Recently, I was able to book a LATAM Airlines Business Class flight from Lima to Easter island for 35,000 Alaskan Airlines miles.
Travel within South America inevitably involves some travel on LATAM Airlines, as it is the largest airline in South America. Being part of the Oneworld alliance (for now) enables partner mileage award redemptions from American Airlines, British Airlines, and Qantas, as well as from non-Oneworld members such as Alaska Airlines. Many of their long haul routes include the modern Boeing 787, which is one of my preferred planes to travel on.
The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan has pretty decent redemptions rates on LATAM flights, especially for business class flights. For flights within South America, the economy redemption rate is 12,500 miles and business class is 25,000 miles. For flights to Easter island, business class goes for 35,000 miles. Normally the business class flights from Lima to Easter Island costs $2,500 USD. So, 35,000 miles for an award redemption is a good deal.
To find LATAM award availability, I searched the British Airways award search engine. After I found award availability on British Airways, I called Alaska Airlines to book since it is not possible to book LATAM awards using alaskaair.com
An additional benefit of the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is the ability to add stopovers at no extra mileage cost, even on one-way flights. However, when I tried to add a stopover in Lima from Cusco, the Alaskan Airlines agent said no stopovers were allowed when traveling to Easter Island. Not a big deal since I was able to book an LATAM award flight using 6,000 British Airways miles for the flight from CUZ-LIM.
LATAM Airlines 601 & 841 Lima (LIM) to Santiago (SCL) to Easter Island (IPC) Cabin: Business Seat: 1L & 5A Aircraft: Boeing 787-8 Duration: 3h, 40m & 5h, 25m
Cabin Atmosphere (5/5)
As always, the Boeing 787 delivers an exceptional cabin atmosphere due to enhanced air pressure and humidity control features. The large windows and tall ceiling make the cabin feel much more open and spacious compared to older airplanes. LATAM splurged on the enhanced lighting package, which I find helps with jet lag when traversing multiple time zones.
Business class was a bit tight in a 2-2-2 configuration similar to Ethiopian and South African Airways. Nevertheless, it still had plenty of leg room along with ventilation nozzles to ensure I didn’t overheat during the flight.
Two flights were required to get from Lima to Easter Island with a layover in Santiago (SCL). Each flight had different seat designs but similar cabin layouts. The first seat had an ugly red/orange color made of cloth that looked a bit tattered. Aside from the tired looking seats and seat controls, the entertainment system worked well and the outside of the seat looked modern and sleek.
The second flight had better looking cloth seats with seat controls in better condition, but the back of the seats looked a bit retro.
The entertainment system looked the same but had that same old remote I’ve been seeing the last 15 years. Also, there are annoying commercials before every show or movie you watch. If you are used to Netflix, this is annoying.
The food provided in LATAM airlines business class was well balanced with a good variety, but certainly not on the level of Etihad or Qatar Airways. However, its the best food I’ve have in business class in the western hemisphere.
The airport staff is the worst I’ve ever experienced. In Lima, I almost missed my flight because there was some sort of issue with them printing the ticket. No one spoke English and could tell me what the problem was but I stood there nervously waiting for my ticket for about an hour with no information. Apparently, it had something to do with booking the award with Alaska Airlines. Luckily, I made it to the plane with 15 minutes to spare.
Then, after a 16 hour layover in Santiago, I arrived at the airport 2.5 hours before my flight and almost missed my next flight due to poor LATAM agent service. I dropped my luggage off and got my ticket at the business class check-in line and proceeded to the business class passport control line. After standing in that line, the lady behind the passport desk said a lot of words in Spanish that I did not understand. Airline desk staff then said I had to board from downstairs. Okay, how about tell me that before I go to the wrong line. Apparently, Easter Island has all these unique boarding control procedures.
So I went to domestic terminal downstairs and after I waited on that line a while they said I had to go to international terminal. After waiting on international terminal passport control line downstairs, they said I needed to have customs form. Naturally, this form was no where to be found at the line and I was told to go to the LATAM agent at the front of the airport.
After this, I was now sprinting my overweight body all across this airport in a total panic since these flights to Easter Island and Tahiti are not frequent and I had some expensive non-refundable hotel stays in Bora Bora that I preferred not to miss.
Unfortunately, this was not the end of all this. When I got the the LATAM agent, I told them I needed the customs form for Easter island and they said, “you missed your flight” and laughed. Uh, okay, I already checked my luggage and had my ticket given to me, about 90 minutes ago. They still refused to give me the customs form.
For a good while I had to beg and plead with them to give me the customs form and only after I lost my mind and screamed like a banshee while slamming my hands on the counter, did they finally and reluctantly give me the form. Before handing the form to me, the agent condescendingly said, “next time get the customs form from the website”. Wow, I would have loved to throw a bunch of four letter words at them but I had no time and took the forms like a baton and sprinted to the proper Easter Island passport control line. Luckily, I made it to the plane on time without going into cardiac arrest.
Lesson Learned: Get Easter Island customs form online and go to special Easter Island passport control downstairs near international terminal (even though technically Easter Island is a domestic flight).
As for the flight crew service, it was fine.
With LATAM currently in the process of departing the Oneworld alliance, due to Delta acquiring a 20% stake in LATAM, its likely this kind of amazing award booking will no longer be possible. Delta pretty much has the worst award redemptions and I don’t foresee me booking any LATAM award flights once all this is finalized.
Having said that, I heard it may take a year for all these changes to go into effect. So, if you are thinking about flying to South America, now is the time. There are some amazing destinations that only LATAM flies to such as Easter Island. I recently flew on one of the coolest flight routes ever which started in Cusco, Peru and ended in Tahiti with a stop in Easter Island, all on LATAM Airlines using miles.
Using a combination of British Airways and Alaskan Airlines Miles to book these flights, I saved over $3,500. See the redemptions I used below:
While the LATAM airport staff is the worst and the food nothing spectacular, the new 787 airplanes and lie flat seats make business class points redemptions a great value. With LATAM departing the Oneworld alliance and award redemptions potentially becoming less generous, now is the time to start planning a trip to South America using Oneworld/Alaskan miles.