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.
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.
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.)