This Obscure Frequent Flyer Program Can Be an Excellent Deal for Short Flights (but It’s NOT Easy)

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This Obscure Frequent Flyer Program Can Be an Excellent Deal for Short Flights (but It’s NOT Easy)

Million Mile SecretsThis Obscure Frequent Flyer Program Can Be an Excellent Deal for Short Flights (but It’s NOT Easy)Million Mile Secrets Team

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Did you know LATAM Airlines is the largest airline in South America?  Created from the 2015 merger of LAN Airlines and TAM Airlines, LATAM has hubs in Santiago, Lima, São Paulo, and Bogota.   These cities are a great jumping-off point from the US to almost anywhere you might want to travel in South America. 

LATAM’s frequent flier program is called LATAM Pass.  And it just went through a big change (more on that in a second!).

Because LATAM uses a distance-based award chart, like British Airways, you can get very good deals redeeming LATAM miles for short-haul flights on oneworld partners like American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and more.  But LATAM Pass points are tricky to earn!

This Obscure Frequent Flyer Program Can Be An Excellent Deal For Short Flights But Its NOT Easy
LATAM Miles Are Great for Getting to South America – but You Can Also Redeem Them for Partner Flights All Over the World!

I’ll share the recent changes to the LATAM Pass program.  And show you when it might make sense to collect and redeem LATAM miles!

LATAM Pass Changes 2018

Link:   LATAM Pass

Because most countries in Latin America use kilometers to measure distance, LATAM Pass also used kilometers in its loyalty program.  This made for some confusing comparisons!

But as of early this year, LATAM stopped using kilometers as their award program currency.  But what they switched to depends on what country you’re in!  This doesn’t necessarily make things less complicated.

This Obscure Frequent Flyer Program Can Be An Excellent Deal For Short Flights But Its NOT Easy
LATAM Pass Points vs Miles – They Mean the Same Thing!

For example, in North America, Europe, Brazil, and Paraguay, they’re LATAM Pass “points.  But everywhere else, they’re LATAM Pass “miles.”

LATAM is not 100% consistent with this, so if you go through their website, you’ll see “points” in some places and “miles” in others.  Sometimes you’ll see both used right next to each other!  The important thing to know is that whether you see “LATAM Pass Miles” or “LATAM Pass Points,” they both mean the same thing.

How Can You Use LATAM Pass Points?

LATAM is part of the oneworld airline alliance, which means you can redeem LATAM Pass points for award flights on any of the other 12 oneworld member airlines:

  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Jordanian
  • S7 Airlines
  • SriLankan Airlines 

They also have 2 non-alliance partners that are not part of oneworld:  Aeromexico and Alaska Airlines.

When Does It Make Sense to Redeem LATAM Pass Points for Partner Flights?

Link:   LATAM Pass Partner Award Chart

LATAM has a distance-based award chart for its partners, which means that the number of points you pay depends on how far you fly.  This can be a great deal for short flights that would otherwise be expensive to buy with cash.

Even though the table below shows one-way pricing, only round-trip award bookings are allowed.

This Obscure Frequent Flyer Program Can Be An Excellent Deal For Short Flights But Its NOT Easy
The One-Way Pricing for Short-Haul Partner Flights With LATAM Pass Points Is an Excellent Deal

Comparing this to British Airways’ distance-based award chart, a couple of great deals stand out.

1.   Flights Within North America Under 850 miles

Consider short, expensive flights like Chicago to Champaign, Illinois.  This 136-mile flight on partner American Airlines often costs $300 or more, and would cost 15,000 British Airways Avios points round-trip.  The same round-trip flight would cost just 7,500 LATAM Pass Points.

2.   International and Domestic Transcontinental First Class Flights

For flights with both Business Class and First Class, redeeming British Airways Avios points is usually a terrible deal.  The shortest flights start at 36,000 British Airways Avios points round-trip, and go all the way up to 400,000 British Airways Avios points round-trip for flights over 7,000 miles.  

Booking these flights with LATAM Pass points is usually much cheaper, starting at just 18,500 LATAM Pass points round-trip for short-haul flights.  

Here’s a great example of this!   You can fly in Qatar First Class from Doha to Paris for 83,500 LATAM Pass points round-trip.  The same flight costs 160,000 British Airways Avios points!  That’s almost half the price!

What About Flights on LATAM?

Link:   LATAM Mileage Calculator

Unfortunately, LATAM doesn’t appear to have a mileage award chart published for their own flights.  They do have a mileage calculator, which helps to give you an idea of what to expect.  But don’t get too excited!   Award flight prices on LATAM flights go up and down depending on demand and the price of a cash ticket, so the amounts are just the minimum charge for specific routes.

Here are examples of round-trip pricing:

  • Lima, Peru to São Paulo, Brazil:  17,500 LATAM Pass points in coach.  This route typically costs more than $600 round-trip!  The same flight would cost 25,000 American Airlines miles or British Airways Avios points
  • Los Angeles to Lima, Peru:  30,000 LATAM Pass points in coach or 62,500 LATAM Pass points in Business Class.  This flight in coach would cost 40,000 American Airlines miles or 50,000 British Airways Avios points
This Obscure Frequent Flyer Program Can Be An Excellent Deal For Short Flights But Its NOT Easy
LATAM Award Pricing on Their Own Flights Is Often Less Than What You’d Pay With Other Partner Miles

In reality, it’s hard to find these prices.  For example, from Lima to São Paulo, I did find flights for 17,500 LATAM Pass points round-trip, but they usually had connections in out-of-the-way places like Santiago, Chile and Iguazu Falls, Brazil, which adds 4+ hours to a 5-hour trip.  

Non-stop flights were usually closer to 24,000 LATAM Pass points round-trip, but that’s still a good deal compared to cash prices, and even offers a very slight savings over booking with American Airlines miles. 

And you can book a lot more LATAM flights with LATAM Pass points than you can with partner programs like British Airways Avios points or Alaska Airlines miles.  So make sure you check and compare prices for the specific dates you’re looking to travel.  Don’t just rely on LATAM’s points calculator!

Before You Book an Award Flight, Here’s What to Know

There are a handful of important things to know before you get ready to use your LATAM Pass points to book a ticket.

  • Only round-trip tickets can be booked with LATAM Pass Points (no one-ways are allowed)
  • Open-jaw tickets (for example, Los Angeles to New York, returning New York to San Francisco) are allowed, as long as both the first and last city are in the same region
  • Changes and cancellations are allowed, with fees ranging from $20 to $300 depending on how long the flight is and how far in advance you change or cancel.  (You can pay for cancellations with LATAM Pass Points, but it’s not a great deal.  At best, 1 LATAM Pass point = 1.06 cents.)
This Obscure Frequent Flyer Program Can Be An Excellent Deal For Short Flights But Its NOT Easy
LATAM Pass Allowed You to Pay for Changes and Refunds With Cash or Points

Also, LATAM Pass points expire within 3 years unless you fly on LATAM.  This gets a little complicated, but it’s important.  

  • Points earned from partner airlines, credit cards, or anything other than a LATAM flight expire at the end of the 3rd calendar year from when you earn the points.  
    • This means if you transfer Starwood points to LATAM Pass points in March 2019, the LATAM Pass points will expire on December 31, 2021.  
  • The only way to extend this expiration date is by taking a flight on LATAM.  When you credit a LATAM flight to your account, the expiration date of all of your points gets extended until 36 months from the date of that flight.
    • Using the same example, if you take a LATAM flight in September 2021, then all of your points (including the ones you transferred from Starwood) remain valid until December 31, 2023.

The LATAM website can be a little buggy.  LATAM hasn’t quite finished the integration of the old LAN and TAM websites, so when I was researching this post, I ran across a lot of broken links and things that didn’t quite work as expected.  Be patient, try going back and refreshing the page if you get a system error, and use the site’s built-in Help Desk search rather than using Google (which has lots of outdated links).

How to Book an Award Flight

You can book LATAM flights online at latam.com.  The website can be a little glitchy, but it’s pretty straightforward.  Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, there’s no way to search or book partner awards online.  You’ll need to search for low-level partner award flights on another airline’s website, then call one of LATAM’s contact centers and book over the phone.  In the US, the number is 866-435-9526.

How to Earn LATAM Pass Points

There are a couple of different options for earning LATAM Pass points.

1.   US Bank Offers 3 Different LATAM Credit Cards

If you’re new to miles and points, you should NOT apply for these cards!  Instead, consider these top card offers first, because they’re much more valuable.

  • The LATAM Visa Signature card, which offers a 20,000 LATAM Pass point bonus after your first purchase.  This card has a $75 annual fee (waived for the first year)
  • The LATAM Visa card, which offers a 15,000 LATAM Pass point sign-up bonus after your first purchase.  The $45 annual fee is waived the first year.
  • The LATAM Visa Secured card, which is designed for customers with limited credit history.  This card is “secured” by a savings account equal to the card’s credit limit – for example, if you put $1,000 in the attached savings account, you can spend up to $1,000 on the card. It has a 5,000 LATAM Pass point sign-up bonus and a $25 annual fee (waived the first year).

2.   Transfer Points From Starwood to LATAM Pass

Before LATAM Pass switched from kilometers to points, you could transfer Starwood points to LATAM Pass Kilometers at a rate of 1 Starwood point = 1.5 LATAM Pass kilometers, with a bonus of 7,500 LATAM Pass kilometers for every 20,000 Starwood points transferred.  

This option seems to have been quietly removed from the Starwood website.  When asked on Twitter, Starwood (@SPGAssist) simply said “we are unable to complete Starpoints transfers from SPG to LATAM airlines at this time.  We are working to resolve this issue as soon as possible.”

Hopefully this option will return soon, though I’m guessing if it returns, it will be a 1:1 transfer rather than a 1:1.5 ratio.

Bottom Line

LATAM Pass points aren’t easy to earn, but can be valuable for short flights and for international First Class.  For example, you’ll pay fewer LATAM Pass points for very short flights in North America on oneworld partner American Airlines, compared to using American Airlines miles or partner British Airways Avios points.

Currently, the option to transfer Starwood points to LATAM isn’t available, likely because of recent changes LATAM made to their loyalty program.  But I hope this method for earning LATAM points returns soon!  Otherwise, US Bank issues 3 LATAM credit cards, but I wouldn’t consider them unless you have a very specific redemption in mind and have already applied for more valuable credit cards.

Keep in mind, LATAM Pass points will expire and can only be extended by flying on LATAM.

Have you redeemed LATAM Pass points for award flights?  I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments!

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Compared to the U.S. my country (Peru) doesnt have a lot of good frequent flyer programs so LATAM pass is pretty much the best way to go for us. I´ve been saving miles for years now and I really didn´t know how to get the most out of them until I read this article, now I´m pretty sure I want to redeem that first class on Qatar, I just hope LATAM actually have them available! (I have a bad feeling about it though) I will let you guys now!

It looks like Latam has just converted to Multiplus. It’s very confusing. The flight I was looking at has now tripled in required points (although the cash price is very reasonable). Anyone know anything about multiplus and if latam points will be ‘converted’ to multiplus points at a different value?

From what I can see on the LATAM site it looks like 1 LATAM point = 1 Multiplus point

You left out LATAM to other than South America. Example: AA from DFW to GRU and LATAM to South Africa is the shortest Oneworld to South Africa.

Can you please clarify what you mean?

The article only covered travel within South America but omitted LATAM elsewhere.