will show you 3 weeks of availability. You can also see if there’s coach or Business availability. Unlike Southwest, there’s a Biz class on Air Tran. You know I like that.
After seeing the dates you want, click “continue” and then decide between a one-way coach trip for (8) A+ credits, or Business for (16) A+ credits. My dates only yielded Biz class award availability, which is fine, but I was actually looking for economy since it’s only a 2.5 hour flight to Mexico. I usually save Business bookings for longer flights when it really counts, but hey, it’s peak season. Do whatcha gotta do.
Now that you’ve found the flights that work for you, it’s time to book (or transfer Southwest Rapid Rewards points to A+ credits).
Transferring Southwest Rapid Rewards points to Air Tran
You can get to the Southwest conversion site from the Air Tran site. Go to the My Account page and click Rewards Conversion in the top right corner. You will be directed to this page, where you can start transferring Rapid Rewards points.
Here’s the transfer table when transferring Southwest currency to A+ credits:
- 1,200 Rapid Rewards Points = 1 A+ Rewards Credit
- 1 Rapid Rewards Credit = 1 A+ Rewards Credit
- 1 Standard Award = 16 A+ Rewards Credits
- 1 Freedom Award = 32 A+ Rewards Credits
In most situations, you will probably be transferring Rapid Rewards points to A+, so it would cost 19,200 Southwest Rapid Rewards (Ultimate Rewards points) for a one-way in Business class (38,400 for roundtrip), or 9,600 points for a one-way flight in economy (19,200 roundtrip).
I highly recommend going for the cheaper option in economy and paying for preferred seating or the ability to select your seat, which you can do with Air Tran. Of course, if the trip is longer, then going for Business class could be worth it. I’m easily convinced to fly Biz.
Beware: Once you transfer Rapid Reward points to Air Tran, you can’t transfer them back as “points” – they will instead be transferred back as “credits.” Southwest credits are more restricting than points, so be sure before you transfer any points over to Air Tran.
Booking Air Tran flights
Once you have the necessary Air Tran A+ credits in your account, it’s time to book. Booking was pretty easy, even though the Air Tran site is very slow. I had to change the dates after I initially booked and that was really easy and didn’t cost me a thing. I did it all online and was done it 2 minutes. I like that.
I love that Air Tran gives me another option when I’m looking to fly to Mexico/Caribbean. Here’s Air Tran’s interactive flight chart. I found it pretty handy to see where they flew.
I don’t love that Air Tran doesn’t honor our Southwest Companion Pass, but that would just be too good. I guess I won’t be too greedy. I’m just happy to get a non-stop flight to Cancun from Austin. Really, any non-stop from Austin puts me in a good mood.
You can fly Air Tran Atlanta/Fort Lauderdale without having to transfer Southwest Rapid Rewards points to Air Tran, but that’s the only destination for now. Hopefully, they will open up more Air Tran flights that you can book with SW points on the SW wesbite soon. Also, watch out for bag fees when you book flights on Air Tran.
There is an Air Tran rewards credit card from Chase (of course). I’m not sure it’s worth a Chase inquiry, but you can read my review here. It may be going away once the Southwest-Air Tran merger is complete, but it could be used as a way to pad your Southwest account since you can transfer A+ to Southwest, too.
I hope this helps by giving you another way to use your Ultimate Rewards or Southwest Rapid Rewards points.
(Disclaimer: I do receive a referral credit for the cards mentioned in this post. Thanks for the support if you decide to apply!)
— Noob MasterRead More
I’m off traveling today, so Noob contributor, Ethan, lets us know about the hardly heard about AirTran card.
What are the perks of the AirTran Card?
The AirTran card is a Chase-issued Reward card that offers you pretty standard benefits for an airline rewards card. Some of the benefits include:
- 2 A+ Rewards Dollars per $1 spent on AirTran and Southwest purchases made directly with the airline and with A+ Rewards and Rapid Rewards Hotel & Car Rental Partners
- 1 A+ Rewards Dollar per $1 spent on all other purchases
- 2 A+ Rewards Credits per year on your cardmember anniversary
- 1 A+ Rewards Dollar for every $1 in balance transfers your first 90 days (subject to fee)
Now in AirTran’s program 1,200 rewards dollars earns you 1 reward credit. 16 rewards credits earns you a roundtrip flight. So you have to spend over $19,000 on the card to earn a roundtrip flight under normal spend, or $9,500 on AirTran/Southwest purchases.
Ok, that’s not that great, why should I get it?
I figure this is the question you’re asking yourself at this point. Well the thing is, AirTran got bought by a little airline called Southwest back in 2011. They’ve been taking things slow and steady with integration, but they’re slowly inching toward where they’re one airline. Recently AirTran connections became bookable on Southwest.com, and they’re pushing the integration more and more. With the elimination of the AirTran brand will come the elimination of the AirTran credit card.
In addition, Chase has on their website an Air Tran offer with a decent sign-up bonus of 16 A+ Credits, which gets you a roundtrip flight! You also get a couple of business class upgrades if you do fly on AirTran (no business class on Southwest). It might be better to hold off until the 32 (2 roundtrip flights) credit bonus comes back (which expired along with the 50,000 point Southwest bonuses), but there’s no way to be sure it will before this card vanishes. Some people have reported being able to find a 32 A+ offer in this Flyertalk thread.
So this could be a last opportunity to get some AirTran credits if you fly AirTran, or convert them to Rapid Rewards credits if you fly Southwest!
How would I convert to Southwest?
I won’t go into too much detail, because Southwest has made a great website explaining just that. Essentially, your AirTran credits can become Rapid Rewards credits, which will get you flights on Southwest! For the Southwest flier, this is an opportunity to earn more points with a product that isn’t one of the 4 Southwest-branded credit cards.
It seems unlikely that this card will stick around once the merger is complete (you might want to think about the US Airways card too…), so this might be your last chance to earn this particular sign-up bonus.
I can’t say I would recommend the AirTran over the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold®, Ink Bold, Southwest, or any of the other card you can find on the sickdeals page. But if you already have all of those cards then it could make sense.
It might not be the greatest in the world, but it might be worth a look! Personally, I don’t think it’s worth the “Chase” credit pull for my upcoming churn, but you might have some travel coming up that makes it worth a look!
— Ethan CarterRead More