LATAM is one of Alaska Airlines’ global partners, and LATAM is Alaska Airlines’ only South American airline partner. LATAM’s network spans several countries in South America with hubs in Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia.
LAN and TAM airlines merged in 2012 to form the larger LATAM, but each airline subsidiary is in different countries. Due to international ownership and operation laws, each of LATAM airlines has different operating certificates. Currently, Alaska Airlines still only allows awards on select LATAM subsidiaries. Only flights that were LAN flights before the LATAM rebranding in 2016 are eligible for Alaska Awards.
How to Find LATAM Awards
Alaska Airlines website does not display award space for partner LATAM. To book Mileage Plan award tickets on LATAM one must call Alaska Airlines. Alaska Airlines agents are willing to search for award space, but it is always better to look yourself for award space on a third-party site. Once award space is found, then try to have an Alaska agent reconstruct the finding in their booking engine, Direct Access.
To locate award space on LATAM, which Alaska Airlines is likely to have access to, search British Airways Executive Club or Qantas Red. Both British Airways and Qantas require membership to their frequent flyer programs and both are free to sign up for. Both Qantas and British Airways award search engines display LATAM awards.
When searching for award space, it is best to search each flight segment individually. Do not attempt to search from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires as a single search, as LATAM does not fly this route direct. Due to search functions irregularities, it’s best to break down the search. Instead try searching Los Angeles to Lima and then Lima to Buenos Aires. By searching by individual segment, it will allow the opportunity to find mix cabin itineraries or extended layovers and stopovers.
To find all of LATAM routes check out LATAM route maps or the Oneworld interactive route map. This will help you narrow down routes which LATAM flies. In turn, it will also help determine which routes and segments to search on both British Airways and Qantas’s websites for awards.
When searching for award flights, ensure that LAN operates the flight and the airline code LA displays on the flight number. I will explain the importance of this more below. British Airways makes it very clear if the flight is operated by LAN or TAM. Qantas search engine is not as clear, but the flight number always displays in the search with the two letter airline code and operating carrier. On Qantas website if the carrier is LATAM Brazil, the flight is not eligible for an Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan award.
Redeem Miles with LAN not TAM
LATAM was formed in 2012 after the merger between LAN and TAM, hence the name LATAM. The two airlines have separate operating certificates due to ownership laws. Despite being rebranded as one, they are still two very different airlines. This is similar to how KLM and Air France are now AF-KLM but still operate as two airlines. British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia, and Vueling are all owned by International Airline Group (IAG), but still remain separate entities despite having one owner. LAN and TAM, or LATAM, are no different from AFKLM and IAG.
Keeping all that in mind, know that LAN partners with Alaska Airlines and TAM does not. This is not very clear as Alaska advertises their global partner as LATAM. In actuality, Alaska only partners with LAN. All LAN flights carry the code LA and are operated by LAN. TAM is the operating carrier on flights with the code JJ. Both TAM and LAN codeshare with each other, and nearly every flight carries the LA and JJ codeshare flight numbers. The only problem, Alaska can only book award flights on flights operated by LAN with LA flight numbers. If the flight has a JJ flight number and TAM is the operating carrier, Alaska cannot book an award.
To further explain, lets look at a LATAM flight operated by TAM with a LAN codeshare number. TAM’s flight from Miami and Sao Paulo. The flight number is LA 4922 operated by JJ 8095. In this example, the LATAM flight cannot be booked as an Alaska Mileage Plan Awards. Since JJ is the operating carrier, Alaska miles do not work.
Hopefully all of this is making sense. To make it simple, when looking for Mileage Plan awards on LATAM, always looks for flights operated by LAN (LA). As a rule of thumb, any international flight departing from Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina, or Chile to anywhere except to/from Brazil is a LAN flight. Flights within Brazil and from Brazil to the USA, Central America, or Europe are always TAM flights. On TAM flights, Alaska Mileage Plan awards tickets are not possible. For flights to and from Brazil within Latin America, the flight could be a LAN or TAM flight. In this case, look at the operating carrier to know if it’s eligible for Alaska Airlines award travel. If the flight number begins with LA, it is eligible for an Alaska Mileage Plan award ticket.
No Change in Sight
As long as LAN and TAM have different operating certificates and Alaska partners with LA and not JJ, it is unlikely that Alaska Mileage Plan awards will be eligible for travel on TAM flights. The only good new, many TAM flights are now eligible for Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan accrual when booked with a LAN flight number. Currently Alaska allows the earning of miles on most LAN flights.
The following flight numbers which begin with LA will earn Alaska Miles
Many of the LAN flights in the 4000 and above range are actually TAM flights and are codeshares. Similar to the example above, flight 4922. If a ticket is purchased as a LAN codeshare with the LA flight number on the ticket, then the ticket will earn Alaska Mileage Plan miles. Despite the ability to earn miles on LAN codeshare flights operated by TAM, Alaska does not yet allow award tickets on TAM operated flights.
I have called Alaska and attempted to book TAM flights with LAN codeshare flight numbers numerous times to no avail. Every time I am unsuccessful. It does not matter if it is a domestic Brazil flight, a flight between two countries in South America, or between Brazil and the USA. It always fails. Alaska does not have access to award space on flights operated by TAM (JJ).
Currently, TAM only flies to the United States’ East Coast. TAM flies from Brazil to New York, Orlando and Miami. Alaska Airlines presence in TAM’s US destinations is minuscule. With few codeshare and connectivity opportunities for TAM passengers connecting onto Alaska Airlines, it is unlikely that TAM and Alaska will become partners. If TAM launches flights to the West Coast, then Alaska and TAM may consider a partnership.
As it now stands, it is unlikely that TAM and Alaska will partner up, which means Alaska’s LATAM partner is really only LA(TAM). If you are looking for an award flight to South America, search for space exclusively on LAN (LA) and do not get your hopes up with TAM flights. And as always, if you need any help, feel free to contact my award booking service.