When traveling long distance, you often have a choice of Airbus’s A380 or the smaller Boeing 787 aka “Dreamliner”. You may wonder why airlines choose one over the other. This video explains it quite nicely. I have to admit the thought of an A380 with an all economy configuration gives me a migraine!
One of the first things you need to know about to get you to your destination as cheaply as possible is how to work with airline alliances. Yesterday, I showed you how to use a guidebook to identify possible locations to see the targeted species, Scarlet Macaws. There are several places in South and Central America where they can be seen so I will just pick the famous clay licks of Peru and show you how to build a trip.
The gateway city is Lima (LIM) and you need to get to Puerto Maldonado (PEM) where you can be transferred to one of the outstanding lodges in the area. Once you have been in the miles and points game for awhile, you will get a feel for which airline to use where but if you are just starting out, Wikipedia will show you a list of all airlines that fly into a given airport. So we can see that Lima is served by a nice choice of airlines, but Puerto Maldonado is only served by 3 airlines. If you want to use miles to get all the way to Puerto Maldonado, you have two choices-One World or Star Alliance. Sky Team can get you to Lima, but you would have to use a separate ticket to get to Puerto Maldonado.
From North America you can use Avianca, Copa or United.
From South America you can use Avianca.
From Australia and New Zealand, Europe, Asia and Africa there are no direct flights, you will need to travel via the USA. Depending on which program’s miles you have, this may require one or two awards.
In all cases, once you get to Lima, you will be connecting on Taca to Puerto Maldonado.
There are no options all the way to Puerto Maldonado so in all cases you will need to get to Lima and buy a separate ticket to Puerto Maldonado.
From North America you can use Aerolineas Argentinas, AeroMexico or Delta.
From Europe you can use Air Europa, Air France or KLM, or you can connect in the USA or Buenos Aires on Aerolineas Argentinas.
From Australia you can use Aerolineas Argentinas, from New Zealand possibly Qantas to Sydney and then Aerolineas Argentinas.
From Asia and Africa there are no direct flights, you will need to travel via the USA or Europe.
HOW MANY MILES WILL IT COST?
Every airline member of the 3 main alliances has it’s own frequent flier program. They often have alliances with other airlines outside the program. I have made some reference charts for the airline alliances and I strongly recommend that you check out the program of the airline in your country and the USA based partners of each program as the USA airlines tend to have the most lucrative bonuses. Americans can get very generous credit card bonuses. Details of credit card partners (and other partners) will be on each airline’s website, however often there are more lucrative sign up bonuses. Details are usually posted in the Flyer Talk thread so I strongly suggest you read this thread and the Miles Buzz forum before you apply for any cards just in case a better bonus has been offered. I don’t have any affiliate links and I recommend you do extensive research on your own when applying for airline credit cards.
USING ONE WORLD
So how do I go about booking an award for myself? Lots of advance planning! I have a pretty good idea of where I want to go and which airline alliance is the best option. To get to Peru, I would use AAdvantage miles and take a route similar to BNE-AKL/SYD-SCL-LIM-PEM using Qantas or LAN between Australia and Santiago, then LAN Peru to Puerto Maldonado. Looking at AA’s award chart, we can see that Peru is in Central/South America Zone 1.
So let’s look at the chart. You will notice there are taxes and fees with certain routes and that the awards are prices as one way trips.
We can see that a South Pacific to Central/South America award will cost 40,000 miles each way (80,000 round trip) in economy, 65,000 (130,000 round trip) in business class and 75,000 each way (150,000 round trip in first class. AA doesn’t allow you to transit the USA on this award so you must fly on the only carriers that operate between Australia and South America-Qantas and LAN.
If you are based in North America, economy will cost 17.500 each way (35,000 round trip), business class is 30,000 each way (60,000 round trip) and first is 40,000 each way or 80,000 round trip. You would be flying on AA or LAN.
If you are based somewhere else, leave a comment if you don’t understand this part and I will help you out. Meanwhile, here is a reference list for other One World carriers.
USING STAR ALLIANCE
Star Alliance can also get you to Peru. Let’s use US Airways as an example. US does not offer one way awards so these are round trips. Peru is obviously in South America so it is pretty easy to just follow the line across to see how many miles it would cost from your region. You can use any Star Alliance carrier so if you are in North America, you could use a combination of United, US Airways, Avianca/Taca and Air Canada to get there. For Aussies and Kiwis it gets a bit more complicated. Theoretically you should be able to use Air New Zealand to LAX and then pick up Avianca/Taca which is probably fine in economy but availability is scarce in business. US Airways has recently been enforcing MPM (maximum permitted mileage) so while in the past we could route through Asian airports such as Singapore, Bangkok, Tokyo and Seoul; this may no longer be possible.
United Airlines is a USA based carrier that offers one way awards and so do some of the other Star Alliance carriers. I have made up a reference list of all the airlines with links to their websites so check them out to see if any of them are better suited to your needs. Bear in mind that the tickets are not completely free, there is usually a booking fee of $25-50 and various taxes, but you have to pay the taxes whether you pay cash or miles for the ticket.
Well, that’s Step 1! We have now used our miles to get to Peru. Next step is to get to the lodge where you can start your adventure but enroute you will probably need a night to transit in Lima. Tomorrow we will look at the gateway city of Lima.