Is This The Secret To Booking LAN Business Class Awards?

Over the past week I’ve been doing something which is very uncharacteristic of me — planning travel in advance. Usually I plan travel day-by-day given that I’m on a never ending journey, but I’m trying to plan my actual destination-oriented trips more carefully.

I’m presently finalizing the details of a trip to Longyearbyen and Russia, and am simultaneously working on a trip to Peru. I wrote about planning my hotel stays in Peru in a previous post, which is the easy part, given Starwood’s excellent Luxury Collection properties there.

Tambo-del-Inka-2
Tambo del Inka in Peru

Usually I find booking flights to be easy, while I get a bit annoyed with hotels. This experience is the opposite — booking hotels was super easy, while I can’t decide what to do with flights.

I should note that I’m taking this trip with Ford. I’m an AAdvantage Executive Platinum member, while Ford is a Platinum member with about 75,000 elite qualifying miles. On one hand I don’t want to fly coach if I can avoid it, but at the same time it would be nice to earn elite qualifying miles. He’d end up qualifying for Executive Platinum eventually regardless, but it would be nice to make it happen faster. 😉

Choices for flying to Peru

Don’t get me wrong, the options aren’t bad, but there’s nothing which is jumping out at me as being especially exciting.

On one hand American has excellent economy fares, which I’d love to book. At the same time, there’s no confirmable upgrade space to Peru. Furthermore, I’m not exactly thrilled about using systemwide upgrades on the flight to Peru on an American 757, which features uncomfortable angled seats. If I connect in Miami, the Miami to Lima flight is only about five hours, so it’s also not a great use of systemwide upgrades.

Peru-Ticket-1

I have four systemwide upgrades remaining, and I feel like those could much better be used on something like American’s new Los Angeles to Hong Kong flight later in the year.

American has not-too-unreasonable business class fares from San Francisco to Lima. When you consider we’d earn double elite qualifying miles and would save four systemwide upgrades, it’s not a terrible option. After that trip Ford would be Executive Platinum. At the same time, I have millions of points across programs, so why would we pay ~$1,400 per person when we could get it on points (it’s a never ending struggle in this hobby!)?

Peru-Ticket-2

In terms of award availability, Copa has plenty of business class award availability. However, Copa exclusively flies 737s, which feature recliner seats which are more like domestic first class than international business class. So for 12-15 hours of flying, it’s not exactly an aspirational redemption.

Furthermore, with Copa we’re either stuck taking a redeye from Los Angeles to Panama City (which I’d rather avoid), or arriving in Panama so late at night that we’d have to wait five hours for our flight to Cuzco.

Peru-Ticket-3

There are plenty of other options, though those are the most compelling options I saw (and as you can see, they’re not actually that compelling).

Don’t get me wrong, none of the above options are bad. But at the same time I’m all about maximizing comfort and value, so why settle?

Too bad LAN doesn’t have business class awards… or do they?

I was extremely frustrated by the lack of business class award availability on LAN, given that they fly twice daily between Los Angeles and Lima (one of the flights connects to Santiago). I couldn’t find a single date with two business class award seats, which isn’t surprising, since they’re generally quite stingy with award space. That would of course have been the ideal routing, especially since one of the daily flights is timed well for connections to/from Cuzco.

LAN-787-Business-Class - 10
LAN 787 at Frankfurt Airport

I was starting to wonder whether the British Airways search tool was just glitching, or what. So I logged into my LANPass account to look at availability there. While availability isn’t amazing, I see several dates with two business class award seats per flight.

LANPass-1 LANPass-2

I knew that LAN makes more award space available to members of their own program, though didn’t realize the difference was so drastic.

LAN charges 100,000 kms per person for the roundtrip ticket in business class (you’ve gotta love that they use “kilometers” rather than “miles”). As you might expect, the only problem is that I don’t have any LAN kms. However, LAN is a Starwood airline transfer partner, and points convert at a 1:1.5 ratio. If I needed 200,000kms, I’d have to transfer 109,000 Starpoints (factoring in the 1:1.5 transfer ratio, and also the 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred).

LAN-Business-Class-787 - 11
LAN’s 787 business class

So that’s 54,500 Starpoints per person to fly roundtrip business class between Los Angeles and Lima. That seems like a good enough value, but for some reason I always struggle with redeeming Starpoints, given how versatile they are (but part of the reason they’re so valuable is because of opportunities like this).

As a point of comparison, other airlines charge the following for roundtrip business class between the US and Peru:

  • Air Canada Aeroplan: 75,000 miles
  • American AAdvantage: 60,000 miles
  • Avianca LifeMiles: 80,000 miles

Bottom line

As much as I love hoarding Starpoints, I’m tempted to transfer 109,000 to LAN so I can redeem on their nonstop flights between Los Angeles and Lima.

Now that I’m seeing the value in their program, I wish I had purchased LAN kms when they were on sale last November.

LANPASS-Bonus

I’m trying to be more conscious about the routings I book for actual vacations. While I’m always happy to take a crazy trip for review purposes, I’m trying be logical about a routing I book for a more adventurous trip like this one, especially one which Ford is coming along on. It’s great to hit the ground running, rather than taking a couple of days to recover.

Does anyone have experience with transferring Starpoints to LAN, and specifically how long it takes? Which option would you select for travel to Peru?

Comments

  1. I had the reverse problem – BA was showing tons of space for the dates I needed, up to 9 business class seats available on some days in June for JFK-LIM. Unfortunately it was mostly phantom when I called up AA to book. In the end AA found me an available seat JFK-LIM the day after I wanted to travel so I grabbed it.

  2. I’m flying to Peru on Wednesday. I know you’re in LA and not a Unied person, but I’m flying direct, United EWR to LIM. I’ve done it dozens of times (my husband is Peruvian) and as you might guess, it’s less than stellar. Only true benefit is it’s direct. On return, I’m going Avianca on their 787 thru Bogota just to try something new.

  3. Seems like a waste of miles. I flew coach in the back with 3 open seats and made myself a nice poor man’s business class. The limiting factor of these flights is that they’re short anyway, and you have absolute crap lounge in Lima so you don’t get the full money’s worth of an experience.

    As a side note, wasting Starpoints in Peru is just criminal 🙂 The goal is to see mountains, hike and eat great food, and there are tons of no-brand hotels that are pretty good for well under $100/night. In Lima there are plenty of cheap Airbnb apartments for 50-75/night that are as good as any hotel room. Save the SPG points for somewhere else.

  4. If you are flying from LAX, then a SWU would be a great use if you are on the 77W for the LAX-MIA leg.

  5. Lucky, If you preffer using AA miles than Starpoints, I do recommend calling AAdvantage and checking LAN availability with them directly because ba.com only shows LA but it doesn’t show LP, 4C, 4M or XL. Also the rule of thumb is to book 330-325 days in advance or 15 days or less. Also worst case scenario you can try vía MEX.
    Greetings to Ford and enjoy the food! Peru es de lo mejor que hay en latinoamerica!

  6. Just an FYI, we are flying from Lim to Miami on an AA plane in July and it’s telling us that it’s not SWU eligible. The flight has an AA flight number and I can’t find any indication that it’s not an AA operated plane but for some reason it’s coming up as not SWU-able (it’s the 10:10 pm departure from Lima to Peru, AA 918, if anyone has any insights). I know you already said it’s not a great use of SWUs since it’s such a short flight, but wanted to give you this extra insight in case it was still in the mix.

  7. I’d rather connect in bogota to the mid afternoon avianca 787 flight and even book the award straight to CUZ. That way you save a few miles. Avianca is the only airline offering business class within Peru. LAN doesn’t. On your way out, you can fly to GIG, check out the olympics and then fly Korean out of GRU to LAX. That’s what I would do with the amount of points that you have. 😛

  8. The timings may not be ideal, but MEX-LIM generally has good to great availability. The new IAD-LIM flight also has great availability but I imagine positioning to IAD is not convenient, particularly on AA.

  9. +1 on what Oscar said. If you call AA and it’s a code-share the same flights will not have availability searching on the AA side but they can then manually search the lan side for availability on the same flight.

  10. Lucky, do you think to replan your trip? My suggestion is flying to La Paz, Bolivia from Miami, and then having the direct flight to Cusco by Amaszonas airlines?

  11. I loved the lounge in Lima and couldn’t get enough of the fresh squeezed OJ.
    Also, second the MEX_LIM option.

  12. I’m not sure where the secret is either. It’s pretty common knowledge that looking at LAN’s own program will show the most award availability for LAN business class… unless that’s the secret? 😉

  13. Just for the record, Copa business class seats on the route are better than domestic first class. I’d describe them as angled. Not that I’m recommending Copa, but just in case that makes a difference.

  14. Red-eye flights are not that bad, if comfortable, plus they save you a trip to a hotel with the unpacking and packing up again.
    Neither is a 5 hour layover if there is a nice lounge to eat, drink and open your computer.

  15. HA – you are having exact same issues I ran across booking LIM-LAX. Ended up transferring to Lanpass and take their 787 in Business.

    Lanpass is also valuable to book flights to Cusco – they fly about every hour during the day. Best flights are late morning (weather tends to be rougher in the AM). Sit on left side flying in and if clouds are low enough, you will get great views of snow-capped Andes

  16. @Lucky, why don’t you just buy the AA $1400 ticket on the Citi travel portal for 87,500 Citi Thank You points? Much better use than using 109,000 SPG points. Ford will get closer to his EXP status and you will each earn 25,000 points back into your AA account. Your cost of Citi points is effectively 62,500 points. Per your calculations, 109,000 SPG points is worth $2,400 vs $1000 for Citi.

  17. Correction – AC biz redemptions to Peru are more expensive (110,000) since Peru is part of “Southern South America” according to Aeroplan. Annoying.

  18. I’ve found the standard advice about searching for LAN space on the BA website to be essentially useless. I have been able to call an AA booking agent and have them find availability that is invisible online, have had my AA legs changed to LAN legs about 60 days out, etc. I’d book on AA and periodically call to see if any LAN legs have opened up.

  19. Hi Lucky, I would like to fly AKL-SCL business class with LAN.
    BA Avios cost 90.000 miles, is there any cheaper option?

  20. Re: Transferring SPG to LAN. I know I’m a couple of months late, but I tried moving some smaller amount of SPG points (4-5k?) a little over a year ago to complete a LIM->GPS roundtrip award. 6+ weeks later and several volleys of SMs and email to SPG my points->km finally went through. By then, I had to still buy a couple of thousand miles to complete the transaction. How stressful. I am not alone; FT has gobs of reports of 6-8 weeks to get LAN miles to post.

    I’m on a new quest to land on Easter Island and am again looking at LAN miles (which is how I re-found this post so late). If I need to xfer SPG points, I’ll plan on doing this at least 2 months in advance!

    Oh, after my ordeal with the first SPG transfer was completely, I told them of my need to outlay cash because of their slowness. I was awarded … wait, sit down, 500 SPG points as compensation. Grrrrrrrrrrr.

  21. Ben — Can you explain a little further? If I need 108,000 km LATAM miles, how much SPG points do I need to transfer, considering the additional 5000 points for every 2000 points transferred?

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