Hong Kong to Anywhere in Business Class for 35,000 Miles

by Enoch

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
  • Aeromexico
  • Air Canada
  • Air France
  • Alitalia
  • Copa Airlines
  • Delta
  • Emirates
  • Etihad
  • KLM
  • Korean Air
  • Qatar
  • 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).

Fly from Hong Kong (HKG) to New York (JFK) for just 35,000 GOL Smiles one-way in Korean Business Class!

Fly from Hong Kong (HKG) to New York (JFK) for just 35,000 GOL Smiles one-way in Korean Business Class!

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.

Fly from Hong Kong (HKG) to Paris (CDG) for just 35,000 GOL Smiles one-way in Korean Business Class!

Fly from Hong Kong (HKG) to Paris (CDG) for just 35,000 GOL Smiles one-way in Korean Business Class!

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.

Korean Air Celestial Bar for First and Busiess Class passengers on the A380. Source: Korean Air

Korean Air Celestial Bar for First and Busiess Class passengers on the A380. Source: Korean Air

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)

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DJ December 7, 2016 - 6:48 am

Very interesting…how do you book? Through GOL website or do you have to call?

Enoch December 7, 2016 - 6:49 am

Hi DJ! You can book directly from the website, though they can be finicky with credit cards so you might have to try 2 – 3 times. As always, I’d use a card with no foreign transaction fees since they process charges in Brazilian Real.

MD December 7, 2016 - 7:40 am

I had my GOL smiles account banned because I didnt have Brazil’s equivalent to a social security number and entered in all 0’s when registering. I hope that has changed since I lost a fair bit in the account closure.

Enoch December 7, 2016 - 7:44 am

Hi MD! I’m so sorry to hear that 🙁

I believe at one point they did restrict certain promotions on buying miles to Brazilians (those with a CPF number), but I can’t definitely say whether buying miles in general is restricted to Brazilians now.

Morris December 7, 2016 - 8:23 am

This link explains how to get a CPF number outside of Brazil:

reader December 7, 2016 - 8:26 am

Great post. I haven’t found any availability HKG-ORD though. I can one KE at 100K miles and a 35K+Cash option — and even that 35K + cash option seems reasonable (although I’m sure there’s some YQ in addition to that). Any suggested dates? Does KE release award seats only a few weeks before departure, or were you able to find a date months out?

Dimanch December 7, 2016 - 11:28 am

System glitches; its back to normal at 100k miles for full redemptions.

Miles, Points and Travel Hacks | Weekly Round Up - TravelZork December 8, 2016 - 7:17 am

[…] Hong Kong to anywhere (on earth) in Business Class for 35,000 miles? GOL Smiles says, “We’re making it happen.” […]

ed December 8, 2016 - 9:02 am

Hoping Dimanch is just trying to slow the stampede. This is a sick deal.


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