Redeeming frequent flyer points for free flights can be a challenging exercise at the best of times. But getting to South America is particularly difficult due to the relatively small number of flights between Australia and the Latin American continent.
Qantas and its partner LAN currently have a duopoly on flights between Australia and South America. Qantas flies direct from Sydney to Santiago 4 times weekly, while LAN flies to Santiago daily (with a refuelling stop in New Zealand). Frequent flyer redemption seats on these flights to Chile are extremely popular, and as a result most seats are unfortunately snapped up almost immediately. This is especially the case for seats in Business class.
Air New Zealand will soon begin flights between Auckland and Buenos Aires and the flight will be timed to allow for connections to/from most cities in Australia. So flyers with Virgin Australia points, Air New Zealand Airpoints or miles in any other Star Alliance program may be able to redeem them for a seat on this flight. However, Air New Zealand is notoriously stingy at releasing seats in Premium Economy or Business class, so availability on this service is likely to be the exception rather than the rule.
With availability becoming even more limited lately, some speculate that the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro next year are to blame. At least one member is hopeful that more seats will become available for travel after the Olympics are finished.
I’ve been watching QF to SCL at 353 days out and there’s no J and only occasionally PE (though maybe some sports festival in Rio in August 2016 has availability stretched).
In the meantime, some lateral thinking may be required. Although it requires some extra flying time, travelling via the USA is a possibility. With many additional flights between Australia and the USA, as well as many airlines on the USA to South America routes, availability should be easier to come by.
Travelling on Singapore Airlines is another possibility. The airline flies from Singapore to Sao Paulo via Spain. The flying time is considerably longer, however a Business class redemption on this flight offers fairly good value. Availability has also been reasonably good.
If you don’t mind going the long way you could try converting some of your Amex rewards points to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer points and fly SQ SYD-SIN-BCN-GRU.
A quick check online shows it is 221000 KrisFlyer points return in SQ J.