As many of you know, I now live in Uruguay, in a beach town about an hour from its capital, Montevideo. One of the issues in being an immigrant to a new country, or being an expat from somewhere else, if that’s how you consider yourself, is the cost of getting back “home”. Even if you don’t consider your country of origin your actual home anymore, you likely have family, friends, and other reasons to visit it. For many Uruguay expats, the USA is their home. Fares to and from the US to anywhere in the Southern Cone of South America are often awful. Uruguay one of the worst for finding deals, due in part to losing our national airline Pluna and limited options with other airlines. Darn rare to find under $1000 USD for a round-trip (“return” in non-USA English) flight. Often much more.
How does $627 sound?
I just bagged two $627 USD round-trips from Montevideo to Miami. Actually a bit less, $626.30 all-in, including all airport departure taxes, security fees, and other taxes. That price is still available on a number of days, for roughly 2-week trips, starting in the last few days of May (26th or later) and returning during the 2nd week of June to Montevideo, maybe into the first day of two of week 3. By far the best place to find these are on the American Airlines website. They all involve some combination with TAM Airlines of Brasil, a new oneworld member in that America-founded airline partnership. Most have a TAM-metal TAM-coded flight from Montevideo to Sao Paolo, Brazil. Then a TAM-metal AA coded American codeshare from GRU to MIA (Miami). TAM is a frequent flyer partner with American Airlines, as of March 31 a full partner in the oneworld alliance, so you can earn AAdvantage Miles on TAM flights. Now being in the alliance, you also earn EQM (Elite Qualifying Miles) and EQP (Elite Qualifying Points) towards AAdvantage Gold, Platinum, or Executive VIP, or whatever next year’s combined program with US Airways Dividend Miles as the new AAdvantage will be.
In fact, American has a double-miles-on-TAM promo running during the month of May, if you pre-register your AAdvantage account. (You know that I and Mrs Fuzzy certainly did!) Register your AAdvantage Account for the JJDBL promo code. You can register for any AAdvantage promo, if you know the code, at this AAdvantage Promotions Page. Full details on this TAM promo on this page.
You earn double the regular RDM (redeemable miles for awards) as you would normally on a TAM flight. Including on TAM-metal American-coded codeshares, like the AA7812 GRU-MIA that I booked. If I had booked that as its real flight number, TAM JJ8090, I also would get the double miles. Note that the terms of that promo do not give double miles on TAM-operated, coded-any-other-airline codeshare, not even TAM coded as a sister-airline same-company LAN flight, which is what many of the Kayak options are. Also, like most promos, you do not get double EQP nor double EQM, just double RDM. Some of the MVD-GRU flights are on TAM Mercosur, TAM’s Paraguay-based affiliate with the PZ airline code. I am not sure if you get the AAdvantage double-miles promo on that, so I made sure to get an itinerary with an actual JJ-coded and mainline-TAM-operated flight from Montevideo to Sao Paolo. That 800-ish mile flight is in a very low fare class, a “deep discount”, that only earns 50% of actual miles on AAdvantage, but with the promo that jumps back up to 100%. The 4042-mile leg up to Miami will get double miles, as all intercontinental normal fare classes get full AAdvantage miles.
As with any promo or FF program planning, make sure you understand the rules and know what fare class you are buying, if you care about such things. If all you care about is, “Holy cats, cheap fare, and what the heck, sign up and get some American miles”, that’s fine too, this is a super deal! But do sign up for AAdvantage if you aren’t in it, and get this promo. All-in, with the TAM outbound doubled and the AA nonstop non-double return, you earn about 13,000 miles. An AAdvantage one-way “free ticket” in the Continental US is only 12,500 miles. Figure that you earned a free one-way Miami-to-Seattle or other long transcon ticket on American, US Airways, and/or Alaska Airlines, just from buying and flying this $627 flight. You can give it to your family, or use it next trip to the States to get around the US on the cheap. American, for all the AA-bashing I tend to do, has by far the best and easiest availability of domestic award tickets. With AA itself, newly-merged but still operationally-separate US Airways, and excellent independent partner Alaska Airlines, you can definitely find a very good long US free ticket. Which would cost you about $250-300 one-way or as half of a round-trip nowadays. Factor in that earned value and you just paid only about $350 net to fly roundtrip to the USA from Uruguay.
One a day or two, the AA 984 MVD-MIA nonstop is available as the outbound at that $627 price. Of course, no double-miles promo on the AA flights. On most days, if you want the nonstop AA up to Miami, you are paying $884. Still a lower-than-normal price, but nowhere near that good a deal as $627. Plus, stuck on American’s lousy non-updated 767 both ways? Lord, why? No in-seat power, no personal entertainment on demand, no personal seat screen at all. Old overhead monitors and projector screen. Dingy beige out of the 1970s. From a passenger review at that Seatguru link just above:
Shared TV (complete with analogue hissing sound), old plastics and carpeting make the plane feel like an old folk’s home. They just don’t seem to care. Overhead cabins overflow, no power, a foldaway tray that has only two modes (too small, or poking into you). Third world countries have lowcost airlines with considerable newer fleets and more comfort. My guess is AA attracts a lot of american customers that are travelling internationally for the first time and think this is on or even above par.
As opposed to lovely modern TAM interiors, seatback IFE (In Flight Entertainment) with AVOD (Audio Video On Demand), better food, free beer, wine, and other alcohol. Every time I’ve flown TAM on longhaul, which is 4 or 5 times now, they even have predeparture water service and a small wrapped chocolate, in coach!
Finally, since the originating Most Significant Carrier is TAM, your entire trip gets the better TAM free baggage allowance. For example, look at the baggage details for my own trip, from the AA.com reservation confirmation page:
Here’s how American interprets the IATA rule with the USA DOT exception that makes it apply on every leg of the journey, not just the origination. TAM recently lowered their coach number of free bags for flights through Brazil from 3 bags down to the more typical (of non-USA carriers) 2 bags, but they still have the Brazil-mandated 70-pounds/32-kilograms per bag weight allowance on flights to/from North America. Under US DOT regulations that modify the IATA baggage MSC concept, that means that every flight on your itinerary, including your return flight on stingier American Airlines, must use the more generous TAM allowance. So your two return bags can be stuffed up to 70 pounds each at no extra charge, despite American wanting $150 extra per bag if they were using their own allowance! American just increased their free bags to/from South America from a miserly 1 up to a world-standard 2, but still have the 50-pound/23-kilogram per bag limit.
I salute AA for this return to sanity, for tickets purchased on or after April 8, 2014, but I like the TAM allowance even better. As will many expats/immigrants returning from their USA visits with family possessions, US purchases, or other goodies in their luggage. Seriously, get the TAM-operated flight on the way up.
Brazil, you say? I’m an American, don’t I need a Brazil visa? (We’ll ignore that “American” for the moment other than to note that Uruguayans and Brazilians also are “Americans”, and for simplicity’s sake use the USA-centric definition as meaning USA citizen, or as we call them here en español, estadosunidense, literally, “USAian”.) No, you do not need a Brazil transit visa. Brasil (spelled correctly as they do), like most of the world, has transit without visa. As long as you are taking the “next available flight” (which is kind of loosely defined as “available from your ticketed airline or partner”), and departing the airport “within 24 hours” (used to be pickier about it being the same calendar day, which led to hilarity when now-defunct Pluna canceled a flight to GRU with a rebooking that forced an after-midnight departure from GRU, leaving us in a problem until the lovely people at TAM rebooked us), you do not need a visa to transit through a Brazil airport with an airside international transit area.
For you Kayakers, Kayak does not show all of these. It has none of the AA/TAM combos.
Most of the $627 flight options, which Kayak does show, have the return leg connecting in Caracas (CCS), Venezuela, on LAN flights, with the overall trip a mix of LAN, LAN’s co-owned TAM usually coded as a LAN codeshare, or one of their affiliates. Those do not have the AA flights. For many reasons, I do not recommend that Caracas, Venezuela connection. Putting aside the current political upheaval and violence in Venezuela for the moment (which we really should not put aside), just look it from a “Will I get there and make my connection?” travel perspective. No, probably not. Airlines are canceling flights on short notice to and from that country, due to major problems getting paid in hard currency for tickets there, fueling issues, and other problems. Whether you’re anti-Chavista, pro-Chavista, ready to overthrow Maduro or want to embrace him as compañero (Comrade), you are putting the success of your trip back to Uruguay from USA at risk if you book one of those CCS connections. Just not prudent.
TAM itself does not have these $627 deals on their website either. Just all-TAM or TAM+LAN (their sister airline in the LATAM airlines group, also one of my favorites, and also far better than American for longhaul travel). Lowest is what shows at Kayak, $884 all-in (actually $883.18 as shown in this fare display from a search on their site).
If this $627 fare for a roundtrip back to the US to see family or do business, with a return to Uruguay all-in, and double miles for part of it, looks good to you, go to AA.com and book it right now. Before it is gone. I have no idea how long this fare will remain available, nor how soon it will sell out of seats even if still a valid fare. Also, at least some of the flights have a 50-day advance purchase – do the math and you will realize that the end of May disappears very soon!
Grab it while you can, if you can!
If you were wondering, can I start in the USA and fly to Uruguay for this price?, sorry, no ticket for you! Not for less than about $1000. This deal only works originating in Uruguay. It’s not a Uruguay-resident-only deal. I paid for one of mine with a US-registered Visa card, which changed my “point of sale” and “pricing location” on AA.com to USA. It still priced out at $626.30. Just added all the annoying hotel, car rental, and trip insurance offers. Your trip has to originate in Uruguay, you don’t have to have a Uruguay cédula (national ID card) to get it.
You could put together a couple of interesting trips originating from USA with this fare, by using miles from any other airline or another airline that sells cheap one-ways, or other separate-ticket concepts, to get down here in the first place. As with any multi-ticket trip, absolutely nobody cares, except you, whether or not you making your connection to a differently ticketed itinerary, even if on the same airline. Expect zero help, zero waivers, full loss of the other ticket if the first trip causes you to miss the origination of the next trip. That’s how things work these days.