There is never award inventory out of GRU, and other untrue tales

I woke up this past Sunday morning and was perusing my Twitter feed (you are following me there, right??) when I came across an interesting tweet from @MileValue. In short, he was frustrated at the apparent lack of award space from Sao Paulo to Europe. If the rumors are to be believed, it is simply impossible. And so he put out a challenge:


Given nothing better to do, I unleashed the power of my Star Alliance Award Search tool on the challenge. I loaded up all three routes and every day from February 15 through December 31, 2013. Then I went and got brunch and came back to check on the results. It seems that @MileValue was sortof correct. Looking through the results there were not a ton of dates with premium cabin seats available on the TAM-operated flights. Inventory was surprisingly wide open for GRU-Madrid between June 27 – August 1, but not much else. At that point I basically walked away from the project, knowing that there was some space but not a ton.

But today I’m sitting in a jury duty waiting room, desperately hoping to not be picked and I needed something to do so I’m looking over the data in more detail. Filtering for only flights offering business or first class (the initial challenge was any seat in any cabin) availability, looking at all carriers and all European gateways I came up with more than 350 options. And that’s even after excluding the phantom F inventory from Lufthansa. It turns out that perhaps we were asking the wrong question on Sunday.

Nearly 200 flights have first class inventory and more than 250 have business class (about 100 have both). Not every carrier is always available. Neither is every gateway. But there are a lot of dates available from May through December. TAM is only available from mid-May through July but other carriers have broader options. And TAM also has their Milan and Paris flights showing quite a few dates available. The raw(-ish) data is here.

If I limit the results only to economy class flights there are more than 600 route/date combinations with seats available. Milan, Paris and Madrid are, again, the most commonly available destinations but Barcelona, Munich, Zurich, Lisbon and even Porto show up somewhat regularly as available. Oh, and I’m not including the various options which involved transiting Buenos Aires, Mexico City or various North American gateways. Those would add a lot more flight options.

This is just a point in time snapshot of the inventory. I have no idea how much is still available today. And obviously this doesn’t mean that there is always a flight available when you are looking. Maybe getting that award will require an extra connection or moving a day or two for finding seats. But don’t be dissuaded by rumors of destinations supposedly impossible to get award seats into or out of. Turns out the seats are more available than you might think.

Anyone have another route or city they’re interested in seeing a compilation of data on? Turns out these aren’t all that hard to generate, though I do have to be a bit careful about the number of queries I’m running.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. I doubt it, Jerry. They never had a ton of award seats out there. That said, there is a lot more than what was presumed to be there when the challenge was laid down on Sunday morning.

  2. Having some trouble finding business seats on ORD-MUC direct in september on United… if you were looking for a challenge 🙂 I also would not mind finding an upgradeable revenue fare on that flight.

  3. Does CA ever release award inventory from CTU or CKG to JZH? That flight starts at around $400 and lasts 45 minutes, but saves one a loooong bus trip. The ANA tool doesn’t seem to think so.

    Unlike other commenters, I ask out of curiosity, not out of any immediate need.

  4. LAX-IST, J on TK….seems to have very limited availability…would love to be proved wrong!

  5. The big problem about TAM is that they barely release award space. But when they do, 99% of the time are to *A partners. TAM usually blocks them to their own frequent flyers. I even made a post about it, when I was able to find First Class space using United Miles on TAM, and not using TAM frequent flyer program –

    I have an award booking service in Brazil and I was never able to get an award on a TAM flight using their own points on Fidelidade program.
    These routes that TAM operates leaving from Brazil are extremely profitable since there are no or only few competitors. So of course for them is better to sell the seat since there is a high demand for that, than to offer it as an award.

  6. Fabio Viela is right (his blog is good, too). TAM Fidelidade is a crap program for international award space.

    If you’re searching for Star Alliance options out of Sao Paulo to Europe, consider including Campinas’ Viracopos airport in with GRU (code VCP). It’s less than 1.5 hrs outside Sao Paulo, is a growing international airport and has TAP service to Portugal.

  7. I guess the request is not to find any award available, but to see them available on TAM flights on United website, being able to book it.

  8. I don’t understand, Ranerio. These seats were all showing on the United website and could be booked directly there. Many of them are still available. Click the raw data link above, find a date/city pair and search for yourself.

  9. Hmm indeed. It has been hard to book any award flights on TAM own’s website lately, as per the previous post, it even shows up to partner *A booking systems but not on TAM itself on the “saver level” award.
    I tried now some routes on C and F and it is showing a whopping 300.000 miles one way each.

  10. Seems that JJ inventory intra-SA isn’t loaded 331 days out. It looks to be about 3 months, AFAICT.

  11. It’s true Ed and is written on their terms and conditions. JJ inventory intra-South American is only released with 3 months in advance. All other international destinations including booking *A members with 6 months in advance. It’s impossible to book any award with 331 days out.

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