Why must I make life harder than it is?

This is an irrational rambling. OK, you’ve been warned!

So one of the two continents (the other being Antarctica) that I haven’t visited yet is South America. I figured I would give the standard trips to Asia and Europe a break in order to plan a trip to South America during my summer break, which is winter down there. Originally I had booked my dad and I on United to Buenos Aires to spend a few days there with an onward Air Canada connector flight to Santiago, once again returning via Buenos Aires to the US. For reasons outside of my control we had to cancel that itinerary (fortunately there are no change fees for 1K’s on awards, one of my favorite 1K benefits) and decided to use the 240K American Airlines miles my dad has stacked up for the trip, which actually worked out better since American has a superior in-flight product and schedule to South America.

Seems simple enough, right? Well, I wish! So I start looking at awards and find plenty of availability to Buenos Aires (EZE) on American. If there’s one thing American does well it’s releasing award seats on their own flights. I guess in a way it’s a good thing, but I had so many routing options that I really started to consider the pros and cons of each, something I wouldn’t usually have the opportunity to do.

One option was TPA-ORD-EZE, with TPA-ORD being a dinner flight on one of the delightfully aged Mad Dogs (MD80’s), and ORD-EZE being on a 767, which, while comfortable, has very narrow seats in Business (18.5″ inches, only slightly better than coach on other carriers) and isn’t as “fresh” as the 777. The good thing about this routing is that ORD-EZE has a block time of 11 hours, and since this is a redeye flight I actually thought of it as a good thing. It would give us plenty of time to eat dinner, get a good night’s rest, and then eat breakfast, getting into EZE refreshed and ready to explore.

The other option was TPA-MIA-EZE. In this case TPA-MIA is just a short hop, which would be followed by MIA-EZE, which is also a redeye, this time on a 777. That means that the seats are quite a bit wider and the aircraft is more “fresh,” but unfortunately the block time is only around 8.5 hours. As we all know that means closer to 7.5 hours in the air, and between dinner and sleep (forget about breakfast), that’s a lot shorter of a redeye than I’d like! So what would have otherwise been a case of “Look, I found a saver Business Class award, how awesome, let me book it!” has turned into something which I’ve spend a disproportionately large amount of time debating.

Unfortunately it doesn’t stop there. I then said to myself “Hmm, Business is 90K and First is 125K, why not go all the way?” While there’s plenty of award availability even for two passengers in First (only on MIA-EZE, the 777, since the 767 doesn’t have First), it would cost 250,000 miles, and right now we’re only sitting around 238,000. I immediately looked into options for getting 12,000 American miles cheaply and quickly. In general I’m a firm believer that First Class awards are the way to go when available, but at the same time I once again question myself. After all, American only charges 125,000 miles for First to Asia, a trip which can be two or three times as long as this one. Then I go back to where I started and once again asked myself “Is this even worth an award?”

As of now I’m leaning towards doing a Business award through ORD on the outbound (for the added sleep) and MIA on the return (to experience a different product), but we’ll see what happens. I’m open to any suggestions, be they via email or comments here. I’m sure I’m not the only one that finds myself in these situations which almost turn into chores…. or am I?

Filed Under: American


  1. the 70K miles you’ll save going in business vs first is nearly a whole additional business award ticket. I don’t see the benefit to burning the points on the F seats when there are J seats I guess they are called on AA.

    AA might go there from DFW too although I don’t know if the flight time will be much more.

  2. I’m actually seriously planning for a trip to South America from a different side of the globe: BKK-FRA (or some European gateway)-GIG/GRU-LIM-CUZ-LIM-EZE-FRA (again, or some European gateway)-BKK

    I think this is doable in C for 120k UA miles. But planning for this one will be quite tough. I’ll do some research and ask this on FT sometime.

  3. No man, it is called obsessive-compulsive disorder and is common amongst the ranks of FT’ers like you and me 🙂 Although, I haven’t had the pleasure of debating such routing and award options, I have gone back and forth whether to take 18GH or 16GH on the upper deck of the UA 747, after reading 60+ pages of posts and clicking on the seat maps obsessively. Will it really be loud from galley noise and chatty FAs? Is that heater *really* that warm? Ah, the things we think about!

  4. Quite a nice blog you have over here, Ben; kudos! In regards to your dilemma, I’d throw my support to TPA-ORD-EZE with the deciding factor for me, as for you, being the length of sleep it permits. And don’t waste miles for F on AA; cmon, you should know better!

  5. Save the miles for a decent F product (like CX). I’d probably take the flight via MIA since I can sleep well even if the flight is short. To me, arriving at EZE early morning. A drive into the city. Then a late breakfast will kick off the trip nicely and help adjust for the later hours the locals use.

    BTW does AA still fly from DFW? Another option for you to consider.

  6. hi, congrats on the blog. Being a native Argentine and knowing UA and AA, I´d say:

    – Choose AA because it has more alternatives in case you are delayed or have any flight issues.
    – Don´t waste miles in F, either in UA or AA. Go for C, the only nice thing is that the seat is better than in Economy. Forget about anything else you would like to see onboard!
    – Get into EZE and enjoy BA as much as you can!! An incredible SA city! But nothing compared to Patagonia, the Iguazú Falls or Salta, in the northwest!
    Good luck.

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