There seems to be a situation whereby US Airways Dividend Miles is pricing American first class awards to South America at the business class level when booking on usairways.com.
As you can see based on the award chart, US Airways charges 100,000 miles for roundtrip business class between the US and South America, and 125,000 miles for roundtrip first class. And those prices are correctly applied by phone, so if you call you’ll be quoted those prices.
However, if you go onto usairways.com and search for American first class award space to South America, you’ll see that it prices at the business class level.
For example, take a look at the following roundtrip between Miami and Buenos Aires in first class, which prices at just 100,000 miles:
Or the following roundtrip between New York and Sao Paulo in first class (on American’s new 777-300ER no less) which also prices at just 100,000 miles roundtrip:
At first I assumed it was a glitch and that even though it said first class it was in fact for business class. But that’s not the case, since it does show the “Z” fare class, which is first class.
So if you’re going to take book this, there’s a few things to keep in mind:
This will only work on American tickets booked on usairways.com
Over the phone first class awards are being priced at the standard 125,000 mile roundtrip level, so to book at this rate you have to issue your ticket online. Also keep in mind that usairways.com only shows American and US Airways award space, so you can’t use this to fly TAM first class before they eliminate first class in a couple of months.
American only offers first class to Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo
American has an impressive route network to Latin America, though the issue is that they only offer a first class product to Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo. So if you were looking at going anywhere else, this isn’t especially practical.
Good products to South America are limited
If you’re thinking to yourself “ugh, I don’t even want to redeem miles for American first class at the business class cost,” keep in mind that good options to South America are limited. American’s first class may just be the best first class product there is between the US and South America, perhaps with the exception of Korean Air’s service between Los Angeles and Sao Paulo.
Availability is good close to departure, bad in advance
Looking at first class award space to Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo, there’s tons of availability in the coming weeks.
For example, here’s availability over the coming month to Sao Paulo:
And here’s availability over the coming month to Buenos Aires:
However, further in advance there’s a lot less availability, so this will definitely work better if you’re looking to travel fairly soon.
Hopefully this is useful to some. If you’ve been planning a trip to South America and this could work for you, I’d definitely recommend locking in something sooner rather than later.
(Tip of the hat to Angel)