What it Takes To Use Your Miles, Sometimes: Brazilian Edition

Denis passes along this Brazilian video talking frequent flyer miles to both me and to Ben.

The main character is traveling with his wife and kids using miles. They each have to travel separately, using circuitous routes to get to Miami. (“Yeah, I got lucky that bus service is now part of the Star Alliance…”)

His wife is going by donkey to Maceio.. He’s going Galeao – Guarulhos – Campinas – Belem – Bogota – Mexico City and taking a ferry to Miami. The newborn gets a truck ride straight to Miami! He’s been planning this trip since ’97…

The return trip, that’s not booked yet, they’ll get home eventually but in the meantime he’s arranged work in Miami. (Perhaps frequent flyer mile capacity controls are at the root of illegal immigration? What public policies would that imply?)

In general I find that TAM doesn’t offer much premium cabin award space, and intra-South American award space is rarely available when schedules open but gets much better as travel dates approach. Gol availability is tough. LAN’s availability is much better, and if you’re willing to fly Aerolineas Argentinas…

Ultimately this seems more perception than reality, and though the Avianca Lifemiles website is decent for making bookings overall telephone customer service across South American frequent flyer programs is really bad — making “hang up, call back” both even more important and even more frustrating.

This video has gotten nearly 3.5 million views, it’s funny (to me) but it isn’t that funny, so it clearly hits a nerve..

    You can join the 30,000+ people who see these deals and analysis every day — sign up to receive posts by email (just one e-mail per day) or subscribe to the RSS feed. It’s free. Don’t miss out!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Hey Gary,

    The guy featured in the video is quite famous in Brazil, sort of like a “YouTube star”, which in part explains the number of views. Still made me laugh a bit.

  2. Hey Gary,

    The guy featured in the video is quite famous in Brazil, sort of like a “YouTube star”, which in part explains the number of views. Still made me laugh a bit.

  3. As a GRU-based frequent flyer I have to disagree with you, Gary — it’s not just perception. Perhaps availability is slightly better if you’re looking at other companies and not just TAM, that’s true, but it’s not just about availability. The toughest part about Brazilian frequent flyer programs is earning. First, you get 1 mile per $2 of spend on credit cards and there aren’t any signup bonuses to speak of. I actually can’t recall a single one in recent memory (that’s a US thing). Second, airlines are very stingy with things like COS bonus and actual promos like fly to XYZ and get double miles are also practically nonexistent. So earning is almost exclusively butt-in-seat and is sloooooow! Then, on the redemption side, charts are more expensive than US airlines and in fact TAM just went through a massive change in its redemption structure, which involved a devaluation. The only promos you might find are on short domestic flights, where airlines (especially VARIG/GOL Smiles) will sell GRU/GIG (and other such short hops) for 2,000 miles for the upcoming weekend, for example. But those are cheap tickets anyway and not the best use of miles.

    So, yeah, a spot on characterization of Brazilian frequent flyer programs!!

  4. I remember reading a blog post some time ago stating that in Brazil you get miles on cash advances off credit cards (or pay a credit card with another credit card and get points/miles), is that still accurate?

  5. @ M,

    Yeah, I questioned that guy quite heavily, didnt get a straight answer really. He said he earned 100-300K miles a month and the numbers could not work out. He basically said his “FamilY” as a whole spent X amount, and rotated funds/bills between CCs and even said that Brazilian IRS equiv would catch on and shut you down. Yet he claims on the title of the post getting 100-300K a month.

    Either he’s really rich and can churn that much and still be under the radar or he’s exaggerating spend/miles.

    I pushed/asked a lot of questions as my wife’s family is in brazil(big family). would have been nice to get the spend as they have business to apply the spend. Unfortunately, I feel the post was just to get your attention but really is not doable.

    Post was on MMS.

  6. Airlines in Brazil openly disregard the Rules of their own Programs and suggest if the customer feels disrespected to contact their own customer service. Justice in Brazil is costly and takes years to decades to rule anything, so not worth it to pursue.

    Gol / Smiles imposes customer to use their flawsy website – and if it is not working, then over the phone, the customer is informed to try a different date, a different destination or try the website another day. It is not a joke and there are reports in complaint forums about these practices.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *