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You can redeem your soon-to-be-devalued Cathay Pacific miles to enjoy the Rio Carnival 2019 (among other things), but you have to act fast!
To be honest, the Rio Carnival is not the reason for my upcoming flight to Brazil, but I used that “clickbait” because you might be less interested in where I’m going. For years I’ve wanted to visit Lençóis Maranhenses, a unique national park in northeastern Brazil with the desert dotted by blue lagoons, which looks like it totally deserves to be named one of the wonders of the world. Yet, very few people outside Brazil have ever heard about it, which suits me just fine.
The Rio Carnival, on the other hand, is something that everyone must experience at least once in their life. I’ve been there and done that, and I doubt I’d come back to all that madness, but if you haven’t been – you should! And don’t forget to thank me later.
I’ve finally gotten rid of the bulk of my Cathay Pacific miles – yay!
If you make the booking tonight or tomorrow, you can fly to Rio or Sao Paulo in American Airlines’ Business Class cabin for only 80,000 miles per round trip from almost anywhere on the East Coast.
You can even fly from Boston to Rio or Sao Paulo via New York and stay within the allotted 5,000 miles. As long as your flight is between 2,501 and 5,000 miles one way, your cost for a round trip in Business Class will be 80,000 Cathay Pacific miles (Band C), and 80,000 miles to southern South America is a steal! For the sake of comparison, a Business Class award ticket to Rio or Sao Paulo will cost you 115,000 American, 120,000 United, or a whopping 160,000 Delta miles. The problem is, you have less than 2 days — today and tomorrow, June 21 — to book your ticket. The rate is going up on June 22.
Availability is pretty good
But how is the award space? Quite nice, actually. The pic below indicates availability for 2 people from New York to Rio in August. Most of the flights are nonstop, while others have a layover in Miami. Of course, if you’re a single traveler, availability would be even better.
The award space dries up a little until the wintertime, then it picks up again around February. And, as you can see, the dates around the Carnival (March 3-9) are still (somewhat) available.
If you’re not very flexible and can’t find a flight to Rio, see if you can find an award seat to/from Sao Paulo. Getting from Sao Paulo to Rio is a breathe. There are tons of flights between Rio and Sao Paulo that will cost you 4,500 British Avios on LATAM.
What about the seat?
American flies a retrofitted 777-200 to Rio and a 777-300ER to Sao Paulo. I didn’t find the latest reviews, but from what I understand, the “200” to Rio still features those infamous Zodiac seats that many people (me included) don’t like very much. It’s a mix of forward- and backward-facing seats. There are two reasons why people hate it – one is because of vibration issues (that I didn’t feel), and the other reason because of a narrow and very uncomfortable footrest that I could feel all too well in a lie-flat position.
The “300-ER” reverse herringbone seat is much better, so if you want to visit Sao Paulo anyway (which is worth a 2-3 day visit despite its “non-touristy” reputation), try to fly one-way to/from Sao Paulo to experience these very different products. And again, a flight between Rio and Sao Paulo costs only 4,500 Avios.
Can I book LATAM instead?
LATAM is a oneworld airline and Cathay Pacific partner, so – sure! In my cursory check, though, I’ve found availability to be scarce. Remember that you can’t mix and match airlines if you want the 80,000-mile rate, so it has to be either American or LATAM in both directions. Otherwise, you’re looking at 95,000 miles because you’ll have to use the oneworld chart. Having said that, if you want multiple stopovers, you might consider this option.
So I’ve got some 18,000 leftover miles…
No problem. I’m going to keep them and buy 2,000 more. Then I’ll book a roundtrip add-on flight out of Hong Kong after the devaluation (I’m planning my next flight to Asia in the winter 2019). See, like I mentioned in this piece, there are a few Cathay Pacific sweet spots in the new chart that will allow me to save from 10,000 to 25,000 miles compared to the current rates.
You have until June 22 to use Cathay Pacific Miles to book a flight at the old rates. Booking an AA flight to southern South America for 80,000 miles in Business Class is one of the best uses of Asia Miles, and availability is there if you’re a little flexible.
First, search AA.com for the award space, then call Cathay Pacific at 866-892-2598 (24/7). Remember, not all dates might be available, so keep the AA page with the search results open during the call. Feed the agent the dates and flight numbers, and if your dates are not available, ask them about the alternative dates. I called around midnight ET, and only had to wait about 5 minutes. The whole process took maybe 10-15 minutes.
Are you going to “liquidate” your stash of Cathay Pacific miles or keep them beyond June 22?
Rio Carnival: CC BY 3.0 br
Lençóis Maranhenses: CC BY Vitor 1234