oneworld partner LATAM is a good choice for those wanting to travel to South America and who have access to Asia Miles or AAdvantage miles.
In this guide, we outline LATAM’s destinations, key routes, fleet, lounge access and, most importantly, how to search for and book an award using your points.
But, first, some good news…
Open award space on new Melbourne – Santiago service in October-November 2017
LATAM’s new direct 3x weekly service between Melbourne and Santiago commences on 6 October 2017 and there are at least two seats in Business Class available to be booked on every flight in both directions.
Read more about the route below.
Destinations and key routes
Since 2010, Chilean airline LAN has gradually been merging with Brazilian airline TAM to make LATAM, Latin America’s largest airline.
It also has subsidiaries throughout South America and its primary hubs are in:
- Santiago, Chile
- São Paulo, Brazil
- Lima, Peru
- Bogotá, Colombia
Key routes on LATAM for travellers from Australia
Do note that some international flights within South America operate a Premium Economy cabin in place of a full-service Business Class.
Sydney to Santiago via Auckland
There is one daily late-morning flight from Sydney, arriving in Auckland in the late afternoon. If connecting to Santiago, you’ll have a two-hour layover and overnight flight of about 12 hours to Santiago.
On the return leg, leaving Santiago you’ll again do the long-haul leg overnight, with a two-hour layover in Auckland, and a well-timed 9am arrival into Sydney.
Note that there is also a nonstop Qantas service between Sydney and Santiago, which operates 3-4 times a week depending on the season, which you may prefer if you want a direct flight and want to save 8,000 Qantas Points on the redemption (LATAM redemptions through Qantas fall into the more expensive partner award chart).
Melbourne to Santiago direct
From 6 October 2017, there will be a 3x weekly direct flight between Melbourne and Santiago.
On the way there it’s 13 hours and the way back is two more.
Both the one-stop flight to Santiago from Sydney and nonstop flight from Melbourne are serviced by a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which we have reviewed on the shorter Sydney to Auckland leg in Business Class.
We gave it a three-star rating for its comfortable lie-flat seat and decent entertainment system but was let down by lack of direct aisle access, average food and drink service, and limited frequency of flights.
If flying Business Class, you’ll get access to the following lounges:
- Sydney: Qantas International Business Lounge
- Melbourne: Qantas International Business Lounge
- Auckland: Qantas International Business Lounge
- Santiago: LATAM VIP Lounge (in association with Iberia) or American Airlines Admirals Club
- São Paulo: LATAM VIP Lounge, American Airlines Admirals Club or Executive Lounge GRU Airport
How to search for award space on LATAM flights
Redemption availability is an issue on long-haul flights with LATAM, so you’ll need to be prepared to get looking well in advance of when you want to travel. Set up award searches to snag any cancelled award seats coming back into inventory or hold out for any last-minute availability coming up.
The best place to search for award availability on LATAM flights is through the British Airways search engine.
This will suit fine if you plan to redeem through Asia Miles, AAdvantage or British Airways Executive Club, but not Qantas Frequent Flyer.
Qantas and LATAM have a particularly deep codeshare agreement on these route going as far as having designated blocks of seats on the LATAM flight for each airline to sell, and in some reservation systems, the flight shows as being operated by Qantas when looking at the QF-coded flight numbers.
It is helpful to understand that there are two sets of flight numbers: QF321/LA800 are the same flight from Sydney to Auckland (and onward to Santiago) while QF322/LA801 is back across the Tasman.
Each airline only sells tickets for its own coded flight number, including (fairly rarely) for points redemptions, which makes redeeming points on the route quite confusing.
How to redeem points on LATAM flights
For travellers based in Australia, there are four main programs that you can use your points through to book flights with LATAM (from best value to worst value):
- Asia Miles
- American AAdvantage
- British Airways Executive Club
- Qantas Frequent Flyer
In the comparison of the programs in the table below, the best-value redemption for each route is in bold, and you can see that Asia Miles wins overall, but has a restriction that you must redeem a return trip on LATAM; one-way awards are not permitted, unlike for flights on, say, Qantas and Japan Airlines.
All figures are for one-way travel (except Asia Miles). The first value is for Business Class / the second for Economy Class.
|Route||One-way distance (miles)||Asia Miles||AAdvantage Miles||BA Avios||Qantas Points|
|Melbourne - Santiago||7010||120,000 / 60,000 (return)||82,500 / 45,000||150,000 / 50,000||104,000 / 56,000|
|Sydney - Auckland||1340||50,000 / 30,000 (return)||25,000 / 15,000||20,000 / 10,000||38,000 / 20,000|
|Sydney - Santiago (direct on Qantas)||7040||70,000 / 40,000 (one-way)||82,500 / 45,000||150,000 / 50,000||96,000 / 45,000|
|Sydney - Auckland - Santiago||7330||120,000 / 60,000 (return)||82,500 / 45,000||150,000 / 50,000||104,000 / 56,000|
Apart from these examples, as South America is a relatively expensive air travel market, intra- or inter-country hops within the continent may also represent a good use of your points.
Through Asia Miles
Asia Miles offers the best value for three out of the four chosen routes, which is to be expected, however, a big consideration is that redemptions on LATAM through Asia Miles require you to book a return trip, so this is not a good option if you are looking for a one-way ticket.
You’ll need to call Asia Miles to make a LATAM booking.
Read more: Guide to making Asia Miles redemptions
Through American AAdvantage
AAdvantage offers the second-best avenue for redemptions on LATAM.
Again, you’ll have to phone the call centre.
Read more: Introduction to AAdvantage
Through British Airways Executive Club
Using Avios is the best way to get value on the Sydney to Auckland flight, as it only costs 20,000 Avios for a one-way Business Class ticket.
On the other routes, using Avios represents poor value.
Through Qantas Frequent Flyer
Qantas is up there with BA in offering the poorest value of the four options.
With the launch of a new direct service from Melbourne to Santiago, and the existing one-stop service through Auckland from Sydney, LATAM is a good option to consider if travelling to South America.
Asia Miles and AAdvantage are the two programs that represent the best value, with British Airways Executive Club and Qantas Frequent Flyer trailing behind.