There is a reason (or actually many) why Delta SkyMiles are often referred as SkyPesos. The miles required for Delta flights using SkyMiles can vary a lot and let’s not whine about the sky high “carrier imposed” fees on itineraries starting outside of North America.
There are occasions, however, when using SkyMiles can make sense and I just found one. You can use them for GOL flights within South America and fees are minimal at least for trips within and starting from Brazil, as there are no fuel surcharges.
Here are three GOL award tickets that I have issued in the past month.
1. Sao Paulo Congonhas – Cuiaba
Intra-Brazil airline tickets are usually very affordable partially due to the tanking Reais. There are city pairs, however, where the prices are high if you are not willing to have three transits, travel from convenient airports (CGH/SDU), and prefer humane times.
The GOL CGH-CGB flight was pricing in excess of $500 but available using SkyMiles. The website was able to pull up the flight but always errored out after the payment screen. I called the English line for Brazil and got connected without any wait to a call center in Atlanta (this was during the snowstorms in the States when the wait times to talk someone at Delta was hours). She first had some troubles having it ticketed, but succeeded at the end.
She charged the telephone ticketing fee that I am trying to get reversed due to website malfunction. The award ticket required 12,500 miles + $9.69 in taxes (website quoted $8.60) + $25 telephone ticketing fee. The ticket was booked a day before.
2. Rio de Janeiro Santos Dumont to Asuncion
When you try to search for award space between Rio de Janeiro’s domestic airport Santos Dumont (convenient to the city center) and Asuncion the Delta.bomb award search engine errors out.
I had used ExpertFlyer to pull up the award availability on GOL for SDU-GRU-ASU and called the reservations (again using the toll free number for Brazil). The agent was able to pull up the flights and issue the ticket.
The charge again was 12,500 miles and $46.93 in taxes. The agent didn’t charge the telephone ticketing fee when I told him about the issues with the website. Paid ticket for this city pair was roughly $450.
3. Rio de Janero Galileo to Buenos Aires
This was actually first GOL ticket that I was able to issue using Delta.com. It pulled up the morning flight just fine and issued the ticket.
The price was 12,500 miles and $25.20 in taxes. The lowest one-way price for this city pair is more than $400.
The best way to fly from Rio to Buenos Aires would be on the Emirates flight, but seems that they are not dumping seats and the flights times could be better.
If you are traveling intra-Brazil, you should always check the ticket prices on GOL, TAM, Avianca and Azul.
Most of the times you can score tickets at a reasonable price and using miles would be waste. The service on all these airlines (haven’t flown Azul yet) is identical. There is no fee to check in a bag by Brazilian law, you get a beverage service and a small snack.
There are no low cost carriers flying in South America, so some of the prices (especially one-way) are expensive considering the sector lengths of the flights.
When I was looking for fly from Asuncion to Montevideo, the price on a direct flight was $400. I was able to price ASU-SCL-MVD-GRU on LAN for $500 including stopovers in Santiago and Montevideo. Earns me few AAdvantage miles as well.
So, using SkyMiles for GOL flights is an option and the fees should be rather modest. Good option for flights between expensive cities in Brazil and South America.
You can also book GOL flights using Etihad Guest miles that is often even better deal, but more about it tomorrow.