With Delta purchasing a stake in LATAM, oneworld will be left with no airline covering Latin America.
What is LATAM and where do they fly?
LATAM is a South American airline which is the result of the 2012 merger of Chilean carrier LAN and Brazilian carrier TAM. It has four major hubs in:
- Santiago, Chile
- São Paulo, Brazil
- Lima, Peru
- Bogotá, Colombia
Their main operations are flights within South America and to North America and Europe. Australia-based travellers are most likely to fly them from Sydney or Melbourne to Santiago and then onwards throughout the continent.
Why is LATAM leaving oneworld?
US airline and SkyTeam alliance member Delta has announced that they will buy a 20% stake in LATAM for US$1.9 billion. They will also form a joint venture with the airline.
This alliance with Delta strengthens our company and enhances our leadership in Latin America by providing the best connectivity through our highly complementary route networks.
Delta’s other Latin American partners are Aerolíneas Argentinas in Argentina and Aeromexico in Mexico. Delta will be divesting its stake in Brazilian airline GOL.
This announcement follows a ruling from the Chilean Supreme Court that American Airlines and LATAM could not form the joint venture they had proposed.
As such, LATAM will leave oneworld, which has been confirmed by the alliance:
We are disappointed, but we respect their decision. They have been a valued long-term member of the alliance, and we wish them well.
The timeline for their departure is unknown. Until they leave the alliance, oneworld frequent flyers, including Qantas elite status holders, will continue to receive benefits such as lounge access and priority check-in and bagage.
This is a huge blow to oneworld, who will see their membership drop from 13 to 12 airlines. That compares to SkyTeam’s 19 and the 27 members of Star Alliance.
Will LATAM join SkyTeam?
It could go either way. Given that Delta is a SkyTeam member, LATAM may join the alliance after it leaves oneworld.
However, Delta is not too keen on SkyTeam and has indicated a preference for bilateral agreements instead, such as the one they have with Virgin Australia.
Does this mean Velocity may partner with LATAM?
Given that Delta and Virgin Australia are partners, it is possible that Velocity may link up with LATAM. This would give Velocity members the chance to finally use their points for travel to/from and within South America.
How will Qantas Frequent Flyer members be able to use points in South America moving forward?
It’s uncertain. On the one hand, given Qantas is a oneworld member, its frequent flyer members may lose the ability to earn and use Qantas Points on LATAM flights.
But on the other hand, Qantas and LATAM are also codeshare partners. Qantas and Delta are in different alliances but still both share bilateral agreements with airlines like China Airlines and WestJet. That means that it is possible that they both partner with LATAM.
Summing up: my take
This is disappointing news for oneworld, who see their alliance shrinking. Conversely, it’s a smart play by Delta, who will, with LATAM, be the market leader in five of the top six markets in Latin America.
The Qantas agreement with LATAM is uncertain. Therefore, if you want to use your Qantas Points (or Asia Miles, AAdvantage miles or Avios) on a LATAM flight, I would suggest you do so soon.
We have updated all of our guides mentioning LATAM with this news. And we will keep you abreast of further developments, including exactly when LATAM will leave oneworld and the effect this will have on Qantas Frequent Flyer members.
In this guide
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.
Destinations and key routes
Chilean-Brazilian airline LATAM has its main hubs in the following cities:
- Santiago, Chile
- São Paulo, Brazil
- Lima, Peru
- Bogotá, Colombia
From Australia’s largest city, there is one daily late-morning flight, arriving in Auckland in the afternoon. If connecting to Santiago, you’ll have a two-hour layover and overnight flight of about 12 hours to Chile.
From 27 October 2019, half of these flights will operate nonstop from Sydney to Santiago and vice versa.
Note that there is also a nonstop Qantas service between Sydney and Santiago, which operates 3-4 times a week depending on the season. If you can find award space and want to save 8,000-10,800 Qantas Points on the redemption, opting to fly with Qantas is a good choice. That’s because LATAM redemptions through Qantas Frequent Flyer fall into the more expensive partner award chart.
A nonstop service to Santiago from Australia’s cultural capital started in October 2017. On the way there it’s 13 hours and the way back is two more. This service operates three times a week.
It’s generally easier to find award space on this flight than the Sydney one.
All LATAM flights to and from Australia are on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. We have reviewed this product 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. However, it is let down by the lack of direct aisle access, average food and drink service, and limited frequency of flights.
Note that some international flights within South America operate a Premium Economy cabin in place of full-service Business Class.
If flying Business Class or holding elite status, 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
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.
The following table shows the points pricing for a one-way Business Class flight.
|Route||Qantas Frequent Flyer||Asia Miles||AAdvantage||British Airways Executive Club|
|Sydney – Auckland on Qantas||41,500||30,000||25,000||22,000|
|Sydney – Auckland on LATAM||43,800||30,000||25,000||22,000|
|Sydney – Santiago on Qantas||108,400||75,000||82,500||154,500|
|Sydney/Melbourne – Santiago on LATAM*||119,200||75,000||82,500||154,500**|
*The pricing is the same for all programs except British Airways regardless of whether you fly nonstop from Sydney to Santiago or via Auckland
**Sweet spot: if you are redeeming Avios and travelling via Auckland, then you will save Avios compared to a nonstop flight, i.e. you will pay 22,000 for Sydney to Auckland, and then 92,750 for Auckland to Santiago, for a total of 114,750 (instead of 154,500)
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.
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. Be sure to check who the operating carrier is—the different points pricing for Qantas flights compared to LATAM ones should indicate this.
LATAM is a good option to consider if travelling to South America. That’s because there are few alternatives (flying Qantas from Sydney or via Auckland with Air New Zealand).
Asia Miles and AAdvantage are the two programs that represent the best value for redemptions, with British Airways Executive Club and Qantas Frequent Flyer trailing behind.
Due to limited nonstop services from Oceania to South America, planning ahead—ideally when the award calendar opens at 330 days before departure for LATAM flights—is key to securing a redemption.
Have you flown LATAM before? What was your experience like?