It’s been a while since we’ve written about GOL Smiles, their promotion and award options so I thought it’s worthwhile to have a quick look again to reflect on the program in 2022.
GOL Smiles first made headlines back in 2015 when they ran the famous 200% bonus promotions for buying miles that could be used for high yield redemptions on Qatar Airways First Class.
GOL Smiles is a very “special” case as their website is entirely in Portuguese without an English language option and it’s a disaster to navigate. The program is also limited to participants located in Brazil and even requires a Brazilian Tax ID nr to sign up. It has always been pretty much a nightmare.
It started when you could fly from Asia to the Middle East and North Africa for 32,5k GOL Smiles in First Class which was roughly 250 EUR after the promotional price of the miles. The core of the “deal” (error really) was that GOL did not price First Class as a separate category from Business Class and essentially it turned out to be the same price.
Well it was fun while it lasted and it didn’t take very long until either GOL, Qatar Airways or both decided to crack down on this loophole and blocked out Qatar Airways First Class altogether. Then GOL enhanced the award charts in some regions and over the years dropped several direct redemption partners including the most lucrative ones which were Delta, Qatar Airways, and Korean Air.
Even before that happened there has always been a very strange availability with their partner carriers and sometimes there weren’t any flights for months on end.
Here are the last two partners that dropped out, the worst blow was Qatar Airways:
And then Delta Air Lines a month later:
Right now GOL Smiles officially allows to redeem miles on GOL as well as 53 partner airlines but getting them to actually display availability and then represent reasonable value is another matter.
Here are some examples:
These are some of the GOL Partners displayed on the website
And available awards as a result from a search:
Bankok Airways for 55,000 Points one way Bangkok – Koh Samui. You can buy this flight for $70!
A British Airways codeshare flight operated by Qatar Airways Bangkok – London for 98,700 miles:
And a SCOOT flight from Bangkok to Seoul via Singapore for 101,900 miles. What a joke!
There are at least some decent options left such as Emirates Business Class to Europe where it would cost 87,000 miles plus US$1,150 to fly Emirates from Bangkok to Frankfurt:
This is at least one redemption that isn’t totally horrible but it pales in comparison to the options that were available in the past.
I frequently booked Korean Air awards between Bangkok and Seoul (among other destinations in the region) and Qatar Airways to worldwide destinations. With so many partners dropping out the program has become a shell of its former self.
In fact, I’m not even entirely sure what some of these awards actually book in. It appears to me that these will actually be revenue bookings and GOL Smiles just applies the miles in lieu of the cash payment, essentially operating as an OTA.
Further redemption options include travel services such as hotels, rental cars, UBER credits, and some shopping options (the latter ones for residents of Brazil).
I’m still a Clube Smiles member which is a paid subscription service, adding a small number of Smiles to my account each month, and that gives more attractive redemption rates. As of this moment I have about 90,000 miles left in this account. It’d probably be prudent that I find some purpose for these miles in the near future, the sooner the better. Ideally on Emirates or Korean Air to Europe or North America (if it ever pops up again).
For members who seek to use GOL Smiles for international itineraries, there really isn’t much left in terms of attractive awards. Aside from a few Economy Class awards the only halfway attractive option would be cash&points awards in particular with Emirates. Keep in mind though that this program isn’t even designed for members who normally aren’t residents of Brazil. As such I’m highly surprised that there are any significant international redemption partners at all.
The constant dropout of partners with little to no notice that you can’t trust certain programs that are located in countries without any noteworthy consumer protection legislation. A three-day advance notice that Delta will be dropped and zero notice of Qatar leaving the network. Sad indeed!