Why You Can’t Get AA/BA Partner Awards On Lan To The Galapagos

I experienced it myself – the frustration of trying to get award space on Lan from Guayaquil to the Galapagos.  Most people want to get to GPS (Baltra) as that is where the Galapagos cruises depart from and Lan flies there daily.  In my case, since we aren’t doing a cruise, I wanted to get to SCY (San Cristobal) since it has the best land-based birding options but Lan only has 4 flights a week there.  For the purposes of this demonstration, I will use GPS so you can see the fluctuations throughout a week on a daily basis.

Most people going to the Galapagos will want to book as far ahead as possible, especially if they are connecting to a cruise.  At the time I wrote this post, Lan has availability loaded to 25 July at the 20,000 round trip level (10,000 each way).  BA has picked this space up although it usually doesn’t at this level.  On the 4 days preceeding 25 July there is no award space on BA for this route.

Lan GPS1

You can see here the different levels of economy awards.  Lan only flies economy class to the Galapagos.  Usually you need seats at the 8000 km each way level to have it show up on a partner award request.  These seats are selling for anywhere between 11,000 – 14,000 so you can only book them on Lan.

Lan GPS2 Lan GPS3 Lan GPS4

It can get much worse – have a look at these flights over Semana Santa (Easter Holy Week) which is ultra-peak season!  Award seats can go up to 22,000 each way!

Lan GPS5

You can sometimes get lucky with close-in bookings.  Although surrounding dates have the high award rates, there is a window of opportunity on a few dates in September as shown by the red dots.

Lan GPS6

And this is how it looks on BA’s booking system.

Lan GPS7So how can you get to the Galapagos?

1.  Lanpass:  Get the US Bank Lan Visa card, then supplement the award with miles transferred from SPG.  It takes about a week for the miles to land which is really frustrating as the award prices can fluctuate daily.

2.  Fly on Aerogal, the Avianca partner who is a member of Star Alliance.  Unfortunately Avianca doesn’t have any transfer partners such as SPG, Ultimate Rewards, Thankyou Points or Amex MR so you have to buy miles, preferably on a promo deal.  They do have a co-branded card with US Bank.

3.  Use United, although availability has been patchy in the past, I am seeing good availability at time of writing.  Oddly enough if you are in GYE, you have to transfer in UIO to get to the Galapagos.

Lan GPS84.  Use your miles to Quito or Guayaquil and pay for the flights to the Galapagos.  Expedia search on random dates for RT flights.

Lan GPS9However you manage to get to the Galapagos, rest assured it will be well worth it!  We are going next year and can’t wait!

Airline Alliance References – One World


Air Berlin (AB)

American Airlines  (AA)

British Airways  (BA)

Cathay Pacific  (CX)

Finnair (AY)

Iberia  (IB)

Japan Airlines (JL)


Malaysia Airlines (MH)

Qantas  (QF)

Qatar Airways (QR)

Royal Jordanian  (RJ)

S7 (S7)

SriLankan Airlines (UL) – 1 May 2014


US Airways (US)


If you are new to miles and points, the best thing is to figure out which one of these programs will offer the best redemptions at the lowest cost in both miles and taxes.  Some airlines have fuel surcharges which can add a substantial cost to your award ticket.  From the One World airlines, I use  American Airlines,  Qantas, British Airways and Iberia.  No matter where you live in the world, it will probably work out best for you to use American’s AAdvantage program to accumulate your miles unless you are seeking status with an airline you frequently fly on.  I am expecting that people attracted to this blog will be the sort who travel for leisure and are saving up for an aspirational trip to one of the great ecotourism spots in the world.   If you are based in the USA (or even an expat American like me)  it’s pretty easy to get huge credit card sign up bonuses and if you are based elsewhere, you can use American Express Membership Rewards to transfer to AA via Starwood’s SPG program.

Since I live in Australia, I also have Qantas because I get points simply for shopping at Woolworths and linking my phone and internet with Optus to them.  Gotta love free points that just come from day to day living!

British Airways and Iberia both use Avios which can be excellent value for short hop awards such as domestic awards in the USA on American and Alaska Airways,  Australia on Qantas and South America on LAN.

These links are also good if you want to check out an airline’s route map to see where they fly, join their frequent flyer program and see what you can do to earn miles by flying on partners, staying in hotel partners and patronizing their other partners such as credit cards, shopping malls, phone companies and survey companies.

This is a just a very brief overview of the One World alliance and there is so much more to learn.  The best source of information is on FlyerTalk where each airline has its own forum, most forums have wikis or “read this first” posts to get you started.  I will be going into some programs more in depth as the subject relates to building your ecotourism dream trip.