The South American Bottleneck
Sherman Oaks, California
From an air travel perspective, South America is similar to Long Island. It's roomy, but it's a dead end.
International air routes in South America follow one of three patterns.
First, there are a fair number of direct intra-South American flights. You can fly to Lima, Peru, or Caracas, Venezuela, from many of the other capitals of the region.
Second, there are direct flights to the United States, often to Miami.
Third, there are direct flights to Europe, usually to the former colonial power. Flights to Madrid, for example, are common throughout Spanish-speaking South America. You could even fly little Surinam Airways direct to Amsterdam on its one 747.
But getting to Asia is a whole 'nother matter.
Amazingly, there are no direct flights from anywhere in South America to anywhere in Asia, a fact I first learned two years ago from Edward Hasbrouck, the Practical Nomad.
Nothing appears to have changed. Aerolineas Argentina and LAN Chile (pictured) both fly a route to Auckland, New Zealand, and Sydney, Australia -- but that's not Asia, that's a long flight which ends with 12 more hours to go before Asia.
Malaysian Airways is the only Asian carrier that lands its tires on the tarmac of South America. It's a heck of a flight: Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Cape Town, South Africa, to Johannesburg, South Africa, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Home.
Expanding the definition of South America to include regions which are not, by any definition, within South America does not help much, yielding exactly one direct flight to Asia. Aeromexico flight 58 flies direct from Tijuana, Mexico, to Tokyo, Japan.
Travel to Asia becomes less convenient when you're more than 50 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border.