What are the best value options for traveling around South America? Are Air Passes good value?

South America is hard to access from Australia, badly served by QF, leaving LAN as the only real option. What are the best options for internal travel? I’ve used a LAN Pass before but I think the rules have changed. Are Air Passes good value? How can you move to the front of the bus, without paying a fortune? Any tips and tricks to make the travel less painful/expensive?

I don’t know much about the LAN Air Pass, but I’ve recently booked a trip to South America and one thing I found was that internal flights were far more expensive than I’d anticipated. This was largely due to the fact that I was flying one-way (return was always cheaper) and the lack of competition. One thing I did notice is that it was often cheaper for me to purchase points from American Airlines or Alaska Airlines to make bookings given the low redemption rates for one-way bookings. For example, the cheapest one-way flight from Lima to Buenos Aires in economy was $760; however, I purchased 25,000 American points for $750 and redeemed a business class seat on LAN instead. Still not cheap, but $750 for 4.5 hours in lay-flat business isn’t too bad.

Alaska only charges 12,500 for economy or 25,000 points for business anywhere within South America on LAN. American splits South America in two and charges slightly different depending on where you’re flying. As such, I would check out the price of the routes you want, and see if there is any award availability that may work out cheaper. LAN and TAM can be searched using BA Executive Club and you can purchase points for American or Alaska in one of their sales.

We recently travelled all around Brazil. One big tip from me is to book using the local airline sites - I used the Brazilian TAM site for most of our flights, and it was at least 50% cheaper than paying in dollars - they accept PayPal.