Argentina is an odd country. Hotels and food are very competitively priced with almost Bangkok-like offerings. However it's a tightly regulated economy in other sectors. So are airline tickets. My search in the last couple of days came up with some interesting anomalies.
So here are your options for flights to Iguazu Falls, El Calafate, Bariloche and Ushuaia for a little less.
Buy Revenue Tickets
If you browse for tickets for cash on ITA Matrix you will quickly notice that prices aren't that bad after all. So why is everyone talking about sky-high prices?
This is until you come across this when trying to book those tickets:
IMPORTANT: These fares are only available to RESIDENTS of Argentina, in accordance with article four of Resolution 35/2002 by the Ministry of Production's Secretary of Transportation. In the event that a passenger is not a resident, he or she can purchase tickets at some of LAN.com's international sites. When boarding, the passenger will be asked to provide documentation confirming his or her residency. A passenger with a ticket for this class will not be boarded if her or she fails to provide said documentation.
Now when there's a rule there's also a hack and Gringo in Buenos Aires has it all figured out for you. The gist – check in online only, no luggage and fly like everyone else in Argentina. It has worked for him in the past but be aware that when you play the game you may have to pay the fare difference or be denied boarding!
Since I do have to check in luggage and depend on the flight somewhat to be making another connection this trick is not for me.
Use Avios points
High prices for short legs in Economy – what is our first thought – yes – Avios points. Alas ba.com does not understand the airport codes and neither does qantas.com. So you are stuck calling for your dates. LAN hardly releases inventory on these sectors to partners. Think one seat per week! Buenos Aires to Iguazu Falls will cost you 7,500 points and El Calafate 10,000 points one-way.
Use Delta Skymiles on Aerolinas Argentinas
If you type in your route at expertflyer.com it will show you 2 seats available in Economy on every single Aerolinas Argentinas flight. Now I'm not sure if that is bookable inventory but it looks fantastic. Now I have no expectations of a great product at AR but hey it's only a 1-3 hour flight anyways.
However because AR fares are usually filed per leg in Argentina, Delta also charges per leg. It's 10,000 per flight and you can't book one-ways.
Use LAN Kilometers
LAN's program uses Kilometers and is a Starwood Hotels Transfer Partner (1 Starpoint : 2 LAN Kilometers). LAN allows one stop-over and and open-jaw on redemptions. Award redemptions rates are very reasonable on short routes and availability is usually excellent. They do not allow one-way bookings but thanks to other partners and teh stp and OJ rules you can play with free one-ways should you need one.
I'm still figuring out LAN Kilometers but so far this seems like my best option.