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.