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Best Airlines in South America

  |   Flights

For those planning to travel throughout the giant continent of South America, you’ll be glad to learn that air travel has stepped up to offer some of the world’s best airlines. With high safety standards, thoughtful customer service, and many comfortable options for every budget, air travel has also become the most cost-effective way to get in and around South America. Of course, not all airlines are made equal… Some clearly fly above the rest. For the traveler heading south, read on for the best airlines in South America (and which destinations they’re best for!).


Flight over the Amazon River. 

Flight over the Amazon River. 

The Best Airlines in South America

Cross-referencing awards given by the 2015 World Airline Awards, recent articles, and our own experiences, below are the airlines that we can confidently claim are the best in South America. Here’s why, and which destinations they can take you to.



1. LAN Airlines

Based out of Chile, LAN Airlines is indisputably known as the best carrier on the continent. The most awarded airline in South America, it is a part of the newly joined LATAM Airlines Group (the fusion of LAN and Brazilian TAM Airlines), Latin America’s largest airline holding company. 


It is the predominant airline in Chile and Peru, and the second largest carrier in Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador. 


As a member of the Oneworld Airline Alliance, this is also a great airline to fly for those hoping to earn airline points they can also use back home. 


Destinations we use LAN Airlines most for: Peru, Ecuador, Galapagos




Galapagos Islands in Ecuador.

Galapagos Islands in Ecuador.

2. Avianca

Colombia’s flag carrier, Avianca is the largest airline in Colombia and the second largest in all of Latin America. Combined with its subsidiaries, it has the most extensive network of destinations in Latin America. It recently became a member of the Star Alliance.


In the past decade, Avianca subsidiaries Avianca Brazil and Avianca Ecuador have become frontrunners flying to both destinations, offering extensive flight schedules.


Destinations we use Avianca most for: Ecuador, Brazil



3. TAM Airlines

Recently merged with LAN airlines to form the LATAM Airlines Group, TAM is currently the largest Brazilian airlines, and a member of the Oneworld Alliance.


TAM offers flights to major Brazilian cities, as well as smaller planes to help you get to more remote destinations (such as those in the Amazon).


Destinations we use TAM Airlines most for: Brazil



Copacabanca Beach, Rio de Janeiro 

Copacabanca Beach, Rio de Janeiro 

4. Azul Airlines

The leading low cost carrier in Brazil, Azul Airlines has met the demand for affordable flights in the country by providing frequent and affordable air service to underserved markets throughout Brazil. Established by the founder of American low cost carrier JetBlue, it is the third largest airline in Brazil, after TAM and Gol.


While larger airlines have primarily nailed down the markets for international flights in and out of Brazil, you can count on Azul Airlines to offer reliable service to many routes within Brazil.


Destinations we use Azul Airlines most for: Brazil



5. Sky Airline

Based out of Chile, Sky Airline is the second largest airline in the country after LAN Airlines. Operating on a semi-low cost model, it flies to Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Bolivia, as well as offering charter flights throughout South America.


Destinations we use Sky Airline most for: Peru, Brazil



Delfin I Amazon River cruise in Peru

Delfin I Amazon River cruise in Peru

6. Gol

The largest low-cost carrier in all of South America, Brazilian Gol Airlines operates a growing domestic and international flight network. It is the second largest airline in Brazil after TAM, and a long favorite for those looking for cheaper flights.


Gol’s frequent flyer program is Smiles, and the points can be used on partners Aerolineas Argentinas, Air France, Delta Air Lines, Iberia, KLM and Qatar Airways (several of which you may use to fly to South America!).


Destinations we use Gol most for: Brazil, Peru



7. Star Peru

Star Peru is the airline for reaching any destination within Peru, as they offer passenger and cargo flights (scheduled and charter) between ten cities in the country (and one to the Brazilian Amazon). 


Destinations we use Star Peru most for: Peru (internal), Amazon (Brazil & Peru)



Rainforest Cruises tour in Peru.

Rainforest Cruises tour in Peru.

8. Peruvian Airlines

An up-and-comer in Peru, Peruvian Airlines has already earned respect as a low-cost airline flying to Peru’s most popular internal destinations. Operating nine domestic routes out of Lima, it expansive timetable has helped it win over travelers from older airlines in recent years. We consider it hands down one of the best domestic airlines in South America.


Destinations we use Peruvian Airlines for: Peru (internal)



aircraft in flight


The Best Way to Book

With so many competing airlines to choose from, we prefer to use Exito Travel to book our flights. To enable travelers to have the utmost flexibility, we work with them due to their strong personal relationships with various airlines. Want to make a last minute jungle trek extension to your Amazon cruise and need to change your flight out? Think you’d rather spend two more days at the beach and a couple less trekking in the Andes? Exito Travel has helped us re-arrange our travel plans with no hassle over the years, so we continue to rely on them to make travel between our South American destinations as relaxing and stress-free as possible. 


They say it’s all about the journey, so let’s make the journey a good one shall we?  Book with any of these best airlines in South America, and you can count on easy and reliable travel from one dream destination to another. Contact Us for help booking your trip to South America. 

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About Rainforest Cruises

Rainforest Cruises is a boutique travel company specializing in Amazon river cruises and tours, providing you with the finest collection of cruises in Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands and Panama. As South American travel experts we have all the advice you need to help you find and book your dream cruise and an unforgettable adventure of a lifetime.


Geri Daniel loved her vacation with Rainforest Cruises.
We had an absolutely fabulous time on the cruise. Thank you again for the trip of a lifetime.
— Geri Daniel, Austin, TX
The Johannson family encounter a sloth on their rainforest cruise.
We had a wonderful time. We were all impressed with the efficiency and organization of the trip from start to finish.
— Jeanette Johannson & Family, USA