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LATAM will break away from the Oneworld alliance effective May 1, 2020 following Delta's purchase of a 20% stake in the South American-based carrier. However, Delta didn't wait for the split to be finalized before launching its partnership with LATAM—which took effect on April 1, 2020.
That leaves a unique opportunity for this month only where travelers can use either AAdvantage miles or SkyMiles to book award flights on LATAM. Despite being in the midst of a pandemic, that makes now the perfect time to book a South American adventure.
- LATAM exits Oneworld alliance effective May 1, 2020. That's five months earlier than the original exit date of October 1, 2020 that was announced in late 2019.
- All facets of LATAM's relationship with American Airlines will cease effective May 1, 2020.
- This includes elite member benefits, reciprocal lounge access, and all mileage activities.
- This applies regardless of when the ticket was purchased, as long as the flight is on or after May 1, 2020.
- This also makes April 30, 2020 the last date you can redeem American miles for travel on LATAM.
- Agreements with most other Oneworld airlines will be maintained. Note that this doesn't include Royal Air Maroc, which was not a Oneworld member at the time of the announcement.
- Beginning April 1, 2020, travelers may earn and redeem LATAM Pass Miles on all Delta Air Lines flights.
What to Do Now
For immediate travel plans, this might not mean much. Travel plans for the next few months (or perhaps longer) are an afterthought in the wake of the global pandemic. However, any American Airlines loyalists with aspirations of a South American adventure may want to book award flights sooner rather than later. Similarly, LATAM members will need to fly before the end of April 2020 in order to have status and benefits recognized by American.
Global travel might be off the table for April 2020, but booking flights before May 1, 2020 would allow fliers to still redeem American Airlines miles for future LATAM flights.
As of April 1, Delta members may earn and redeem SkyMiles for travel on LATAM. Delta no longer publishes an award chart, but we have recreated one for flights originating in the United States.
Impacts on Future Flights
Given that LATAM intends to maintain relationships with almost every Oneworld airline, the major impacts of this expedited separation are limited to two airlines: American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. Effectively, LATAM is swapping one airline for the other with a brief overlap during April 2020.
During April 2020, both U.S.-based airlines have a full partnership with LATAM. But starting May 1, 2020, elite status benefits, mileage earning, and mileage redemptions for LATAM flights are only available to Delta frequent fliers.
Delta Air Lines
Delta loyalists now have two options for connecting flights in South America. LATAM joins Delta's existing partner Aerolíneas Argentinas. That means Delta fliers (and travelers not tied to a particular alliance) can reach virtually any spot on the continent using SkyMiles. That includes remote spots like Easter Island and Ushuaia, the world's southernmost commercial airport located at the tip of Argentina.
One example I've had my eye on for some time is a trip to Easter Island (IPC) from Santiago, Chile (SCL):
This 10-hour round-trip lie-flat business class journey would currently cost 60,000 American miles or a similar amount of Delta SkyMiles—quite a poor redemption value in either case. It makes much more sense to purchase the flight (with a card such as The Platinum Card® from American Express that earns 5x points on up to $500,000 of airfare purchases per year purchased directly through airlines) and credit to one of LATAM's partners—such as Delta.
Instead of spending a ton of miles for this redemption, you can earn over 7,000 Delta award miles, over 7,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM), and over 1,400 Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQD) from this $384 round-trip.
For trips to Easter Island, the edges of the earth and everywhere else LATAM flies, SkyMiles mileage earning follows the chart below, found on the Delta website:
After April 30, 2020, AAdvantage members can no longer earn or redeem American miles on LATAM flights. For these future flights, consider other frequent flier programs (perhaps Delta) for mileage crediting.
While American Airlines loyalists are losing the partnership with LATAM, other Oneworld partners will still exist. In particular, British Airways Avios remains a fantastic way to bounce around cities in South America.
For instance, a one-way economy flight from Lima, Peru to Quito, Ecuador in October 2020 on LATAM costs $326.
Through British Airways Avios, you can score the same flight for 9,000 Avios plus $39.74, for a rough redemption value of 3.2 cents per point. British Airways offers one of the most reasonable cancellation policies should travel plans need to change. Ticket cancellation costs the lesser of $55 or the taxes and fees for the ticket. In the example above, forfeiting the taxes and fees wins out.
Even if you don't have Avios, you can still take advantage of this sweet spot as British Airways is a transfer partner of both Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards. Both credit card issuers have offered transfer bonuses in the past as well, so there are times that it can require even fewer points to book these flights.
Leaving an airline alliance sounds like a major disruption, but given the timing of LATAM's Oneworld departure, expect minimal impacts. With COVID-19 bringing global travel to a halt, fewer fliers than usual will feel impacts during the transition.
For those flying LATAM before the end of April 2020, expect business as usual. But, when May 1st hits, forget any mental links you might have between American Airlines and LATAM.
For future travel, planning far ahead puts travelers in the best position to earn or redeem their preferred airline miles. Considering LATAM will maintain relationships with most Oneworld airlines, many options remain for points and miles redemptions on LATAM. Just make sure to act by the end of April 2020 if you want to use American Airlines miles for LATAM flights. Considering LATAM is the only Oneworld airline based in South America, think of this as an effective “last call” for the time being for booking intricate South American journeys with American miles.
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