I always find something useful in Wendy Perrin’s column in Conde Nast Traveler and when catching up on my magazines lately I ran across an especially good one. How to snag a bargain seat in business class delivers on the title.

There’s nothing specifically about flying to Latin America, but the same tendencies apply. Often a business class seat from a major U.S. city to a major one in South America will be less than double the price of a coach ticket. As she points out, as airlines (especially U.S. ones) have starting tacking big co-pays onto business class upgrades, often just buying a business class ticket will be cheaper than upgrading from coach—while gaining miles instead of using them!

Her specifics on landing a good fare range include some good resources and advice:

– Consolidator Etravelbid.com – right now they’re advertising NYC to Rio, Buenos Aires, and Santiago all under $3,000.

JoeSentMe.com charges $49 a year, but offers access to the best business class fares each week. There are a lot of services promising to do that, but this one gets consistently high marks from users.

– Book at least two months ahead to see the best selection

– Look at foreign carriers you don’t expect to fly that route. Granted there aren’t as many of these serving Latin America, but you can fly on Copa to Buenos Aires from New York or Santiago from Los Angeles, for example. Taca goes to a whole long list of cities via its hubs in Central America and LAN serves a lot of routes as well. I’ve found the best representation of foreign airlines (though it’s far from complete) to be on Vayama.com.

– Fly to business capitals. For obvious reasons, you’re going to find a lot more business class seat selection between places where business travelers fly. So Sao Paulo is easier than Rio, Lima is easier than Montevideo. And if you don’t live in a major U.S. business city, you’ll probably need to buy two separate flights. One from your airport in coach, another from the major city in business class.