LATAM Airlines Group, the largest airline in Latin America, has been a core member of the oneworld alliance for two decades. But soon this partnership will be history and those who’ve grown accustomed to getting around South American on points will be left in the Atacama Desert’s dust.
During the past 20 years the Chile-based LAN airline group acquired Brazilian TAM airlines and several subsidiaries throughout Latin America to comprise the airlines of today’s LATAM network: LATAM Argentina, LATAM Brasil, LATAM Chile, LATAM Colombia, LATAM Ecuador, LATAM Paraguay, and LATAM Perú. Through membership in the oneworld alliance, frequent flyers were able to earn and redeem points on LATAM’s services to 137 destinations in 24 countries.
Through the years, LATAM’s mileage redemption rates have not skyrocketed like other airlines, presenting huge bargains for cashing out miles to fly LAN using oneworld loyalty programs like American Airlines Advantage and British Airways Avios. Even in 2020, those cashing out Advantage miles on LATAM pay a mere 6,000 miles for domestic flights within Peru or Colombia, 6,000 miles for domestic flights within Ecuador, Chile, and Argentina, and 7,500 miles for flights within Brazil. Considering domestic routes in Latin America are typically exorbitant when paying cash (think: hundreds upon hundreds of dollars for 90-minute flights), these redemptions represent some of the greatest values in the esoteric world of points and miles.
Sadly, after two decades, the points fiesta is coming to an end on April 30, 2020. In late 2019, Delta bought a 20% stake in LATAM in its quest to grow in the Latin American market. As part of the purchase agreement, Delta paid an undisclosed fee to get LATAM out of the oneworld alliance. The exit was scheduled for October 1, 2020, but in a surprise move, LATAM and Delta have recently accelerated this departure to May 1, 2020, five months earlier than expected.
Given this news, if you have been planning that bucket list trip to the Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu, Easter Island, Patagonia, or the Atacama Desert, we suggest booking your award tickets NOW. Fortunately, you can book LATAM award seats through oneworld carriers up to and including April 30, 2020, with travel as far out as early 2021. LATAM Pass frequent flyer program members can also redeem miles for award seats on oneworld carriers until and including April 30, 2020.
Now that LATAM has started its codeshare agreement with Delta, a frequent flyer reciprocity program will begin on April 1, 2020. As of that date, there will be reciprocal mileage earning and redemptions for flights. And while it will be gone from the oneworld alliance, LATAM does plan to maintain frequent flyer agreements with some of oneworld member airlines, including British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Iberia, and Qatar Airways. We’re not sure how the new, one-off bilateral frequent flyer agreements will play out, but we do know that the valuable redemption opportunities through, say, American Airlines will disappear completely. And we also know that Delta charges a small fortune for redemptions on partner airlines, so we don’t expect any great redemption opportunities even when LATAM and Delta link their frequent flyer programs. All this to say, review your bucket list, get into planning mode, and grab those award seats now!