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Book American Airlines Awards Like a Pro:
- Part 1 – Introduction
- Part 2 – Types of Awards & Charts
- Part 3 – How Much Will My Award Cost?
- Part 4 – One-way, Openjaws, Stopovers, & North American Gateway Cities
- Part 5 – American Airlines, Alaska Airlines & Hawaiian Airlines for North American awards
- Part 6 – International Award Routes
- Part 7 – Finding British Airways Award Availability
- Part 8 – Finding Cathay Pacific Award Availability using the British Airways website
- Part 8b – Finding Cathay Pacific Award Availability using Japan Airlines’ Website
- Part 9 – Finding Iberia (& European) Award Availability using the Qantas Website
- Part 10 – Finding LAN & South American Award Availability
- Part 11 – Finding Air Tahiti Nui Awards to France & French Polynesia with FlightStats
- Part 11b – Finding Air Tahiti Nui Awards to France & French Polynesia with ExpertFlyer
American Airlines has terrific availability on its own flights as well as oneworld partner airline LAN to South America.
The best way to check American Airlines’ award availability to South America is online at AA.com.
However, AA.com does NOT show LAN award availability, so we have to use the British Airways website or Qantas website to find LAN award availability, and then call American Airlines to book those flights.
For example, both LAN and American Airlines fly to Buenos Aires. However, you will only see results for American Airlines flights on AA.com.
So search for LAN flights to Buenos Aires from Los Angeles, Miami, and New York using the British Airways website or the Qantas website.
The Qantas website has a calendar which makes it easy to search for a broad range of dates, but doesn’t list a lot of cities in the search field. The British Airways website will tell you the total number of award seats available on the flight, but is a bit trickier to use.
Then find a flight from your airport to the LAN departure airport of Los Angeles, Miami, or New York on AA.com. Lastly, call American Airlines to book the sequence of flights.
American Airlines also has a partnership with the Brazilian Airline GOL, which is ending on August 12, 2012. However, you can only book award flights on GOL up to August 12, 2012 for travel no later than August 12, 2013. I don’t know of a free way to search for GOL awards (please comment if you do!), so you have to call American Airlines and specifically request them to search for GOL flights.
Use GOL flights to travel within South America, and in particular Brazil. Here’s a link to destinations served by GOL.
American Airlines Departure Cities
American Airlines flies to South America from the following North American cities:
- Dallas to Buenos Aires, Caracas, Quito, Santiago, Sao Paulo, & Rio de Janeiro
- Miami to Bello Horizonte, Bogota, Brasilla, Buenos Aires, Cali, Caracas, Guayaquil, La Paz, Lima, Manaus, Maracaibo, Medellin, Montevideo, Quito, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Santiago, Santa Cruz, & Sao Paulo
- New York to Buenos Aires, Caracas, Guayaquil, Rio de Janeiro, & Sao Paulo
- San Juan to Caracas
LAN Departure Cities
LAN flies to South America from the following North American cities:
- Los Angeles to Buenos Aires (LAN Peru), Lima (LAN Peru & LAN) & Santiago (LAN)
- Miami to Caracas (LAN), Bogota (LAN), Buenos Aires (LAN Argentina), Guayaquil (LAN), Lima (LAN Peru), Quito (LAN), & Santiago (LAN)
- New York JFK to Guayaquil (LAN Ecuador), Lima (LAN), & Santiago (LAN)
- San Francisco to Lima & Sao Paulo on LAN Peru
Using LAN to fly from the US to South America makes it much easier to get to South America using American Airline miles. That’s because not only can you fly on American Airlines flights to South America, but you can also fly on LAN to South America and then connect on other LAN flights to get to more destinations in South America.
Here’s a link to the LAN destination guide.
You’ll still pay only the same flat price for your award ticket.
If you’re wondering how to piece together an itinerary using only LAN airlines, use the LAN Flight Schedule to see which flights you need to get from the LAN departure city in the US to your final destination in South America.
Then find availability for those flights using the British Airways website.
British Airways Award Website quirks
In my experience, you don’t have to resort to tricking the British Airways website much (or even at all), since it usually doesn’t find award flights via London when searching for South American awards. But here’s how to trick it in case you get a routing via London.
The British Airways website will display award availability for ONLY British Airways if there are award seats on British Airways flights available.
For example, if you are flying from the US to Santiago and British Airways AND a partner airline both have award seats, the British Airways website will initially display ONLY the British Airways award seats (and not show the partner award seats).
This is pretty useless if you’re trying to fly to South America from the US because British Airways awards will always route you via London (the opposite direction!) and won’t show you partner airline availability (on LAN and American Airlines) if there are British Airways flights available.
So we’ve got to trick the system by searching for flights on days when there is no British Airways award availability.
Because if you search for flights on days when British Airways has no award availability on their own flights, they will give you the option to search for award flights on partner airlines (such as LAN).
The British Airways site is also moody and will sometimes refuse to work. I recommend practicing finding award seats even if you don’t have a specific booking to familiarize yourself with the website.
How to find LAN Award availability
Let’s say I want to find 1 seat from Nashville to Temuco, Chile on October 17, 2012 in Business Class.
I can search on AA.com, but it won’t show LAN award availability, and will prompt me to call the reservation department.
So I break up my flight into segments. I’ll first look for award availability from:
- The US to Santiago on LAN using the British Airways or Qantas website
- Then Santiago to Temuco on LAN using the British Airways or Qantas website
- Finally the award from Nashville to the US departure city of my LAN international flight on AA.com
All these segments will cost me 50,000 miles for a 1-way Business Class award using American Airlines miles. I’ll still pay 50,000 miles even if I book a flight with up to 4 segments or a direct flight with only 1 segment since American Airlines has a zone-based award chart.
Segment 1 – Miami to Santiago
Log into your British Airways account account by entering your membership number and PIN in the top right side of the screen and click “Log in.”
If you don’t have a British Airways Executive Club account, sign-up for a free account here.
Click on “Spending Avios” on the left hand side menu under “Executive Club.”
In case you’re wondering, Avios is the new name for British Airways miles.
Click on “Book Flights with Avios”
Let’s say I want to check availability from Miami to Santiago on October 17, 2012.
I enter “Miami” in the “From” box and “Santiago” in the “To” box and select my class of service.
I then enter my departure date and click the “One way only” box because I like searching segment by segment to see the most choices. If you are booking a return trip, just search for the return segments after you find awards for your outbound segments.
And finally, I click on “Get Flights”
If you’re lucky and British Airways doesn’t have award seats on their flights, you will get the option to search for partner airlines (the screen shot below).
Click either “Search” or “Include Partners” to search for partner airline availability.
If you do get a routing via London, follow steps 6 & 7 in my earlier post, Part 8 – Finding Cathay Pacific Award Availability using the British Airways Website, on using the British Airways tool to find award availability for Cathay Pacific.
You now know that there is 1 Business Class award seat from Miami to Santiago on LAN Chile flight 503. So instead of relying on the American Airlines agent to find this flight for you, you can feed this specific flight to the agent to book.
At this point, write down the flight details. For example, I’d write down:
LA 0503 from Miami (MIA) to Santiago (SCL) departing at 22:30 on October 17 and arriving in Santiago on October 18 at 07:55 am in Business Class
Segment 2 – Santiago to Temuco
Repeat steps 2 through 6 above to see availability for flights from Santiago to Temuco. I prefer searching segment by segment to see the best award availability.
Finding award flights within South America is much easier since the British Airways website doesn’t usually try to route you via London on a British Airways flight.
I’d write down my flights and then ask the American Airlines agent to book the sequence of flights for me.
Taxes and Fees
Booking a LAN award using American Airlines miles is very cheap.
For example, it costs only $2.50 in taxes and fees for a Business Class award ticket from Miami to Santiago in Business Class on LAN.
And $47.50 for the return flight from Santiago to Miami in LAN Business Class.
You’ll have to pay a $25 telephone booking fee, but it is totally worth that fee to get access to partner airlines.
Calling American Airlines to make the booking
I’d then call American Airlines (1-800-433-7300) and ask them to put on hold (for up to 5 days) these specific flights which I found. I’d then double check the flight on hold and call back to ticket the flight.
Reader AK, points out in the comments, that you should specify the operating carrier when asking the American Airlines agent to search for the flights. Ask for “LP or Lan Peru” if your flight is on LAN Peru instead of saying just “LAN”
Bottom Line: The British Airways award website is quirky, but with a little practice, you’ll soon be able to search for partner airline awards seats. Or you can use the Qantas website to search for LAN flights and have Big Travel with Small Money to South America!