Using Delta SkyMiles for travel to South America on Aeromexico

Not to offend anyone, but I have a new favorite blog reader, and his name is Mac. He was the genius that pointed out the possibility of redeeming British Airways Avios points for travel on Aer Lingus in order to avoid fuel surcharges. Mysteriously Aer Lingus opened up business class award space on just about every flight the following day, and I’m still not sure whether that was a glitch or not.

Well, today Mac brings us another excellent observation on the “Ask Lucky” page of the blog, which I’ll break down here. Though in the meantime I think I owe Mac a steak dinner, and should really rename the “Ask Lucky” page to “Words of Wisdom from Mac” page.

Anyway, today’s discovery by Mac involves Delta SkyMiles. If you’re at all familiar with the program you’ve probably heard them referred to as SkyPesos before, and that’s for good reason — their redemption rates are ridiculous. That’s at least true if you’re trying to actually redeem miles for Delta flights. If you redeem on their partner airlines it’s not all bad news.

They partner with Air France to Europe, and they release a good amount of business class award space, which can easily be searched online. To Asia they partner with Korean Air, which also releases a good amount of award space. The challenge with Korean Air is that they don’t display business class award space online and they have a ton of blackout dates. For a while they displayed business class award space on ExpertFlyer, but unfortunately they stopped doing that. After all, knowledge is power, and the last thing Delta wants is for their consumers to have the power to redeem miles for flights at a reasonable level. Now the only way to book Korean Air awards is by calling up Delta SkyMiles, which is more or less a lost cause (“Korean Air, I ain’t never heard of them before!”).

But the one destination that has been a complete lost cause is South America. Delta doesn’t have any major partner airlines flying between the US and South America, and it’s very rare to find “low” level award space on Delta to South America, meaning you’re usually paying a minimum of 200,000 SkyMiles for roundtrip business class.

But there’s another option that’s actually very attractive, that can almost always get you saver business class award space to South America. Aeromexico partners with Delta, and they have a pretty good route network to South America. Before we get into the details of the strategy, let’s discuss the basics.

Aeromexico South America destinations and frequencies

Aermemexico operates the following nonstop flights out of their Mexico City hub to South America:

  • Bogota daily on a 737
  • Buenos Aires daily on a 767
  • Lima daily on a 737
  • Santiago 6x weekly on a 767
  • Sao Paulo daily on a 777

Aeromexico’s business class product

On their longhaul flights (those destinations served be 767s and 777s) Aeromexico seems to have a pretty competitive business class product. You can read more about it here. While it’s not fully flat it does appear to be pretty comfortable, so I wouldn’t hesitate to fly it.

Finding award availability on Aeromexico

While you can book Aeromexico awards on delta.com (which is a fairly new feature) the best place to search for availability is on Air France’s website. You’ll need to be a member of their Flying Blue program first. Once you’re logged into your account you can click on the “Award Tickets” tab on the main page.

Once you click on that you’ll be redirected to the award search page. The key to finding Aeromexico availability is to search segment-by-segment. I’ll show you how to search for availability from the US to Mexico City later, though for now we’re just focusing on finding the longhaul award space.

Let’s assume you want to fly from Mexico City to Buenos Aires. Just enter the origin, destination, and class of service, and click on “Search.”

The results page will bring you a calendar view of the award space at the saver level. As you’ll see, award space is spectacular. I chose random dates in September, figuring it’s neither low season nor high season in South America, and got the following results:

As you can see, on the outbound from Mexico City to Buenos Aires, 19 of the 35 days on the calendar have business class award availability:

And on the return, 34 of the 35 days on the calendar have business class award availability:

And for a slight reality check of just how great that is, let’s check in with Delta for the same time period between Atlanta and Buenos Aires:

The “low” level awards are shaded green. As you can see, they only have two dates for the same time period on the outbound, and five dates on the return (and frankly, that availability is shockingly good for Delta).

Anyway, back to the Air France search tool. Once you’ve selected your preferred dates just click “Next, select flight,” and you’ll be brought to the results page. I selected September 8-15.

Not surprisingly the results page shows us the nonstop Aeromexico flights in business class:

So now you’re done with the Air France website. You can apply the same strategy to searching for any of Aeromexico’s other destinations in South America. Now it’s time to get to Mexico City.

Getting to Mexico City

There are a couple of ways to get to Mexico City. One way is on Delta, where you’re faced with the same issues you always are with Delta — they just don’t release a whole lot of award space at the “low” level. But Delta also partners with Alaska Airlines, so you can instead fly them from Los Angeles to Mexico City, and they release a ton of first class award space.

Alaska Airlines has twice daily nonstop service out of Los Angeles to Mexico City, and has connections from many other cities to LA. The easiest way to search Alaska Airlines award space is either on alaskaairlines.com or ExpertFlyer. Since alaskaairlines.com is the free option that doesn’t require membership, let’s use that.

To search award availability just go to their award search page.

Just enter the origin, destination, dates, and be sure the boxes for “Award Reservations” and “Award Calendar” are checked.

The next page will bring you a calendar display. If you see a cost of 32,500 miles each way for first class, that’s the saver level, which should be bookable through Delta as well.

After you have your dates selected you can click “Continue,” which will show you the flights with availability.

Based on the flights I’m trying to connect to, the third option would work best for me, and now I know it’s available at the saver level.

One other option — flying Aeromexico to Mexico City

It’s also worth noting that Aeromexico serves many destinations in the US, including Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and more. They also release a decent amount of award space on their flights, so using the same method outlined above, you can search for their award space from the US using the Air France website as well. You can either search segment-by-segment to get the most accurate results (in other words, search availability from your US gateway separately from availability between Mexico City and South America), or you can search them all at once if you want to get the quickest results.

So you could instead search New York to Buenos Aires all at once, as follows:

As you can see it won’t return as many results. For the same outbound you only see three dates available:

While for the return you see 15 dates available:

If you select dates you’ll notice that the connections work out quite nicely:

Hey, options are always a good thing…

Putting it all together

Let’s recap, We know the Aeromexico flights are available at the saver level, and we also know the Alaska Airlines flights are available at the saver level. We used the individual airlines’ websites to search for the space even though delta.com will display their award space as well. The difference is that the above sites allow you to search for award availability off of a calendar, which opens up lots of options. But now that we know which flights we want, we’ll go to delta.com to actually make the booking. Let’s say we prefer the Alaska Airlines flights out of LAX over the Aeromexico flights out of New York.

Once on delta.com click on “SkyMiles” and then “Use Miles.” Then click on the first tab for “Award Ticket Reservations.”

Once you’re on the next page you’re going to want to click on the “Multi-city” tab. Why? Because if you just search flights between Los Angeles and Buenos Aires, delta.com will only present you with options that are more direct on Delta, which will likely cost double the cost (or more). By searching segment-by-segment we’ll be forcing them to give us the options we want.

Once you click “FIND FLIGHTS” you’ll be given options for each individual segment, so just pick the flights we chose above.

First from Los Angeles to Mexico City:

Then from Mexico City to Buenos Aires:

Then from Buenos Aires to Mexico City:

And then from Mexico City to Los Angeles:

Once you’ve selected each individual flight you’ll be brought to the results page, where you’ll see the low level cost of 100,000 Delta SkyMiles plus $66.95 in taxes.

And just to prove it actually works, here’s the above routing out of New York on Aeromexico the whole way priced out as well:

As a reminder, Delta allows one stopover and one open jaw on an award ticket. So if you want to stopover in Buenos Aires and/or fly out of one city in the US and return to another, you can do that on a SkyMiles award.

Anyway, hopefully some of you guys find this helpful. If you have any questions, please let me know! And a big thanks to Mac for bringing this to my attention!

Comments

  1. says

    Wow. Amazing job. I think all of us owe Mac a steak dinner and a bottle of wine! Sounds like a SkyMiles Trip to Argentina?

    Great job with the description Lucky. You simplify complex tasks with ease.

    I will definitely be referring my readers to your great write-ups.

    Personally I don’t have too many miles/points and will stick with JFK-EZE on Avios for 12.5k one-way (lowest Avios & Money option).

    But I will definitely look to use this trick in the future.

  2. hobo13 says

    Cool. Is this sweeps week or something Lucky? Trying to capture the top spot in Technorati’s blog rankings? :-)

    So one question — I thought that DL allowed a stop-over OR an open-jaw, but not both?

  3. lucky says

    @ Zach — Thanks!

    @ hobo13 — They publish that they allow one or the other, but in practice they allow both. Sweep weeks? Nope, just have smart readers this week. ;)

  4. ArizonaGuy says

    I didn’t realize people didn’t know about Aeromexico. There are a number of AM trip reports involving MEX-NRT/PVG and TIJ-NRT/PVG.

  5. HikerT says

    As far as getting to MEX on AS, are you sure you combine AS and AM? I tried it a while back and couldn’t get delta.com to price the award properly. It priced it as 2 separate awards.

  6. HikerT says

    OK, never mind, looks like you did get delta.com to price AS + AM properly. Must have just been the routing I was attempting.

  7. lucky says

    @ ArizonaGuy — Well the Aeromexico redemption option is nothing new, though to the best of my knowledge being able to book it on delta.com is pretty new.

    @ HikerT — Were you maybe trying to price an award to Asia or Europe on Aeromexico? If so, it would price as two awards, since it exceeds the MPM for the routing. To South America that shouldn’t be an issue.

  8. kacey says

    I live in SAN and TIJ is a very convenient airport nearby where I have flown multiple times to Europe via MEX on Aeromexico. In fact, I must say because of that option, I really value skymiles because there is generally decent availability. The Airfrance website is definitely your friend when looking for availability

  9. says

    Which is all great, except that most DL miles folks will still at least have to buy tickets to/from the Aeromexico or at least Alaska gateway cities… ;)

  10. Jim says

    Great help, maybe the best I’ve seen in a long time. My wife and I have over 600,000 delta miles and have been wanting to go to EZE. I’ve started saving UA points because The cost on Delta was terrible. Now to decide when to go, I already have a AF sign in. THANKS

  11. Mac says

    Hi @ Gary,

    With all due respect the ability to now view AM availability online using Clubpremier.com or the AF site and then book using DL.com is an HUGE ENHANCEMENT for Skymiles. Sure there may have been the same inventory before, but you had to rely on phone-agents and you know how that goes.

    I understand that when you say “Most DL miles folks will still at least have to buy tickets to the AM gateway” it is a little tongue and cheek, but the truth is actually AM covers almost everyone in the US so the opposite is true.

    People on the West Coast are completely covered by the ability to use AS/DL to get to the multiple daily LAX-MEX flights. Those in NY have multiple daily JFK-MEX AM flights. Those in Florida can take MCO or MIA AM flights. Those in Texas can use the IAH or SAT flights. AM also provides n/s service to MEX from LAS, SFO, PHX, DEN, ORD. So this opens up a ton of 1-stop options for people with Skymiles.

    For those in ATL there is 2x daily DL service to MEX that actually has decent current month available (I see more than 30% of the days have 2 J seats available). And to top it off those folks going to Chile from ATL can now route ATL-IAH on DL and then IAH-MEX-SCL on AM since it falls under the MPM.

    This is a REAL enhancement to Skymiles-It is shocking I know!

  12. says

    Mac, Great finds! I always used the partner links including Jet and AF for Asia. These make my pesos more useful. Hah, I am spending in pesos on Aeromexico as well.

    Lucky,
    Why must you make this so easy for the masses? You are giving away all my quiet years of study of rules and award tables and booking engines to anyone with a browser! Skymiles needed a PhD in award travel. You are making it easy for kindergarten.

  13. ORD-TGU says

    Once again excelling as a blogger. It is true that you got a tip from Mac, but you take the time to do a complete analysis.

    I do not have delta points, but this kind of reporting is what differentiates a good blogger from an exceptional blogger!

  14. ArizonaGuy says

    Here’s a question. Anyone actually transited MEX?

    Also note AS uses T1, AM uses T2. The MCT is 120 for international to international connections but it increases 165 when switching terminals. People should be aware of that. It’s largely because you have to clear passport control and customs regardless of your onward connection. MEX uses the craptastic US model.

  15. Aaron says

    A good use of Flying Blue miles is redeeming AM to S. America. I just recently redeemed YUL-MEX-LIM RT for 35,000 miles! Even better when Amex has a MR transfer bonus.

  16. wfb says

    Gary is right to point out the loathsome availability of Delta domestic flights to the many Aeromexico gateway cities. I was limited to one DL departure date & one DL return date each month I searched for my trip, although AM was wide open.
    I have an EZE biz reservation on hold for about 24 more hours. Must decide to spend the Skypesos on this or on a possible KE A380 biz trip from JFK to Asia, if Delta will get me to JFK.

  17. diamondvargas says

    Hi Lucky, have you heard anything about Aeromexico availability being removed from the Air France search engine? I’ve been searching on the Air France on dates throughout this spring for flights from Mexico City to Bogota, Lima, and BA, and 100% of the available flights (which are far less numerous than the samples you cite above) are DL flight numbers with connections from Mexico City through Atlanta before continuing on to South America. Has any systemic change been announced or otherwise noticed / documented previously? Thanks in advance.

  18. lucky says

    @ diamondvargas — Hmmm, I just had a look and notice the same thing. Not sure why, though I’ll do some digging.

  19. Truth says

    Too bad Delta doesn’t display the mileage required for an award ticket or even low/med/hi on its website for multicity (open jaw) destinations. I called them to confirm them and they said that information isn’t available on their website.

  20. Kat says

    Wow, thank you so much for this info, I’ve spent hours trying to figure out how to use my points at delta with a multi-city reservation, sometimes it would come up at 77,000, sometimes at 50,000 and every now and then I’d find it for 35,000 and not have any idea why this “magic” combination worked or how to tweak it, using Air France saved my head from exploding, thanks again!

  21. Truth says

    Thanks for the info. I already booked a South American vacation thru delta.com, which was a painful experience (as I alluded to in an earlier comment, above), and I wasn’t able to beat the 200,000 miles pp RT rate for a combo of first in the USA and business to/from the USA. Since I booked open jaw, I need a couple of conecting flights in South America and these seem to be pretty pricey. Any ideas? I see Avios suggested but that seems to be a new program I have to join and accrue miles in, which I won’t have time to do. Basically, give or take some stray miles here and there, I only have Delta SkyMiles left, about 90,000 of them. I was going to, and may have to, just pay cash for these connecting flights (Rio to Iguazzu Falls, Iguazzu Falls to Buenos Aries).

  22. Matt says

    Lucky, and idea what’s going on with Air France and their site (showing plenty of Delta/Aeromexico availability but then the agents not being able to find seats)? From what I understand they’re supposed to be good for searching Skyteam awards. Well I found a RT Aeromexico flight from IAD->MEX and back for 12500 pts each way, so I transferred MR points to AF, but then when I went to book it on the site it was giving me issues.

    So I called in, and the agent said he can’t get the seats either, and that Aeromexico isn’t letting them grab any award seats even though they are showing plenty available on the site. There’s also Delta awards showing on the site that he can’t seem to find seats on.

    So I tell him to eventually put a hold on the seats he can find on some crappy Delta itineraries through Detroit, and when he computes the taxes, it comes out to $370. On the website it says they’re supposed to be $105.

    So I’m not sure what to do at this point. Do you have any recommendations or ideas?

  23. says

    @ Matt — For what it’s worth unfortunately Air France’s website is showing a LOT of phantom award space nowadays. When searching for space I recommend trying to get all the way to the last page of the transaction, because if the space is phantom you’ll usually get an error message prior to that.

    You’re saying the taxes were $370 for a Delta award between Mexico and the US? That does seem way high.

  24. Matt says

    Yeah, the agent could only find space routing me through Detroit and the taxes and fees came out to $370 he said. When I looked at the same flights on the website they totaled out to $105 though, so I’m not sure what’s going on.

    Is there anywhere else to search for space that won’t show so much phantom space?

    When I look on Delta’s site it shows the flights as available, but I wanted to go with AF to save the 10k miles.

  25. Matt says

    The other really strange thing is that the flights I want are showing as available for awards on both Delta and Aeromexico’s sites. I can get all they way to the redeem award page on Delta, so it doesn’t look to be phantom, right?

    I can just get the award on Delta I guess, but then I gotta figure out what to do with the 25k miles stranded at Air France.

  26. Matt says

    And it gets even stranger. I called up Delta just to make sure the flights were available, but the agent said she couldn’t see anything for the direct IAD-MEX flights. So I said thanks and hung up.

    Decided to see if I could book it online since there’s a 24 hour cancellation policy.

    Sure enough the award booked and I even have a ticket #.

    I think I’m going to try and call Air France and see if I can escalate to see if I can get something booked with them and then cancel the Delta award. What a PITA this is.

    Thanks for the quick response though. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

  27. Matt says

    Lucky, if KVS tool is showing YS availability for the Aeromexico and Delta flights, they should be bookable by Air France, right? Or is KVS tool just scraping from Air France’s website which has bad data?

  28. Matt says

    They must have been having an issue with their systems and Aeromexico, cause this morning I called up and was able to book no problem. They even waived the phone fee when I told them the website wasn’t working. Finally…

  29. Mackenzie says

    My parents transferred Chase Points over to Korean Air this summer to redeem an aeromexico award. Korean Air told them the seats were available and completed the reservation (sent them itenerary/confirmation) but said the award could not actually be ticketed because AeroMexico has blackout dates and the 2014 blackout dates hadnt been requested yet. My parents were told to call back in mid – November. They have been calling for the past 3 weeks, and Korean Air continues to tell them that Aeromexico blackout dates for 2014 have not been released and that no aeromexico awards for 2014 can be ticketed because of this. Any ideas? Thanks!!

  30. danny says

    i know i’m posting on a very old page here, but any update on this situation? i’m now trying to use DL miles on a trip from SFO to UIO via MEX all on AeroMexico in either biz or coach for 2 people. the AF website is giving different results practically every time i search.

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