LATAM Alaska Airlines Award Stopover Restrictions
Maximizing award routing and stopover rules is something I love to do. Whether it’s the United Excursionist Perk or dreaming up some complicated around-the-world award using Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, this is the stuff I thrive on. Likewise, Alaska Airlines stopovers are something I love to book. And I’ve booked a few.
I thought I knew the Alaska rules. But it turns out that not everything was as clear as I’d thought. At least with LATAM. I figured I’d share my recent experience.
Restrictions on Alaska Stopovers: Hub Cities
In general, Alaska requires stopovers to occur in their “hub” cities. They require this for partner airline award flights as well. Flying British Airways? Stop in London for free. Finnair? Stop in Helsinki. Japan Airlines? Tokyo is it.
This restrictions used to be more relaxed for Alaska flights but were tightened up in recent years. For many partners, you’re essentially restricted to their one hub city.
However, given that LATAM has multiple hubs in South America, I figured that you’d have multiple options for a stopover. Lima, Santiago, São Paulo, any of them should work.
Santiago Stopover on a Visit to Easter Island? I Think Yes.
LATAM flies to Easter Island (Isla de Pascua), a remote destination that is difficult to get to. Located more than 2,000 miles from the coast of Chile, it’s a pretty remote piece of territory for the South American nation. Pretty much the only way to get there is flying LATAM from Santiago (SCL).
Easter island is the home of the famous and mysterious moai statues. I decided to book a trip next year, flying LATAM business class — one of the Alaska award sweet spots — plus adding in a stopover in Santiago. It’d be an amazing value award.
You can easily book Alaska awards with stopovers online. Finding business class award space next spring to Santiago (SCL) was no issue. I found space on a LATAM 787 from LAX to SCL. Space was also available a few days later from SCL to IPC (Easter Island). But when I put the segments together, nothing cam up in the results. It was also odd is that I couldn’t get an award to Easter Island to price out without a stopover.
This was perplexing. Guess I’d better call Alaska to figure out what the problem is. You used to have to call anyway to book a LATAM Alaska Airlines award, so maybe this is just a search engine hiccup.
Shedding Light on LATAM Alaska Airlines Award Rules
Thankfully, I was quickly connected with a competent Alaska award agent. After validating my account information, I gave her the airport codes and dates of my flights to see if she could book the LATAM award with a stopover.
Her first attempt was futile. Like my experience online, she couldn’t pull up the award with a stopover.
She said she wasn’t sure stopovers were allowed in Santiago, Chile. This was surprising. The solution was to put me on a brief hold to consult the LATAM Alaska Airlines award rules, which should have a list of cities where stopovers are allowed.
Apparently such a list exists for all Alaska Airlines partners. This was news to me, and good to know. I’d be curious to know which cities are listed for partner airlines that clearly have or potentially have more than one hub (e.g. Qantas, American, JAL).
Her efforts weren’t rewarded. Apparently, unlike other Alaska partners, they don’t have a list for LATAM. Go figure. I argued that Santiago is clearly one of their hubs, as it serves all of Chile as their flag carrier. I should be able to stop in Chile’s capital and continue on to another Chilean airport. This isn’t a stretch of the rules.
Unfortunately, she put me on hold again to consult another agent. She was kind about it, and so far she had been as helpful as could be, short of booking the award. I figured all she needed was to get confirmation that Santiago is indeed a hub.
The answer she offered upon returning took the wind out of my sails. Apparently, you can’t book an award from the U.S. to Easter Island with a stopover. The reason? It’s simply too far for a single award.
Given that Alaska’s terms and conditions don’t include anything about maximum permitted mileage (and I can easily pull up itineraries on Qatar of greater total flight miles), this was frustrating. Part of me thought rules were being made up on the spot. The other part of me wonders if this route is specifically disallowed for some reason.
Ultimately, if I wanted to book an award to Easter Island, I’d have to book two award tickets. This is what the agent told me. A separate SCL-IPC business class award would increase the cost by 35,000 miles. A total of 80,000 Alaska miles is more than I want to pay for this itinerary.
Another option would be to book an award to Santiago, and then use other miles to get to Easter Island. There are better currencies for this nonstop flight than Alaska miles. However, it’s still more miles.
Penciling In a Backup Plan
I had a backup plan. I’ve been interested in visiting southern Chile as well. A couple years ago I’d read a magazine article about Puerto Montt and traveling along the mountainous coast of Chilean Patagonia. It sounded fantastic. While I won’t take a boat trek, there’s plenty of natural beauty in the Andes just outside the city.
Booking this LATAM Alaska Airlines award with a stopover in Santiago was incredibly easy online. I should have checked this first before conversing with the Alaska agent. The Alaska search engine definitely treats Santiago as a hub.
It’s unfortunate my original plan to book a trip to Easter Island was foiled. But I’m still happy with the award itinerary I was able to put together. LATAM business class isn’t the finest of products, but it should be a nice flight for 10 hours from Los Angeles to Santiago. It’s one of the longest nonstop flights between the Americas.
A little more clarity from Alaska on why it isn’t possible to book an award to Easter Island would be helpful. It makes me wonder if there are other oddball rules within their system.
Capital One Venture X Business earns 2X miles on everyday purchases plus up to 10X in bonus categories. You also get access to Capital One lounges plus an annual travel credit & anniversary bonus. Right now you earn bonus_miles_full.
Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.