My Week in Points October 28-November 3: Thanksgiving in Brazil

Thanksgiving planning was running late, and last-minute business travel followed by the disruption with Hurricane Sandy pushed my planning under the 21-day fee trigger for American and United award reservations for non-elite members. Too bad as I scoured the world for Delta options and turned up nothing reasonable, no surprise, and those who think Diamond status makes a difference, well, it is marginal.

My wife is interested in Brazil and I have only been to Iguaçu Falls, so we narrowed the focus and I found a 40k MileSAAver open jaw, EWR-MIA-SSA (Salvador) out and (Sao Paulo) GRU-JFK back. AAdvantage Geek reminded me to add a stopover on the return, so I called back to add a LGA-YUL (Montreal) flight next summer and put it back on hold to avoid the telephone ticketing fee. Yes, we could have gone as far as Hawaii, but without elite status we did not want anything but a nonstop and Montreal won out over San Diego due to convenience. The return from Montreal will be 4,500 British Airways Avios each.

Salvador-Rio de Janiero proved exasperating. First I tried a Delta redemption on Gol, an airline for which I have previously failed to succeed in booking and surprise, surprise, no availability among the many nonstops and connecting flights over many days. None of the agents I spoke to has ever successfully booked an award ticket on Gol. Where does Delta get these partners?

In fairness, Tam via United could do no better until the following week, so I eventually bought a revenue ticket on Gol, Orbitz the only website that could get the much lower fare shown on ITA. Even Gol’s website was double or more.

Rio to Sao Paolo I made my first ever MileagePlus booking, 12,500 for a one-way. Yes, the experts will probably say it is terrible value and that there was probably some backdoor to route through Kazakhstan, but my favorite redemptions are on short, expensive flights where the mileage earned on a revenue ticket is puny. I got that in 1 hour before the 21-day $75 fee was to kick in.

So, my first AAdvantage and MileagePlus bookings in the same week. Life beyond SkyTeam.

As usual for my destinations, Carlson/Hilton/Hyatt/IC Hotels/Marriott/Starwood are almost useless in Salvador and Rio and the few choices in Sao Paulo are mostly booked out. I am tempted to liquidate my Marriott points. 4 nights (or 5) is at the JW Marriott Rio is 140k, I have no sense of the value of Marriott points, but booked it since I have until the night before to cancel. I am only there 4 nights but can’t imagine ever spending 5 nights somewhere, so I can write off the last night with no guilt.  Hello again, Priceline.

Two blogs this week reminded me to research topics on my long to-do list:

The Rapid Travel Chai Foreign Desk has turned up reports of interest to hard-core miles and points collectors:

Rapid Travel Chai newsletter ¦ Twitter ¦ Facebook ¦ Instagram

  • Choice Hotels has a few nice hotels in Sao Paulo. We stayed in one just off Rua Oscar Freire.

  • brian

    I look forward to your opinion of Rio and Sao Paulo. We didn’t really feel safe or enjoy Sao Paolo other than the food.

  • guera

    “Yes, we could have gone as far as Hawaii, but without elite status we did not want anything but a nonstop..”

    Why is this a factor?

  • @guera – by “we” I mean “she”! And each time we have tried to fly AA this year, via Avios redemptionsm we have had weather or mechanical that has caused havoc with our plans, taken hours to resolve, and only been rescued by moving to other airlines. Elite status would at least get calls answered within 45 minutes. Call us unlucky with AA but we do not want to book any unnecessary connections with them. My boss has a similar string of issues recently with Delta so he won’t fly them.

  • guera

    Did the problems you had with AA this year occur because you had connecting segments on different award tickets?

  • @guera – these were AA-only awards either nonstop or connections such as LGA-YYZ and ATL-MIA-BZE, redeemed via Avios. Each time I was able to get a resolution but at the cost of too many hours of calling, so it is just my basis based on some bad luck, but I do not want to volunteer for extra, unnecessary hassle with them.

  • JB

    Im headed to Sao/Rio a week after you so let me know if you find any good hotel, restaurants, day trips ect!

    Jb.