Planning for our trip to Chile began in summer 2011 when we first heard that British Air mile awards were going to change, but that BA would not publish the new rules until they went active… the conventional wisdom on the travel forums was to use BA miles before this happened. With 160k miles from sign-up bonuses on two credit cards we took that advice and started planning some possible trips.
We began by targeting a South America trip in mid-February to mid-March, especially looking at Argentina or Chile. BA doesn’t fly US to South America, but it’s partners LAN and AA do. Unfortunately we could not find any usable award space to Buenos Aires, but we could find coach seats to Santiago on AA. Chile it was!
Chile is a long country with a desert to the north, wineries and lakes in the middle, and the famous Patagonia to the south; in other words, there were a lot of options. We read through the Frommer’s Chile book to get a feel for each region. Eventually we decided to focus on the Atacama desert for its amazing landscapes.
Intra-Chile tickets on LAN were absurdly expensive, so we investigated regional carriers and found tickets at half the price on Sky Airlines from Santiago to Calama.
The seats on Sky were about the same as any domestic US seat- a bit cramped but not too bad. On each flight they provide a small meal or snack along with drinks, and the planes felt and looked new and and clean (certainly better than most US planes). Sitting on the right side of the plane is best going north, as the views of the Andes (and downtown Santiago) were pretty nice.
In all we spent four days in the desert and two in Santiago, catching our flight home on the evening of the second day.