How many times can you fly back and forth to Brazil without going crazy? Enough to earn MVP Gold 75K with Alaska, I hope!

I’m hoping the answer is at least four.

I’ve written about my #firstworldproblem struggle this year trying to decide whether to go for American’s highest Elite Rewards tier, which would earn me a total of 100,000 bonus AAdvantage miles, or whether to go for Alaska MVP Gold 75K status (as opposed to MVP Gold status), which would give me higher upgrade priority on Alaska plus 50,000 bonus miles.

I had kind of mentally settled on just going for Executive Platinum with American and MVP Gold with Alaska and forgetting about my higher “aspirations,” but then last week Delta published $900 business class fares between Sao Paulo and the US. Originally I just assumed it was a promotion and not a mistake, since we’ve seen plenty of ridiculous low fares to and from South America this year, but given that they pulled it within a few hours I assume it was a mistake. Now, the great thing about Delta is that they’re an Alaska partner, so this could be a great way to rack up elite qualifying miles with Alaska.

I decided I wanted to do at least one of them, since it would help me requalify for MVP Gold with Alaska, but beyond that also because the route is operated by Delta’s new business class product, and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t do enough SkyTeam trip reports. This seemed like a great opportunity to write one.

But this fare is from Sao Paulo and not to Sao Paulo, so positioning is required. Now I actually don’t mind positioning to Sao Paulo either, since it’s one of only two international destinations to which American flies their new 777-300ERs featuring their new fully flat business class, and fares are quite reasonable as well.

But here’s the thing about flights that require positioning — if you’ve already paid for the positioning flights, you might as well do more than one of the actual “mistake fare” mileage runs. So I booked three of them on Delta, meaning over the course of about eight days I’ll be flying back and forth to Brazil four times.

Now, I actually think it’ll be rather relaxing since all the flights will be operated by business class seats that go fully flat, but the thing I’m most concerned about is the ~10 hours I “sit” in Sao Paulo. I’m doing a couple of days in Sao Paulo on the first trip, but beyond that am trying to decide how bad it’ll be sitting in the terminal for that long, or if I should just get a day room at the airport Marriott.

After this nobody will be able to say I’m neglecting SkyTeam anymore. 😉

Anyone else get in on this fare?


Filed Under: Alaska, Delta
  1. are we going to get a rare Delta trip report? If not a full trip report at least a summary of your thoughts on Delta’s hard/soft int’l J product?

  2. rofl, can’t believe you did this.. though i was thinking of going on a binge like this myself and just “live” in planes for a week. That being said, I can offer some constructive advice… I know you always stay in hotels, etc but would not hurt to try out a hostel in sao paulo. I stayed at the the casa club and met some fantastic people from all over. Plus this hostel is in a great neighborhood.

  3. Waiting for the day we see an AF a380 F trip report. Would love to see the ground service at CDG, I’ve heard it’s quite good.

  4. @ Gene — Doing every combination of Delta routes imaginable — JFK-GRU-JFK, LGA-ATL-DTW-GRU-DTW-ATL-LGA, LGA-ATL-GRU-ATL-LGA, and then the American flight.

  5. next week i’m returning to Brazil on DL JFK-GRU biz, would a report of this product be out sooner than that?

    I’ll previously advice you to be patient on your arrive at GRU, our immigration it’s not the fastest, and due to some treatment that US gave to some brazilians lately I advice you to use your german passport for a “less worse” experience 😉

  6. @ Pedro — German passport all the way, especially since it allows me to avoid the visa reciprocity.

    You have me beat, I’m not going for another couple of months.

  7. Ya know, there’s a world out there too, right? Do you really want to be on your deathbed in 50 years wondering why you wasted the best years of your life on planes for the sole purpose of achieving levels of elite status that never served you any real practical purpose?

    Many people who follow this blog openly envy your lifestyle. I’m happy to say I’m one of the few who don’t.

    Our time on this Earth is precious. Try to use it to find enduring happiness, not pointless levels of airline elite status.

  8. I would have added a day, rented a car and head to Ilhabela Island. From GRU it is an easy drive (2-2.5hrs)to the ferry that take you to the island. Several great beaches, waterfalls, scuba sites, etc.. There is literally nothing do around GRU so as you noted your best option is to hang out at Marriott.

  9. You should probably ask “How many times can you fly back and forth to Brazil without going…to jail”? 🙂

  10. Get the day room for sure. That airport is awful and the Delta Lounge is no different. Crowded, uncomfortable and often times dirty! Although I think it might be closed right now for repairs, maybe they will let you in AF one?

    If your staying near Paulista during your visit, be sure to get dinner at Figueira Rubaiyat- pricey but good & unique atmosphere.

  11. Gene actually has a point. Knowing how ridiculous customs and immigration can become in regards to things like this, make sure that they don’t think you’re a mule.

    Wouldn’t want to have to have a Brazilian prison as a section of your trip report 😉

  12. Anyway, i’ll be awaiting for the review to compare with my experience.

    So plenty of Tumi amenity kits will be on your hands… if you are bothered anytime at GRU, there’s a Post office on the top floor of B wing, that can mail them directly to my house hahaha!

    Safe travels!!

  13. You do what makes you happy but I personally cannot fathom why anyone would do this. Then again, I think mileage running is insane. I would never spend my momey and time to achieve some sort of status

  14. Don’t forget to refuel after landing in the US.

    – 1 Macbook Pro
    – 1 iPhone
    – 1 iPad
    – 1 iPad Mini

    “Yes sir, these are all mine. You see I use the mini for ‘travel’, the iPad for reading, and the iPhone for calls. The MBP is for business.”

    Just leave the boxes behind, fax the receipts over. See you on the other side… ? Heh.

  15. I’m glad you’re getting in a few different Delta flights…DL has their problems (especially with Skymiles) but in a number of areas, especially their current onboard BusinessElite product, they’re actually doing quite well. As with the other US carriers consistency can be a problem, but I imagine you’ll have at least a few good experiences across this many segments.

  16. Folks, this site IS his day job, isn’t it? Flying around and publishing articles on the experience is his product. If he’s going to spend a week on an airplane, I can’t see how that’s much different than my time at the office. Now, I don’t pay $900 a day to go to the office, but I’ll assume Lucky is bringing back more than his expenses or he’s living off of a parent/trust/other wealthy benefactor. That last part really is immaterial if I derive value from his trip reports, which I sometimes do.

  17. @ Jonathan — For what it’s worth I’m doing this with a friend so think it’ll be quite enjoyable/memorable. Sure, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but people derive memories from different experiences, and I can assure you this’ll be memorable for me. 🙂

  18. After my nightmare of almost missing my flight in GRU, I would advise you: DO NOT LEAVE THE AIRPORT. Unless you want to miss your flight, that is.

    Or just don’t leave the airport too far away. I think the Mariott is a good 20min drive away, as I remember. During rush hour (evening), that would be an hour, or maybe 2! So think about it.

    10 hours is of course a lot. Maybe do a mileage run inside Brazil too? 10 hours is enough to fly just about anywhere within SA and back 🙂

    I don’t know the exact hours you have. If you arrive in the morning and leave in the evenening/night, I could suggest to go to Iguazu. (1h30min flight on GOL is quite cheap) So you would have like 3 hours to visit Iguazu and be safe. That is actually enough. The next day you can visit the bird park near the entrance of Iguazu 🙂

    Just a suggestion though. Just don’t EVER think about going to Sao Paulo for a quick look around.

  19. Lucky, how often you contradict yourself.

    10 days ago you posted this:

    and everyone chimed in about what a hero you were for giving it up (except me!) and now you seem to be ignoring your own inclinations.

    Why not just come out of the closet and admit that you love Elite status like many of us sickos and it’s hard to explain to the general public — or family — exactly why we do love it (we can list the reasons, but they still don’t get it)?

  20. You have been given all the right advice about GRU. There is nothing really to experience at the airport. Immigration can be slow and the atmosphere is like a bus terminal. The DL lounge is crowded and can only be described as a “somewhat nicer waiting area”. The airport Marriott, while meeting basic Marriott standards, is OK but nothing exceptional. It’s off-airport too and is a 15-20 minute trip. If you gave yourself an extra day or very long layover to sightsee, it’s probably best to take a cheap flight somewhere. It could be just as quick as trying to visit Vila Madalena, Pinheiros, Olimpia, Cathedral, etc. in Sao Paulo – they have some of the worse traffic in the world. On the other hand, SP has many good restaurants so that could be a motivator.

  21. haha this is awesome, you should post a poll asking people to vote on the odds you get arrested as a drug runner while doing this

  22. Love your style in hitting up every one of Delta’s GRU destinations. Ahhh DTW-GRU, how I covet thee!

  23. I don’t think I’d ever go crazy for any number of trips to Brazil! If you have time, try to learn samba, drink a caipirinha, eat picanha, buy havaianas, etc.!

  24. Yea I agree, this is somewhat sad and obsessive. As with everything in life, you have to have balance, even your ‘day job’ of blogging/traveling. This is coming from someone who does do mileage runs also..

  25. Lucky, let me know if you have any long layovers at DTW I’d love to grab lunch or coffee or something (on me)

  26. You are crediting the miles to Alaska! Thus, I don’t think people can say you’re giving Sky Team love :-).

  27. Also, I just don’t see the point of this… And this isn’t from the perspective of someone saying “do something better with your life” or anything like that. I get it… I like traveling in premium products on planes, etc, but… You already have top tier status on AA. Are you really going to be able to reap the benefits of top tier status on AS next year? And if the fares were $900 exactly, that’s still $3600 for a week of travel. That seems like a pricey way to get that elite status. To each his own… have a blast haha… but… geez

  28. @Lucky – I’ll be doing this fare on december, maybe we will meet on the plane. But I’d be concerned about going through immigration that much. It’ll probably raise a few eyebrows and I’m not sure if they’ll get the concept of mileage running.
    Anyway, I hope you have a great time and I look forward to reading your thoughts about Sao Paulo’s vibe.

  29. I am confused about your positioning flights..don’t you first get to GRU from DFW on American and then the three roundtrips on DL?

  30. @Lucky — I live in SAO, so feel free to contact me. I’d be happy to buy you guys a drink and talk miles and points for a few hours. 🙂

  31. Hey! I live in Brazil and I’m really curious to read your impressions about the lounges at GRU. I’ve been at the Gol/Smiles a couple of months ago and wanted to see how my views compare to yours, since I don’t see myself visiting the FCT in FRA anytime soon.
    BTW, there isn’t a single thing to do at the airport. I would be impressed if you found a good internet connection for a fair price, and they won’t let you in through security 10 hours early, so forget about the lounge. There is a Ceasar Park Hotel near the airport (now a Pullman Accor hotel) – maybe you can try your LeClub Platinum card there as well.

  32. @ JohnBom — Well over 150,000 miles factoring in the 50,000 bonus miles I earn for qualifying for MVP Gold 75K.

  33. Folks, to be clear, I probably wouldn’t do this if I didn’t blog. I get all your points, and yes, it probably is sort of a “waste” of a week. But at the same time I have another angle here, which is that I can blog about the flights and that I think the actual process of flying for that long in a row may make for some entertaining reading. So let’s judge after the fact, please. 🙂

  34. You should drop the AA flight and figure out how to do a redemption that gets you on the KE LAX-GRU with the lie-flats. Just to spread the Skyteam love of course.

  35. @ DBest — Hah, for what it’s worth I plan on redeeming some SkyPass miles for Korean Air and China Southern first class later this year. Does that work? 😉

  36. Only if you start ex-GRU! Fifth freedom routes are bananas, would be hilarious if you could work in GIG-EZE on Emirates.

  37. Lucky, I think many have said this, but it bears repeating – Take the day room AWAY from GRU. Last year, I visited GRU 4 times (2 stops, 1 overnight with flight out). The domestic terminal is actually nicer than the International. Understand that you are flying Delta, but for comparison, the United Lounge was the worst I’ve been to. The terminal itself’s flooring reminded me of my 8th grade science lab. I’d sooner spend 10 hours in Accra, Ghana’s airport, than GRU.

  38. I think it is kind of cool. If you can do it, why not?
    There is always going to be someone to rain on your parade, but good thing you are living YOUR life and not theirs.
    When I nonreved I flew to Brazil all the time and even to the ME for a day just because I love flying and airplanes. Brazil is a nice country and I am not sure why people are cracking the “drug smuggler” joke. The same could be said about the US and guns/drugs. “What are you doing Lucky, smuggling your American guns to Brazil.” har har har

    Enjoy your flights. When I first started reading this post I was thinking and hoping that you bought more than one mistake fare and you did! I would do the same if I caught it! Looking forward to your review.

  39. I’m excited that you are going to finally review the new DL BusinessElite product! I agree with the earlier commenter about getting a variety of different crews, etc, especially since you’ll be taking the GRU flights from ATL, DTW, and JFK. Looking forward to hearing your opinion (although, I wish you’d still try the new 747 product too…). Have fun!

  40. You. Are. Crazzy…. But still like to read 4 trip reports.. I guess you have plenty of time to write them during the stop overs,,or should I call them Return overs.

  41. His job as a travel blogger is to lead us. No point in him just acting as a “Regular” flyer. Through Lucky, we can determine whether chasing Elite status has value or not (I believe it is extremely valuable.) I once flew LAX-ORD-PIT-ORD-DFW-NRT-DFW-ORD-PIT-ORD-LAX to get a crazy amount of eqms and rdms with AA during a promotion. Flew all segments in J and had a blast.

    To each his own.

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