TAM First Class Space Wide Open!!

I typically feel like I have a good “sense” as to which airlines release award space, and how often, so had pretty much written off TAM as an airline I’d never be able to fly. TAM has a great new first class product on their 777-300ER with just four seats in a 1-2-1 configuration.

TAM First Class Seat

I have never seen TAM release first class award space.

In fact, I’d gone so far as to tell a friend of mine that if he ever saw first class award space on TAM, I’d book it for him.

Well, as usually happens when I make bets, this is going to end up being expensive for me, because TAM has released an unreal amount of award space to their partner airlines, at least to their US destinations!

In looking at award availability, there seems to be tons of space available between New York or Miami and Sao Paulo, and beginning mid-February there is at least one seat nearly every day through the end of the schedule.

TAM F Space Starting 2-15

There’s even first class award space to Brazil for Carnival, and it should be relatively easy to get a flight between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. There is also sporadic availability around the World Cup, so if you’re looking to book flights to Brazil and haven’t, this is probably your best chance.

TAM F Space Before Carnival

Similarly, there is an unheard of amount of space between New York and Sao Paulo the week of Christmas, which is convenient if you’re considering South America over New Years.

TAM F Space in December

Interestingly, TAM operates multiple frequencies from both New York and Miami, and in both cases one flight a day has plentiful award space, while the other has significantly less. If you don’t live in Miami you’ll likely need to look at overnighting in order to take advantage of this flight, while the New York flight is timed better for connections.

TAM F Space from MIA

TAM F Space in August

If you are going to take advantage of this space, it’s worth noting that one of the New York frequencies has an equipment change from the 777-300 to the A330 between September 7th and November 1st, though award space is still great.

TAM F Downgrade

There’s also plenty of availability on the return route as well, which will come in handy for those who are looking for more than just positioning flights to Brazil. 😉

TAM is a current member of the Star Alliance, so you can book these flights using any Star Alliance miles, such as United MileagePlus, Air Canada Aeroplan, US Airways Dividend Miles, or ANA Mileage Club.

You can also use American AAdvantage miles for flights on TAM, as they have a reciprocal agreement in advance of TAM leaving the Star Alliance and joining OneWorld in April.

You can search for available space using the ANA tool, but in almost every instance you will need to call to book TAM flights with partner airlines. Given that there are so many options, I thought it might be helpful to go through what I consider to be the best values for travel between North America and Brazil.

US Airways Dividend Miles – 125,000 round-trip

US Airways may actually be the best program to use if you’ll be traveling later in the year. US Airways miles are easy to procure, and while this isn’t one of the “sweet spots” on their award chart, it’s worth keeping in mind that US Airways and TAM are both leaving Star Alliance and joining OneWorld.

This means that in the event of schedule changes, it is going to be more difficult for Star Alliance airlines to rebook you, as they will most likely no longer have access to TAM space after March 30th. US Airways, on the other hand, will potentially have more flexibility, as part of their merger with American.

Air Canada Aeroplan – 67,500 miles one-way

If you have American Express Membership Rewards points, Aeroplan is going to be your best option. Transfers are usually instant, and you should be able to book most itineraries on aeroplan.com, though the website often struggles with complex routings.

United MileagePlus70,000 miles one-way

With United’s new award chart most partner awards are more expensive than a similar route on United metal. South America is an exception, however, and partner awards are priced identically to those on United.

This is a great use of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, especially considering that United has generous routing rules, so there’s a lot of potential flexibility.

American AAdvantage – 62,500 miles one-way

There is great value to be had here, particularly if you’re looking at only connecting in Sao Paulo. American has a strong route network in South America, in particular with their partner LAN, but award space between North America and the South America hubs has been extremely limited otherwise.

ANA Mileage Club – 100,000 miles round-trip from Miami, 120,000 round-trip from New York

ANA has a distance-based award chart, so you’ll pay a bit more for awards to New York than Miami. They are also a transfer partner of American Express, and I’d typically say this is a great value. However, the transfers can take several days to process, so unless you have ANA miles already I wouldn’t consider this as a “safe” option.

Beyond Brazil

Besides the obvious South American carriers, it’s worth keeping in mind some fun “Fifth Freedom” routes as well.  Turkish Airlines and Qatar fly to Buenos Aires, so those would be great additions to any of these awards.

Qatar Award Space South America 

Overall – If you are at all interested in flying TAM First class, I would absolutely do so immediately. I have literally never seen TAM first class award space, much less this plentifully!

Happy booking, and please let me know what questions I can answer!

(Tip of the hat to Jimmy and Carlos)

Comments

  1. Any luck booking via US miles and connecting somewhere from there? US is seeing the F space but not seeing J space on the intra South America legs.

  2. I rarely used United miles but am flying from SFO-JFK right now and connect to TAM in business tomorrow morning. First is now available. Can one change a ticket midstream with United and pay the fees/mileage difference? Thanks!

  3. @Lucky, I’m have a difficult time finding any return award availability back after January 1st. Is there nothing available, or has TAM simply not released that space yet?

  4. Wow. Thank you @Lucky. I was just able to secure GRU-JFK-LAX on the exact dates I wanted to get home from the World Cup, June 16/17.

    Just incredible.

  5. “at least one seat nearly every day through the end of the schedule”

    Great news for everyone who wants to fly solo. 🙁

  6. @ Nick — I would guess that they haven’t released space yet, though keep in mind ANA can only search space through January 2nd at this point.

  7. @ucky any thoughts on my earlier question about whether it’s possible to change a United award once your journey has begun? I’ve had a couple friends call United while I’ve been on my SFO-JFK flight, and the reservationists seem to be trying to make the change but then seem to give up or have trouble figuring out what to do. I’m flying SFO-JFK nowand JFK-GRU tomorrow and would like to change the award from business to first. Thanks for any insight you might have (and sorry for being a nag.)

  8. @ Travis — Sorry, missed this earlier! It is possible to change a United award once your journey has begun, but I’ve only tried it mid-stopover, or on the return flights. So it’s theoretically possible, and you’ll probably have more luck now that you’re not actively flying, but I’m not 100% sure how it will work in practice.

  9. Lucky- I’m new to this. What would be the best routing out of LAX? I have miles with United and AA. Am I safe to assume that the hard part of this booking is going to be getting to JFK? Thank you

  10. Thanks! I’ll give it another try when I land at JFK in a few. Maybe it’s just a matter of getting the right agent.

  11. @ Heather @ pass the dressing — I’ll try to put together another post with specifics, but think about possibilities with open-jaws in South America, or a stopover in New York with a future domestic flight, etc.

  12. @ Nick — Aeroplan should have access to the same availability as other Star Alliance carriers. My guess is that TAM only releases space ~330 days out, which is why they don’t have space next year yet.

  13. @lucky, Well this worked out well! I’m in the Flagship Lounge and am off to GRU in a few hours. 🙂

  14. @ Ekartash — Toughie. I like that American has wifi though the TAM cabin is smaller at only four seats and looks quite nice. Not many reviews of the product, so I’d probably go with TAM.

  15. @Lucky, random question but we were thinking of going down to Argentina on Copa in business class (55,000 miles p/p) and returning on TAM if we can swing it (for 70,000 miles p/p). I know I could do those as two one-ways, but we’d love to work a stopover in Panama City for a couple days on the Copa leg. Will United price me a “round trip” with a stopover for 70K + 55K p/p, or if I have different classes on the outbound and return, are they priced as two one-ways?

  16. Lucky – thanks so much for the tip. I was trying to construct a route today where my girlfriend and I would try to hit up all the places we’ve been wanting to go on one trip in South America – Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Peru.

    So I came up with this crazy roundtrip itinerary that I was hoping to use United miles on that would allow me to do all of these cities:

    SFO->JFK->GRU->EZE (endpoint)

    LIM->GIG (via EZE) (stopover for 3 days)

    SDU->SGH (overnight transfer) GRU->JFK->SFO

    I was hoping that this would be a valid United roundtrip ticket, with the trip there terminating in EZE and an open-jaw (between EZE and Lima) as well as a stopover in Rio for 3 days on the way back. However, the United agent said the middle segment between LIM and GIG was a problem, and would have to be booked as 3 one-ways. She eliminated the middle LIM->GIG leg and was able to price it at 140,000 (I’ve placed it on hold for now while I consider options).

    Is the fact that I’m starting from SDU after the stopover instead of GIG the problem here? Or is there something obvious I’m missing with the open-jaw and stopover rule that I missed? Thanks for any help you can provide!

  17. @ John T. — The problem is that the return routing would need to be valid between LIM and SFO. Routing via EZE, GIG, SDU, GRU, and JFK wouldn’t be a legal one-way. So that’s why it’s not pricing.

  18. I booked 2 first class tickets on TAM using my US Air miles for the World Cup. Thanks for the great tip!

  19. Just a little side note from today’s flight–not all aircraft have been retrofit with the new design in First. Still very worth it, but worth knowing so you can manage your expectations.

  20. I’m just curious, what is the purpose of all your travel? It’s business related and you choose to blog it all?

  21. @ Travis — Were you flying an A330? I know some of those have the old product, but I was under the impression that all the 777s have the new product.

  22. @ Simon — Travel bloggging is what I do for a living — I fly to experience the airline products so I can review them, and am fortunate to visit some pretty cool places along the way.

  23. Ben — Thanks!!! I was able to book a Xmas trip for my family of three with all of us in F, JFK-GRU-SCL, connecting flight in J.

  24. @lucky – Nope, it was a 777. Perhaps it was the last straggler with the old product. I managed to change my return from UA to JJ, so I’ll advise on the state of that aircraft when I return as well.

  25. Lucky,

    US Airways sees the space but says it’s not coming back confirmed because JJ is leaving Star. What do I do?

  26. Actually TAM is very difficult to book any reward flights within Brasil. They are opting out of the Aeroplan program in April and interesting enough they had absolutely no interior flights available during February or March. We are travelling YYZ-GRU-CWB and could not get anything from GRU-CWB with Aeroplan. As such had to book TAM directly for an additional fee. Booked the exact same flight which Air Canada sets up if the flight is purchased rather than Aeroplan. Seems to me TAM is not honouring there commitment to the Alliance and Aeroplan. Note: Flying first class is our booking.

  27. boarding soon 1st class txs to this post. after an amazing week in Rio Carnival.

    so far so good, ground services at GRU are amazing: first class private check in office, first class lounge, and escort to the plane at your preference (early, mid, or late)

    txs Lucky !

  28. Lucky the service was awesome, in the ground GRU & JFK and in flight. comparable with asian airlines 1st class service. exceeded expectations. the seat is one of the most comfortable I’ve ever experienced in 1st class. great food, friendly FA. hard to beat.

  29. I hope someone sees this and can help. I see space on Air Canada for both legs of JFK-EZE-JFK. I only have enough miles to go one way with AA and one way with AC. My problem is, I can’t get the AA side to price out online or with a phone rep. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to make this work? Much appreciated.

  30. Hi Heather nor AC nor JJ fly to EZE, one is through SCL the other one through GRU, what is the exact itinerary , stopovers and which airline trying to fly ?

  31. @wpj-I have pieced together the following on AC:

    JFK-GRU-EZE departing on March 29. JFK-GRU on Tam in F. GRU-EZE on Turkish in J.

    Return is the reverse on April 5. If only I had about 50k more MR points right now!!! Or if only I could get this to work on AA metal. Let me know if you need more info.

  32. AA can’t price that because cannot do turkish, you can do AA to GRU then AC the rest of the itinerary (GRU-EZE-GRU-JFK) I think.

  33. @ Heather @ pass the dressing — Are you saying that American can’t price the JFK-GRU or GRU-JFK segment on TAM? There shouldn’t be any reason why they can’t price that if the space shows on ANA.

  34. @lucky: Ha I just read that post and went through the steps. ANA is showing F availability on my dates at the low level 120,000 RT (unless I am a dummy and I did something wrong). What gives American!!!! What gives Amex for taking away points advance and getting me to Buenos Aires!!!

  35. @ Heather @ pass the dressing — I’d try calling again, following what @ wpj said above about fare classes. No reason why American shouldn’t be able to see that space.

  36. @ Heather @ pass the dressing — ExpertFlyer doesn’t display TAM award space, so you’re not supposed to see the space there, for what it’s worth.

  37. Hi Lucky,
    So I managed to book one of these in April, but by then it’s a One World company, which lounges do you recommend? I’m going to be early so I have time to try different lounges if TAM F ticket allows for that.
    Cheers
    Eric

  38. @ Eric — Congrats! Sao Paulo Airport is an absolute dump, so your best bet will be the TAM lounge, which I hear is the one non-horrible lounge at the airport.

  39. Hi Lucky, sorry to be unclear, I’m flying JFK-GRU-EZE and my main question is at JFK which OW could/should I get in to? I’m new to OW (*A guy at heart).
    I’ve booked the free ride to JFK 😀
    Will try to stay clear from GRU as much as possible.

  40. @ Eric — Sorry about that. Your best option at JFK will be the Admiral’s Club right after security (the Flagship Lounge is inside of it, which you’d have access to if in first class).

  41. Ok maybe I am too late to the One World party on this. That’s gotta be the only explanation. AC and ANA both show availability on my dates, but I have spoken to numerous AA reps and they cannot get this to work out. I don’t know what else to do but stay home. Oh well.

  42. Lucky, I’m not seeing any award space past the new year. Was trying to find a return flight from GRU/GIG to MIA–just as recent as last week saw at least 5 seats in Jan. This week.. nothing. AA agents were of no help.

  43. But no economy or business either? Its as if they just pulled all seats after the new year.

  44. @ Chris — Historically TAM almost never released business or economy class space, so I’m afraid that’s not so unusual, unfortunately.

  45. Thanks Lucky! One last question, I have an AA award on hold. I am able to book the same award with avios pts, is there a benefit to redeeming avios instead of AA miles? I can only think of lower change fees.

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