Brazil’s national airline Tam offers two airpasses, which allows international travellers discounted domestic flights within Brazil. They’re known as the Tam Brazil Airpass and the Tam South America Airpass, they’re both really good value, but there’s no genuinely useful information about these airpasses online, and having booked it for numerous clients, I though I’d share some flights tips.
To be entitled to the Tam Airpasses, you need to have already purchased an international flight ticket from outside of South America to any South American country, with any airline, except the airline LAN (don’t ask me why). One way flight tickets do count.
Tam Brazil Airpass
Tam domestic flights route map
For the Tam Brazil Airpass (I’ll mention Tam’s other airpass later), you need to catch a minimum of four flights in total, and the number of days between the first and last flight cannot be greater than 21 days. Even if you’re catching three Tam flights, it’s almost always cheaper to include another flight (that you don’t actually use) and book all the flights as a Tam airpass.
The cost of the Tam Brazil Airpass is dependent upon the number of flights you take within the set 21 day period (note - if you have flown internationally with Tam to South America, the ticket prices below are approximately 15% less):
1-4 flight coupons: $572
5 flight coupons: $684
6 flight coupons: $804
7 flight coupons: $924
8 flight coupons: $1044
9 flight coupons: $1164.
The above prices are correct for flights booked in 2007, though every year, prices tend to increase. In addition to the above prices, taxes must be added (normally about 5%). If you book the Tam Brazil Airpass through a travel agent, they will normally receive a rate of 7% commission, but they will also charge a booking fee. You’ll find it cheapest to book the airpass directly with Tam (though this will not be the most convenient option I’m sure).
The airpass is valid for all Tam domestic flights within Brazil (no international flights are allowed other than flights to Ciudad del Este in Paraguay). Each flight is now considered as one coupon - so if you have to transfer somewhere like Sao Paulo, it will be considered as two flight coupons. The same city cannot be used as an origin / destination more than once, unless you are in transit. Infant fares cost 10%, but there is no discount for under 12’s. Date changes cost $100, the cancellation fee is also $100 and re-routing of flights is not possible.
Tam South America Airpass
Tam also offers another airpass known as the Tam South America Airpass, which is less frequently booked, but can be very good value if you know when to use it. The price is based on mileage - the further you travel (in miles / kilometres), the greater the cost. You’re allowed 3 domestic Tam flights, plus one international Tam or Pluna flight, in addition to any Pluna domestic flights you might want (the airline Pluna is based in Uruguay). Crucially, you have to take one international flight to be entitled to this airpass. The Tam South America Airpass has a validity of 30 days, and offers extra potential for those wishing to travel around Brazil, then onwards to another South American country afterwards (eg. Tam flies to Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Venezuela).
Examples of when the Tam South America Airpass is more appropriate:
1. You want to catch two or three flights in Brazil, then fly on to somewhere like Buenos Aires in Argentina, or Santiago in Chile.
2. You want to catch just three flights in Brazil, but don’t want to pay the full wack for the Tam Brazil Airpass. This works well if the distances you are travelling in Brazil are not great. If you’re catching three short flights in Brazil, book the Tam South America Airpass rather than paying for the 4 coupon Tam Brazil Airpass, plus (CRUCIAL) add a short flight at the end from Montevideo to Buenos Aires (very low mileage) at the end of your itinerary. The Montevideo to Buenos Aires flight is the international flight that you have to book to be entitled to the Tam South America Airpass - you’ll not show up for it of course. Booking three Tam flights in this way is often cheaper than paying for the 4 coupon Tam Brazil Airpass - but only when the distances covered are short. Here’s an example where it works a treat:
- Natal to Fernando de Noronha; Fernando de Noronha to Recife; Recife to Rio;…gap… Montevideo to Buenos Aires. The cost is dirt cheap - about half the price of standard fares.
This is a great little trick that I regularly used for clients when I worked as a South America flights specialist. It’s often overlooked by travel agents - suggest it to them if they don’t suggest it to you (as they invariably won’t have thought of the idea).
So ends this Tam Airpass guide - for more info on airpasses in South America check the South America Airpasses post or see the post on the LAN South America Airpass. Also check out the article about Gol’s Airpasses - Gol also focuses on Brazil, and their airpasses might be more suitable for you, depending on your itinerary.
To book a Tam airpass, try contacting Tam directly, or alternatively try a Latin America specialist tour operator such as Journey Latin America (UK) or a similar company in your own country.