How to fly to Patagonia for free on Delta miles 1

Posted by Beth | December 29, 2015

In my opinion Delta points are among the most worthless airline miles around. It is difficult to find award space at the lowest levels and when we were based in Denver there were just very few options. Caleb got the American Express Delta card in his very first churn in January of 2013 when we still had no idea what we were doing. The 40,000 points he earned for that sign-up bonus sat in his account for several years until we finally found a good use for them. Once we realized we could use them to fly within Patagonia, he also signed up for the American Express Delta Business card, earning another 50,000 points.

We used his Delta points to book one-way flights within Argentina on Aeorlineas Argentinas, a SkyTeam partner.

Here are the miles and cost breakdowns for two people:

  • Buenos Aires (EZE) to El Calafate (FTE): 25,000 miles + $58.60 in taxes and fees. The cost of the flight had we paid out-of-pocket would have been $398.
  • El Calafate (FTE) to Lima (LIM), with an overnight layover in Buenos Aires (EZE): 45,000 miles + $177.26 in taxes and fees. The cost of the flight had we paid out-of-pocket would have been $2,016.

These flights do not show up on Delta’s website, so I had to call the airline to check on availability and book the tickets. Typically there is a fee for booking over the phone, but since I could not make that same booking online, the agent was able to waive that fee.

Backpacking Patagonia isn't cheap but Delta miles helped bring our costs down

Backpacking Patagonia isn’t cheap but Delta miles helped bring our costs down

Aerolineas Review:
Aerolineas Argentinas is the government-run airline in Argentina. Both trips we flew out of EZE, the newer, farther-away from the city, international airport. The cab from the San Telmo neighborhood of BA cost $28, and took about 30-40 minutes, though it was very early in the morning. Apparently it can take up to  two hours if there is traffic.

The check-in process at the airport took quite awhile, but that may have been since a large bus of Chinese tourists arrived right before us. We did not have advance seat assignments (I should have called the airline ahead of time to confirm), but it worked out fine because they were able to put us in two seats together in the exit row.

Overall our experience with Aerolineas Argentinas was smooth sailing. They served sandwiches and sodas on the three and a half hour flights between El Calafate and Buenos Aires.

Note that a cab from the FTE airport into the center of town will run you about $20, or you can take the VES bus, which is $9 per person, or $15 if you purchase roundtrip tickets.

As there are no non-stops between El Calafate and Lima, Peru, we had a 21 hour layover in Buenos Aires. It worked out fine because we loved our stay at the Holiday Inn EZE Airport Hotel.

On the way out from Buenos Aires to Lima we were also able to enjoy the Star Alliance lounge, thanks to our Priority Pass Access (free with Citi Prestige card). The lounge was very spacious with lots of self-serve food and drink options.

Though I typically overlook Delta points for more valuable (in my mind) currencies such as United or American Airline miles, in this case Delta miles helped us to fly for a fraction of the cost of what we would have paid otherwise.

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