How Do I Redeem Leftover Rewards from a Foreign Airline?
TPG Reader Kayla emailed with a question about how to book awards with LAN Airlines:
"I have 35,000 LANPASS kilometers that I’ve been trying to use for ages, but I'm having trouble finding awards from the US online, and calling LAN is frustrating. Is there a way to book these flights without too much hassle?"
LANPASS is the loyalty program of Chilean carrier LAN. You can get good value on awards within South America, as the airline offers a fairly reasonable region-based chart for flights on its own metal, and travel to more far-flung destinations on the continent can get pretty expensive. LAN is also part of the Oneworld alliance, so you have access to a network of international partners like American Airlines and Cathay Pacific; however, the partner award chart is distance-based, so the value proposition is totally different.
Unfortunately, LANPASS is one of the few remaining loyalty programs that uses kilometers instead of points or miles, and awards are correspondingly more expensive. That means Kayla's stash of LANPASS rewards won't go nearly as far as an equal number of AAdvantage miles (or even British Airways Avios). 35,000 kilometers can buy a round-trip partner economy flight that's under 2,000 km (about 1,240 miles) each way. Domestic routes that qualify include Miami-Chicago, New York-New Orleans and Dallas-Los Angeles.
You can't redeem for one-way awards, so you won't be able to book a a single longer flight. However LAN is a Starwood Preferred Guest transfer partner (with a favorable 1:1.5 transfer ratio), so if you want to stretch those kilometers into a more substantial award, transferring 20,000 Starpoints would give you 70,000 total to work with (including the 35,000 you already have). That's enough for an economy partner flight of up to 10,000 km (about 6,200 miles) in each direction, like Los Angeles-Tokyo or Miami-Berlin.
LAN's partner award search is pretty unwieldy. When it comes to US domestic awards, you'll find some availability online for flights out of American Airlines hubs, like this round-trip between Dallas and San Francisco in November:
For other domestic American Airlines or Alaska Airlines awards, you're probably going to have to call. As Kayla has experienced, LAN's customer service is known for being difficult, but you can aid your cause a little bit by verifying availability ahead of time and knowing exactly which flights you want.
The most important lesson here is to think about where you credit your flights. While Kayla didn't specify how she earned those kilometers, presumably it was from flying on LAN Airlines. However, instead of earning rewards in LANPASS, you could bank those points or miles to Oneworld and other partner programs. Those AAdvantage or Mileage Plan miles (for example) not only are easier to use domestically, but also are often better for booking awards on LAN itself.
It's good to diversify your travel rewards, but only if you're going to use them! Focus your earning on the programs that are most valuable to you, and you can avoid leaving points and miles on the table.
If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at email@example.com.