How to search LAN award space on British Airways website even when they don’t want to show you space

Reader Daniel asked the following question on the “Ask Lucky” page of the blog:

Do you know of any ways to see LAN availability for AA members within South America online? I’m trying to book some short hops in Chile / Argentina, and the smaller airports (IQQ, ARI, etc.) don’t show up on the BA site.

When it comes to searching OneWorld award availability I find the American website to be the easiest to use. The catch is that they only show award availability on a handful of their partners, including British Airways and Qantas.

If I’m looking to search award availability on Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, LAN, etc., I’ll usually just use the British Airways website. But a while back it became a lot less user friendly for actually searching award space on many LAN flights. I’m not sure if this is a real glitch or a convenient “glitch” given that many of these redemptions represent an excellent value and they don’t want to make it easy to book them, but regardless there’s an easy way to get around it.

Say you want to fly from SCL (Santiago, Chile) to ARI (Arica, Chile) — a route operated by LAN — as Daniel does. Usually you’d go to the BA website and enter the origin, destinations, and dates first.

However instead of the next page giving you the results as would usually be the case, it returns an error message saying that destination doesn’t exist, and suggests other logical alternatives, like Molde, Norway.

But there’s a way to trick the system into showing you the space. The website seems to validate the destination airport though not the origin airport at the time of the search. In the last search the system recognized SCL though didn’t recognize ARI. So instead try making ARI your origin and SCL your destination. Just enter an arbitrary outbound date and the return date you were originally looking for.

The search will now return results for both directions without giving you a hard time.

This works for just about all the routes that LAN operates that otherwise don’t display. At the very least the website recognizes Santiago, Lima, and Buenos Aires, out of which LAN operates most of their flights.

While this is useful for searching space, unfortunately it doesn’t really help with booking one-way awards, since the results you’ll get will be roundtrip and originate at the destination. That being said if you wanted to use British Airways Avios to make the booking I’d suggest calling them up and explaining the website wouldn’t let you book the itinerary because it didn’t recognize the cities, and they should hopefully waive the phone booking fee.

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the tip. Have you noticed a big decrease in LAN availability between the US and South America? I’ve looked at a bunch of dates in the fall and winter to SCL and LIM from the East Coast and found nothing.

  2. @ Andrew — It’s definitely a bit tougher than in the past, especially out of LAX and SFO. That being said, I’ve still found availability out of JFK and MIA to be fairly good — not amazing, but definitely not impossible to find either, in my experience.

  3. MileValue had a pretty much identical post over a month ago (http://milevalue.com/the-big-trick-for-searching-ba-com/). I have since used the information in that post to book several flights within Peru. Note that this isn’t any help if neither your origin or destination are major cities. For instance, when I was searching for CUZ-JUL, I couldn’t find anything even using this trick.

  4. I think with quantas website you can do the same trick, and for both quantas or BA awards, if you use KVS tool, they do not validate either the origin or destination so you can do a straight search there too.

  5. I am looking for flights from LAX – LIM. It seems random to me what availability I see on BA.com. For example, there are flights that show on the LAN website as costing 30k LAN points which don’t show up on BA, but a flight the same day on LAN that requires 80k LAN points does show up BA. Should I just not trust the flight search on BA and I can just call and give them flight numbers, or is it true that only the flights shown on BA.com are actually available?

  6. @ Kevin — If I’m not mistaken LAN does (in part) release different space to their own members than to partner airlines, so that’s probably why the space is different.

  7. Lucky, thank you for the reply. So I guess basically the question is- if I see a space available for 30k points on Lan.com (bottom tier) but not on BA.com, I need to call BA and trust what the representative says about whether there is space on that flight bookable with Avios?

  8. @ Kevin — Well I’d look at space on ba.com first. If it doesn’t show the space then chances are it’s not bookable through BA. That being said there are instances of availability discrepancies, so it can’t hurt to call and double check.

  9. How do you get around this for domestic LAN Argentina flights that are ex AEP? British Airways only seems to recognize EZE.

  10. @ Glenn — That one’s much tougher. Probably best off using LAN website and then calling airline you want to book through to see if they have access to that availability.

  11. Hi Ben

    I am running into a situation with booking award travel with us airway miles. I am looking for LAX or SFO to either Lisbon or Barcelona and then onward to Tokyo

    I can book the first part of the flight right now but not the later portion yet(april). Do you usually recommend to just book it and pay the change fee later in case there are no award space later for the originating flight?

  12. thanks for the ’roundtrip’ search trip on BA. this bug seems to be new – previously I could book airports not served by BA, but no longer in the last 2 months.

    personal, with the shutdown of the BA call centers, i think this is something done by insider workers to force greater phone call volume, in order to show management how much they need the call centers. just a theory, but it would make sense that worker might stand up for other workers by forcing this new error (taking away previous online booking functionality)

  13. Lucky,

    I noted this back in February, although you have explained it in more depth than I and with the solution.

    However, I have noted your solution doesn’t work for AEP airport in Buenos Ares, no matter what British Airways website will not display availability for that airport, only EZE.

  14. Thanks for the tip. I was struggling with the same issue trying to book LIM-CUZ.

    By the way, I’ve been finding LAN availability on BA for next winter to be nearly non-existent from JFK (to virtually anywhere in SA). Slightly better from MIA.

  15. @ Dan — While you could later make changes, you couldn’t change the regions between which you travel. Basically if you get charged for a US to Europe award now and later want to switch to a US to Asia via Europe award you’d have to completely redeposit the award and start from scratch. Since you’re not looking at traveling during an especially peak time I’d wait till the entire calendar opens up and then book.

  16. thanks for the information!

    So assuming I book the exact trip direction/region eg. US->europe stopover->asia->US

    I should be able to call in and change just the last portion with no issues?

  17. For some reason LAN availibility has suddenly disappeared from oneworld availibility JFK LIM or MIA LIM barely exists for whole month of November in business.

  18. Hello to all,

    The trick does not seem to be working when you have two airports than BA does not recognize as airports. Any suggestion?

    For example, I am trying to look for availability of flight between AEP (second airport in Buenos Aires) to USH (Ushuaia – Malvinas Argentinas International Airport) operated by LAN. The system does not recognize any of the two airports, so I believe that inverting the order does not make the trick.

    That being said, LAN is rather stingy in deployment award seats through their partners. I have flown several times between SCL/EZE and Miami with their business class almost empty.

    Cheers,

    D

  19. Google for help searching for LAN award space when BA.com is being stupid; end up on Lucky’s blog!

    Thanks man!

  20. Thanks for all the great info! I spent a good hour today dinking around between AA, BA, and Qantas … absolutely no luck getting from GYE to GPS. With those tickets hovering at $550/ea, I’m going to keep working to use some Avios.

    I don’t seem to have the option to search partner airlines when BA bombs out .. I simply receive a “British Airways and its partners do not fly this route. Please consider alternative destinations or call your Executive Club Service Centre” which is obvious garbage.

    Any ideas?

  21. Hi Lucky
    You have a rally cool blog!! I have a lot of miles in one world aliance located in LAN. Never the less, LAN charges you a lot of miles (too many) for travelling from south america to europe. I have found that it would be easier (cheaper in miles) to use another company (like tam or iberia) to travel from brazil to europe (70.000km vs 140.000km). The problem is that i cannot find a way to seek availability of the other one world airlines in LAN’s website. I have tried to do it by phone, but they always tell me there is no availability.
    Do you know how can I work this out? Any advice??

    Cheers!!

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