Using miles to get to 2 epic South American Islands- miles to Easter Island and miles to Galapagos

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Travel, for me, is about the sense of adventure in seeing something novel.  So naturally, the most out of reach, out of touch, obscure places are going to be the most interesting to me.  Like islands in the middle of nowhere.

The Pacific islands can be more accessible with miles than one might think.  Fiji, Rarotonga, Guam, Saipan- these are all places we’ve seen and all accessible with miles.  For some reason places like that are covered.

But what about the incredibly unique islands off of South America?  There are two in particular I’ve got in mind, and perhaps you can guess.

The first one is a destination we were lucky enough to see back when it was a bit more accessible with miles.  Back before British Airways was distance-based and back when they considered Easter Island part of South America.

Well, it’s not as easy to get to with miles now, but I’ll go over the ways you can still make it happen.  (The only miles related options that I’m aware of in fact).

1.) Easter Island

There is no such thing as a direct flight to Easter Island from the U.S.  So all of the below options will require you to route through South America.  But here are the prices/options that you can keep in mind as you earn miles.

*All prices are listed as roundtrips from North America in economy class

  • 75,000 American Airline miles
  • 95,000-105,000 Alaska Airline miles…
    Instead of having merely a layover or stopover in South America, a booking with Alaska Airline miles would break up the North America to South America and South America to Easter Island legs into two entirely separate award tickets.  So you’d have a roundtrip to South America from the US, and then a roundtrip to Easter Island from South America that fits within that schedule.  The price I’ve listed takes that into account already, and the range is simply low season vs. high season.
  • ~75,000 British Airways Avios (an estimation using Wandr.me’s Avios Calculator.)
  • 80,000 US Airways miles

Easter Island is about as spooky and novel as islands come.  So even though Drew and I got in on a great deal, if we hadn’t yet checked it off the bucket list, these are not prices that would stop me.

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2.) Galapagos Islands

I’m really excited about this!  We have never been to the Galapagos Islands because they were hard to get to with miles.  But now it’s possible!

Basically two airlines fly to the Galapagos Islands (pretty much just from Quito, Ecuador or Guayaquil, Ecuador.)  Those airlines are TAME, (not to be confused with TAM) which does not appear to be part of any of the major alliances, and AeroGal.

AeroGal is in the process of becoming Avianca Ecuador, and thus if you have miles with a Star Alliance member, you can book a flight to Galapagos with these miles!

*Again, prices are listed in roundtrips from North America in economy class

  • 40,000 United milesHere’s the flight I found for a random date next summer.  We’ll use this same itinerary in a bit…Screen shot 2014-09-12 at 3.13.15 PM
  • 60,000 Lufthansa Miles & More miles
  • ~38,000 ANA miles
    ANA is a distance based program so I calculated the distance of all combined legs using the same combination of flights seen in the United Miles option above.  MIA-PTY-UIO-SCY-UIO-PTY-MIA came out to 5,135 flown miles when I plugged it into GCmap.com.  As you can see below, on the partner award chart this comes out to 38,000 ANA miles.  Of course, if availability constraints force you to add more legs, the price will go up.Screen shot 2014-09-12 at 4.41.42 PM
  • 40,000 Avianca Life Miles 
  • 50,000 Air Canada Aeroplan Miles

As is true with any of my Star Alliance searches, I recommend using United’s award search tool to figure out what routes are available.  The only Galapagos airport that United will allow me to plug into their search engine however is SCY, the San Cristobol airport.  I’m not sure why, as it appears that AeroGal also goes to the Baltra airport.  Not that this really matters because there are daily flights with AeroGal (Avianca Ecuador) to the SCY airport.  Does that make much of a difference with scheduling/availability?  I don’t know.

Hopefully someday I’ll get to fly there and share about that experience.  In the meantime, if anyone has flown to Galapagos on miles (or at all) please share your experiences below!

 

 

18 Comments on “Using miles to get to 2 epic South American Islands- miles to Easter Island and miles to Galapagos

  1. @freakinflyers
    usa-easter = as little as 65k AA/BA miles.. combine with tahiti for a sexy lil circle trip..oooo.

  2. Thanks so much for the tipoff about Avianca Ecuador. i think you just clinched Galapagos as my next trip!

    • That’s great! Tell me how you like it! I think the snorkeling is supposed to be phenomenal.

  3. I’ve booked this through United for next summer, and anyone who’s considering this through United should also take advantage of their stopover and and open-jaw allowances! I’m flying from SFO to GPS, spending some time there on a stopover, then flying from GPS to LIM (also in Northern South America), touring Peru for a while, then flying from LIM to NYC, and seeing friends there. Then later I’ll book a cheap one-way back to SFO.

    So not only am I going to the Galápagos Islands for 40,000 miles, but I’m also throwing in some time based out of Lima, during which I’ll go see Machu Picchu. That’s two things off my bucket list!

    • So United did let you go to the Baltra airport eh? All the test searches I did routed me through SCY (San Cristobal). Not that it makes much of a difference I guess, just interesting.

      Enjoy your trip! Sounds awesome! Macchu Pichu is great!

      • Thanks! I’m also considering trying to add on a leg to Easter Island, since I’ll already be down there. Do you know if LAN gives good award availability to its partners? And do you know if there’s a good OneWorld airline that has a nice credit card bonus now? I’m thinking about applying for a new card (I only have the MileagePlus and Sapphire Preferred cards), meeting the minimum spending requirement, then using the miles to book the flights for next to nothing.

  4. I have searched on BA dot com for the easter island flights on LAN. There is never availability with Avios, even though the :LAN website shows daily flights. The distination IPC (easter island) is not workable with the AA website. Just how do you go about booking these flights?

    • Well, not sure what to say about the award availability for BA. (That’s by far the biggest hurdle with this destination) but as for American Airlines, they are not going to include LAN’s flights in their search results on their website. So you will have to book that flight over the phone and use a different OneWorld partner’s search engine to see what flights are available. But, the search engine you would likely use as the surrogate in that case would be British Airways’ search engine. So then we’re right back to the same problem: that being award availability.

      Unfortunately, this issue of award availability is a serious hurdle and I don’t know of any work arounds for that. :-/

    • If you are already positioned in Ecuador, I think booking with LAN directly is the best option. First, you get access to all of their availability. I tried to book Easter Island on Avios also and called them and they had no released seats on LAN for months on end. So I transferred points from SPG (which went through to my LAN account in a surprising 2 days) and got a RT to Easter Island for only 44K km (25k SPG points plus the 5k bonus). Galapagos RT is even cheaper. I found several flights for only 20K km (13.5k SPG points).

      • Thanks for sharing your experience! If you have the SPG points, sounds like a great solution for the availability issue.

  5. I went to Easter Island for just 32.5k AA miles roundtrip in 2011. DCA-MIA-GYE-GPS, with the last leg on LAN. It was quite simple booking with an AA telephone agent and the islands are probably the vacation I’ve been most tempted to tear up my return ticket. Not sure if availability has changed in the past few years though. Sounds like it may have?

    In any case, once you’re there make sure you go snorkeling in los tuneles on Isla San Cristobal. Sea lions play with you the whole time :-))

    • Oh my goodness sounds awesome. I will make note of that!
      ya, I think that for whatever reason Easter Island has a bigger availability issue than the Galapagos Islands. (I’m assuming you meant Galapagos islands instead of Easter Island?) But honestly I’m not sure because I hear of so few hobbyists doing the Galapagos.

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