Challenge. South America for tier points.

I was given a new challenge by my friend Dirk last week. He wants to earn about 750 tier points in British Airways Executive Club, travelling to South America, costing £1,500 or less, travelling from November 2017 through to March 2018.

So rather than a very tightly constrained search, we’ve got a pretty wide open problem space to work with.  However we can break this down a little to make it easier to solve.

In order to reach the number of tier points that Dirk needs, we have to have at least four long-haul (over 2,000 miles) segments in the booking.  That means we can pretty much rule out any fares or airlines that fly direct from Europe to South America.

There are some nice Iberia fares starting in Brussels down to Brazil (both Rio and Sao Paulo) for around £1,300 which would have fit the bill, however yield insufficient tier points.

Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 12.49.59
ITA Matrix final fare display for a journey from DUB to GRU with IB

Using ITA Matrix can be a little temperamental, especially if the search space is quite broad.  It can time out or give you errors, which is where knowledge of where a particular airline’s hubs are comes in useful.

This was the search parameters that I finally settled upon to give me a decent result.

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ITA Matrix input screen

I’ve asked Matrix to search from Brussels, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Dublin, Stockholm, Oslo, Barcelona and Paris to Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires.

As we need to have four long haul segments, I’ve asked it to route via London and Miami.  Instead of Miami, I could have used Dallas / Fort Worth.

Finally, for the date range, I’ve picked the week of Thanksgiving when business travel drops off and the best deals seem to be published.

Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 13.06.17
ITA Matrix final fare display for a journey from DUB to GRU with AA

This yielded a fare of £1,750 starting in Dublin and finishing in Brussels which would earn 640 tier points in total.  This is a pretty good haul and not far off Dirk’s original request.

Now that we know that we need to start in Dublin and end up in Brussels we can start to narrow down the search in Matrix.  Again, using the knowledge of where AA’s hubs are in the US, we can add in routing points to add extra segments to the booking, increasing the tier point amount.

For example, I’ve added in the connection points of Heathrow, New York JFK and Miami on the outbound, and on the inbound Dallas / Fort Worth, Philadelphia and London.

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ITA Matrix input screen

This gives us the following set of flights.

Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 13.16.37
ITA Matrix final fare display for a journey from DUB to GRU with multiple connections

That would result in 720 tier points in total.  We could start to push this further, perhaps by adding in a domestic connection on LATAM, however I do think there’s a point at which an itinerary gets too complex and too tiring that it’s not worth it.  After two long-haul flights when you’re pretty tired, a further short domestic connection is probably not worthwhile.

There’s one more option that I want to point out.  American also have a direct service between Los Angeles and Sao Paulo, so shouldn’t it be possible to route Dublin, London, New York, Los Angeles Sao Paulo for an extra 140 tier points?  The short answer is no.  Fares like this have what is known as a MPM (Maximum Permitted Mileage).  This is the the maximum distance that you’re allowed to travel, although you can exceed it by up to 25% for a surcharge (in 5% increments).  For example, the MPM for the DUB-BRU fare is listed below.

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Routing details display from from DUB to SAO

Given all of this, there might be a sale fare launched tomorrow which could make it substantially cheaper.  What I’ve found here is the best result that I can do, at this point in time.  There may well be a better fare out there – if you can find it, please share!

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