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At the end of September it was announced that the planned joint venture between American Airlines and LATAM would not be going ahead following the failure of both airlines to find a solution to an unfavorable ruling by the Chilean Supreme Court earlier in the year.
The collapse of negotiations between American and LATAM wasn’t a huge surprise but the parallel announcement that LATAM would now move ahead with a partnership with Delta and would leave the oneworld alliance caught most of us by surprise – it was a huge coup for Delta and a massive blow to American Airlines and oneworld.
At the time of the original announcements there was no date given for LATAM’s departure from oneworld and the alliance simply had this statement to make:
LATAM advised oneworld earlier today of their decision to partner with an airline outside of the oneworld alliance. LATAM further advised oneworld that they intend to leave the alliance in due course and in accordance with formal contractual requirements. We are disappointed, but we respect their decision. They have been a valued long-term member of the alliance, and we wish them well.
Now things are a little clearer.
While at the time of writing there has been no official announcement from oneworld or LATAM, the Qantas website is now showing the following message:
Note: LATAM has given notice that they will exit oneworld on 1 October 2020. Until this date passengers will continue to receive the oneworld benefits associated with LATAM’s membership. However, Qantas passengers making new bookings for travel from 1 October 2020 will no longer earn Status Credits.
The date of 1 October 2020 makes a lot of sense as LATAM’s leaving date as it’s just about the earliest date that the airline can split from oneworld when you consider that its intention to leave was announced on 27 September 2019 and that alliance members have to provide 1 year’s notice before they can depart. LATAM isn’t hanging around.
What This Means
Assuming Qantas isn’t misinformed (I can’t find any reference to this news on any of the other oneworld airline websites) this means that for flights taken up to and including 30 September 2020, flyers should be able to continue to…
- Credit any LATAM flights they take to any of the oneworld loyalty programs (American Airlines AAdvantage, BA Executive Club, etc…) and earn credits towards elite status alongside whatever redeemable currency their chosen loyalty program issues (miles, Avios etc..)
- Use the whole range of oneworld currencies to book award travel on LATAM
- Enjoy oneworld status benefits on any LATAM flights they take.
For flights taken on or after 1 October 2020…
- Flyers will not be able to credit LATAM flights to airline programs that do not have an arrangement with LATAM that extends beyond the oneworld alliance.
- Flyers will not be able to redeem other oneworld loyalty currencies for award travel
- Oneworld benefits will cease to be offered on LATAM flights.
While this will clearly be a disappointment to any flyers who are used to crediting their LATAM flights to another oneworld program and who have enjoyed using their oneworld status when flying with the airline, there shouldn’t be many flyers caught out by this news.
As things stand it’s only possible to book flights on LATAM through 15 October 2020 so it’s unlikely that many people will be in the position of having booked flights on the airline for the period 1 – 15 October 2020 while also expecting to be able to make the most of the airline’s membership of the alliance.
At this stage it is unclear if LATAM intends to join Delta as a member of SkyTeam and I would urge caution to anyone getting excited at the possibility that this may happen.
Just because LATAM is partnering with Delta and just because Delta is taking a significant equity stake in LATAM (20%) doesn’t necessarily mean that LATAM will be joining SkyTeam – you just have to take a look at Virgin Atlantic to see a great example of an airline controlled by Delta that doesn’t have a SkyTeam affiliation.
It looks as if LATAM will be leaving oneworld as soon as its one year notice period has been served and that’s probably good news all around. Right now there won’t be too many existing bookings that are affected by the airline’s departure from the alliance but any further delay to LATAM’s departure would have risked increasing uncertainty and confusion among flyers.
It’s a shame to see LATAM leaving oneworld but at least it looks like we’ll be getting an orderly exit.
Featured image: Courtesy of Moto Miwa via Flickr