Update (1:45 pm ET): This deal is now dead. Congrats if you got in, and please update us if your itinerary got ticketed!
GOL Smiles is the frequent flyer program for GOL Airlines, the largest low-cost carrier in South America. It’s not a program that’s often talked about, but they actually have some pretty good redemption options.
They are not part of an alliance, but they do partner with a few airlines across different alliances:
- Aerolineas Argentinas
- Air Canada
- Air France
- Copa Airlines
- Korean Air
- TAP Portugal
You can transfer SPG Starpoints to GOL Smiles, though at a rate of 2 SPG Points = 1 GOL Smile, that is a terrible value.
This is because you can often buy GOL Smiles on the cheap. In fact, they even sell memberships for “Club Smiles,” where you pay a flat monthly fee and get a monthly deposit of miles. For example, paying BRL 5,000 (~US$45) a month gets you 5,000 miles per month. That’s about 0.9 cents / dollar if you buy it through Club Smiles. You can also just buy miles outright without joining a membership, which they are selling for BRL 0.7 (~US$0.02) per mile.
Update: You can only join Club Smiles or purchase miles if you have a Brazilian CPF number. You don’t have to be a Brazilian resident to get one (i.e. you can apply for a temporary one as a tourist in Brazil), though the process isn’t the most intuitive out there, and might be a bit extreme for a probably-temporary deal. Keep in mind that you have to input the number while creating your GOL Smiles account, and cannot add that in later.
Buying miles is generally a bad idea, especially if you’re not doing so under a promotion. However, it looks like you can currently redeem just 35,000 GOL Smiles for a one-way flight from Hong Kong to anywhere in the world in Korean Air Business Class.
Just to give you an idea, here’s an itinerary from Hong Kong to New York (JFK).
And here’s one from Hong Kong to Paris. The taxes/fees come out to just around US$50, which is not bad at all. GOL Smiles does not pass on fuel surcharges, but instead charges different prices (in miles/Smiles) for different carriers.
This pricing seems to be valid through the end of the schedule, but does not work in the other directions (i.e. flying to Hong Kong will incur a different price). Korean Air has a pretty solid Business Class product on most of their long-haul routes, and their service is what you’d expect from a world-class Asian carrier. Korean Air also has pretty decent award availability, and you can always search on Korean Air’s website before heading to GOL Smiles’ ticketing engine.
Just one final note: the GOL Smiles website is also only available in Portuguese, so I’d use Google Translate to navigate through the site.
Even if you’re buying miles from scratch, you’re really just paying ~US$ 700 (35,000 miles * $0.02) for a flight from Hong Kong to anywhere in Korean Air Business Class, which is a great deal. However, this pricing isn’t advertised as a formal promotion, so it’s definitely a buy-and-redeem-at-your-own-risk kind of situation. For the same reason, I can’t recommend buying miles just to take advantage of this deal. I also wouldn’t recommend transferring SPG points for this purpose, since it usually take them a week or so, and this pricing may not be valid by then.
But I know some people have taken advantage of promotions on buying GOL Smiles before (when they ran a 200% bonus last year), so if you already have miles in the account, this might be a good time to cash in.
(HT psbaj from FlyerTalk)