Getting to South America on Star Alliance

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by ericb, Jul 31, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. ericb

    ericb Silver Member

    Messages:
    88
    Likes Received:
    83
    Status Points:
    305
    Hi everyone,

    I'm planning on flying ORD-LIM-FLN-SFO right after the megado in November to meet up with friends and I'd like to fly Copa for the upgrade prospects (UA*G), but their route map does not lend itself well to my destinations. How do TACA/Avianca or UA operated flights compare?

    Given that prices are north of $2k, I'm guessing I should just redeem for an award ticket... :( I'm also thinking of flying ORD-LIM-GRU-SFO and adding a roundtrip GRU-FLN ticket in between. LAN is also an option since OneWorld is the obvious choice for SA, but with having *G and ST E+, I'd prefer to have the lounge access, free bags, boarding etc.

    Curious to know your thoughts on planning this, especially if you travel down there frequently.

    Eric
     
  2. harvson3

    harvson3 Silver Member

    Messages:
    679
    Likes Received:
    1,693
    Status Points:
    960
    Well, getting from LIM to FLN, you're going to have to go through GRU or GIG anyway.

    You have to call United for TAM award availability; you can't find it online. I believe that UA flights to Lima are eligible for complimentary upgrades, but flights to farther south (in the next zone) are not. (Ah yes: http://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/mileageplus/premier/upgrades.aspx)

    A friend recently liked Tam J; I didn't care much for TAM Y coming from JFK. Haven't flown Avianca/Taca.

    For flights within Brazil, a search engine is decolar.com. I don't know if it's in English, but it has the (rapidly shrinking) cast of airlines that haven't been swallowed by TAM or Gol.
     
  3. Ygor
    Original Member

    Ygor Gold Member

    Messages:
    1,334
    Likes Received:
    1,793
    Status Points:
    1,060
    I was just in FLN in March. I travel to Brazil at least once a year(visiting family and what not :)) UA flights to EWR-LIM are not eligible for premier upgrades, as they are marketed as Business First, FYI.

    Domestic flights from GRU or CGH can be had for very cheap if you would like to buy them. I paid $69 for a one way on Avianca Brasil from FLN to GRU. You get free bags on Avianca, but there is a weight restriction. So if you do not have large/heavy bags, you would be ok.

    There is not much advantage to flying JJ within Brazil (appart from bags), because the cheaper fares (light or promo on their website) on JJ do not earn miles on UA. And you do not have lounge access at GRU because the GRU lounges are located airside on the international departures terminal. Early boarding is not really a huge benefit in Brazil, because brazilians travel with very light and small carry-ons, so you will not have to worry about overhead space. Beware they may strictly enforce the 5gk limit on carry ons, but you can always check it.

    I would give avianca serious thought if you are buying that segment, unless the JJ flights are cheap and convenient, but do not expect to earn miles. Plus, JJ is leaving Star alliance, but I don't know when exactly. Since you are flying in November, you may want to double check it.

    2k for the ticket sounds high. I recommend you call a Brazil travel consolidator. They can sometimes work some magic for me. Just make sure you ask what fare they are booking you into if they send you on JJ so you know you can earn miles. Most of the times you can, but sometimes you cannot.

    I used BACC travel. Do not use their search engine on their website. It is junk. Call them and tell them what you want to do, and they will price it out for you over the phone. They will hold an itinerary for you for free for a couple days. http://www.bacctravel.com/

    As far as using points on JJ, as mentioned, JJ availability on international flights is hard to find. I have managed to book it before. On domestic flights, JJ only opens up inventory for award seats 3 months out, so you will have to wait another month of so depending on your dates. Depending on the city in Brazil, they can be easy to be had.

    IMHO, burning points to Brazil is a good use of miles. Fares are always hight, but you may get some good prices in November, as that is before the high season (Mid Dec to Feb)

    Good luck, and don't forget your Visa :D
     
    viguera and harvson3 like this.
  4. Ygor
    Original Member

    Ygor Gold Member

    Messages:
    1,334
    Likes Received:
    1,793
    Status Points:
    1,060
    Decolar is great as a search engine, but beware that they charge a booking fee, and it is not cheap. You can just search there and buy directly with the airline. There are no penalties in Brazil for buying a one way ticket, so a person can make up their own itinerary with different airlines without it costing more than if you bought a RT.
     
    viguera and harvson3 like this.
  5. harvson3

    harvson3 Silver Member

    Messages:
    679
    Likes Received:
    1,693
    Status Points:
    960
    Agreed.

    One more piece of advice for the OP:
    The Gol site used to have problems with bookings for those who didn't have a Brazilian address or a CPF (the Brazilian equivalent of a SSN). The US site would then show fares higher than the Brazilian site. The workaround is to book through the Argentine site, for fares equivalent to those displayed on the Brazilian site. I don't know if this problem still exists. And you can credit your GOL miles to DL.
     
    Ygor likes this.

Share This Page