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Can you use Avios to reach Easter Island or the Galapagos with LATAM?

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It is not often that we write about LATAM, the South American airline that formed out of LAN Chile and Brazilian carrier TAM earlier this decade. It is, however, part of oneworld and therefore an interesting opportunity for earning and spending Avios if you ever find yourself in South America.

What set off my interest in LATAM is that it has regular flights to the Galapagos Islands.  You can also use LATAM to reach Easter Island.

Whilst I haven’t expanded on it here, LATAM is also the only oneworld option if you want to fly to the Falkland Islands!  LATAM flies to the Falklands (airport code MPN) from Santiago a couple of times per week, with a stop in Punta Arenas.

(EDIT: there are some fantastic comments under this article from people who have done this trip – I strongly suggest you read them after you’ve read the main article.)

The Galapagos Islands on Avios

The Galapagos Islands are technically part of Ecuador. Since we last looked at this topic in 2015, LATAM has added two additional daily flights to the Galapagos.

The main airport is Galapagos Baltra (GPS) to which LATAM flies daily from Guayaquil (GYE) and Quito (UIO) in Ecuador.  From Guayaquil you can also fly directly to San Cristóbal (SCY), the easternmost island in the Galapagos.

The new flights make travelling to the Galapagos significantly more convenient and just goes to show how popular the Galapagos have become in the last few years.

How to visit the Galapagos on Avios

In theory, you can use Avios points on this route.  In practice, the system is a little bizarre. You can see reward flight availability if you making an Avios booking via ba.com although, be warned, it will not recognise the Galapagos airports.  You must use the airport codes GPS or SCY and then click through to complete the search.

I struggled finding availability but managed to find reward seats open for various dates in February 2020. Pricing appears to be 15,000 Avios plus £50 in charges, one way. Given that you can get round trip tickets for around £150 for cash this might not make the most sense.

Weirdly, although LATAM flies directly to Baltra from both Quito and Guaraquil, it is impossible to fly direct on an Avios ticket. You are basically forced to make a connecting stop, often with a layover of three hours or more. No doubt this increases the Avios cost.

For example, if you want to fly from Quito to Baltra, the only available flights are via Guaraquil. If you change your departure airport to Guaraquil for the same dates, however, you are shown flights that connect via Quito. It is, frankly, absurd.

Still, at least Baltra is available. When I tried finding Avios redemptions from Guayaquil to San Cristóbal, a route that LATAM flies, the British Airways website claims it does not exist. According to this FlyerTalk thread, however, it has been booked in the past

The bottom line is that LATAM appears to restrict redemption seats to members of its own frequent flyer scheme LATAM Pass.  This is a very tricky scheme to earn miles in if you are based in the UK with the best route being from Marriott Bonvoy.  You could also go from American Express Membership Rewards to Marriott Bonvoy (2:3) and onto LATAM Pass (1:1, or 1:1.25 if you transfer 60,000 at a time).

You may find it easier to simply pay for a seat.  From the UK LATAM site it prices at between £150 to £300+ in economy for the two-hour return flight.  Some online reports say that LATAM flights are often cheaper if booked on the Spanish-language Chilean site.

How to visit Easter Island with Avios

Easter Island on Avios

The other LATAM redemption that might appeal is to Easter Island (airport code IPC) which Wikipedia describes as ‘the most remote airport in the world’.  As it is 2,300 miles from Santiago, this may well be true.

LATAM also flies to Papeete from Easter Island.

From Santiago, it is a 6 hour flight which costs as little as £250 in economy, return in August, although it can increase significantly.  Again, looking at discussion online, prices appear to be lower if booked on the local Chilean version of the LAN site or via a local travel agent when you arrive.

Unfortunately, yet again, LATAM appears to be playing games with Avios reward availability.  This Flyertalk thread says that LATAM (then LAN) was making reward seats available for one day – and one day only, 330 days out – to oneworld partners back in 2014.  Nothing seems to have changed because I couldn’t find any availability during my search.

I would not despair totally.  Looking at Flyertalk it seems that LATAM can and does change its availability policy almost at random.  If you were thinking of heading to this part of the world, it is worth keeping in touch with the LATAM forum on Flyertalk to see what is happening with seating.

The LATAM website is here if you want to have a look at pricing and routes.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

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Comments

  1. Louise says:

    I’m flying from SCL to Easter Island this August and managed to pick up a return in Business for £384. Given that earns 280 Tier points, I thought it would be crazy not to. Economy was a little cheaper but given the 5 hour journey, not markedly so.

  2. Prins Polo says:

    Another good and often overlooked redemption is Air Tahiti Nui from Tokyo Narita to PPT. Twice a week, bookable with AA miles (40k plus around $30 for business class).

    • marcw says:

      or 15k in economy with united mileage plus, with Air New Zealand. Don´t know about business though.

  3. Lady London says:

    Well Rob with this article you seem to have do many true adventurers who have kindly posted… really interesting the routings people have worked out!

  4. LondonFoodie says:

    When I was planning my honeymoon it was almost impossible to book the IPC PPT leg with Avios and cash one-way was crazy. Was trying for a RTW but that’s a famously hard ticket to book.

  5. Jill. (kinkell) says:

    Such a lot of great stories and advice.Given me ideas I’d never thought of. Wondering how to incorporate into our Galapagos and Peru trip .
    Thanks All

  6. If you can navigate the LATAM Latin website, then prices are usually a lot lot cheaper than the English one!
    Last time I looked at Easter Island from Santiago it was 12,500 avios+£9 taxes.

  7. I went a few years ago to Easter Island over Xmas but never managed to see any availability on avios so had to buy in the end an expensive cash ticket.
    I understand Latam is starting also a weekly flight to the Falklands from Sao Paulo, Brazil with a stopover in Argentina (cordoba) but again no avios seats seems to exist (yet) which is a pity as i had promised my little daughter we are going again to S America for Xmas and see penguins this time. Lucky i have found seats with Latam to USH for only 6000 AAdv and 1,5 usd… (Rob, thanks for recommending the MBNA AA card when the 35K bonus was offered, these points have given exceptional value : Etihad biz class from maldives to London for 30K and a few usd and now clearing the balance to fly to Tierra del Fuego)

  8. Some good tips here. We have a South America tip next year. Using Iberia in Bus. To Rio.
    Cheap flight to Iguazo. Then using LATAM to get to Lima 4.5 hr flight 11,000 miles and £36.00.
    I am going to use Avios to get to Quito and then cash for a return to Galapagos . Finally Business back to the UK from Quito via Madrid
    Rule of thumb is use Avios for the 1 ways and use cash on the Returns fir internal South America

  9. aceman says:

    A routing i did a couple of years ago was:

    LAX-NRT-NOU-PPT-IPC-(SCL)-LAX

    or in english Los Angeles, tokyo, new caledonia, tahiti, easter island back to LA via santiago.

    The easter island airport was paid for by NASA who wanted an emergency shuttle landing site far away from any other traffic, so LATAM actually fly beautiful modern dreamliners from there, which were great even in economy.

    The only thing to remark is the flight times are pretty horrible, leaving at like 3am, so you always need one night more hotel reservation then you think. Fascinating place

  10. Last spring I and a friend did KBP-LHR-SCL-LIM-UIO-GPS/SCY-GYE-LIM-SCL-IPC-SCL-LHR-KBP.

    All on avios except KBP-LHR-KBP and SCL-IPC-SCL

    Some words of advice when flying to Galapagos – make sure you don’t have any food or other plant or meat or fish in any of your bags when you go through the pre security screening check. The agents are very thorough, and even if you own up that you have got some prohibited item in your bag that you forgot to throw away, they will give you a written warning. If they find something that you haven’t owned up to then I guess there might be some penalty.

    Also when we flew the SCL-IPC-SCL sectors were flown on an ageing 767 instead of a 787. The 767 has fewer J seats than the 787 and as I was last to check in I was bumped down to Y.

    Trying to spend the $500 compensation voucher on the LAN website was a nightmare that I never want to go through again.

    That said, reward flights are available to and from Galapagos but you may have to search for sectors separately as I did and then call BA in order to get them put together into a single PNR.

    One other observation – we were able to select seats on the LAN Ecuador (XL) flights, which are one class Y aircraft, in the extra legroom seats at the front that you normally have to pay for.

    Other than that it was a really wonderful trip, and Easter Island and the Galapagos are highly recommended. That said, two full days on Easter Island should be more than enough. However, if you want to see the three main Galapagos islands and do some diving etc then you have to plan flights and inter Island transfers carefully as boats are generally twice per day and diving trips depart early in the morning.

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