TAM Leaving Star Alliance, Joining Oneworld

This has been much expected since oneworld member LAN (with subsidiaries throughout South America) merged with Brazilian carrier and Star Alliance member TAM. The two airlines have separate corporate entities under the banner LATAM but were going to be forced to make a decision, and all signs have pointed to choosing oneworld over Star Alliance.

That decision is now official.

TAM will leave the Star Alliance in the second quarter of 2014, with an immediate entry into oneworld upon departure from Star.

LAN Colombia — not currently a part of oneworld — will join in the fourth quarter of 2013. That positions oneworld for quite the fight against Star’s AviancaTACA. (Chile’s LAN has been a member of oneworld since 2000 and LAN Argentina, LAN Ecuador and LAN Peru are current affiliate members.)

Oneworld has made some big moves with the addition of Air Berlin and Malaysia Airlines over the past year, and the expected additions of
Qatar and SriLankan in the coming 18 months plus the expected integration of US Airways once it merges with American.

Oneworld is already the strongest alliance for redemptions between the US and South America. This decision both protects and strengthens that position, while Star remains at least marginally stronger from the US to Europe and Asia.

Those American miles and British Airways Avios points just got a little bit more valuable, although I wouldn’t say that United miles got materially less valuable since award space between the US and Brazil on TAM is limited at best and intra-South American award space tends to open up mostly close to departure in my experience.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Star is FAR stronger from US to Asia. UA allows US-Europe-Asia routings while AA forces TPAC (so you can totally forget about BA, QR, AY etc)

    JL premium award space is practically nonexistent, and CX/HKG, although great, is a major detour for half of east Asia. Try to visit anywhere in China that’s not PEK or PVG with AA miles and you’d be going through hoops. (not to mention a published fare must exist to count as a single award price) For US-based FFs, MH is practically useless (unless you need those monthly trips to Langkawi)

    US to Europe on AA miles is mediocre at best too because the best redemption partner (BA) gouges outrageous fuel surcharges, but UA doesn’t do that when redeeming on LH/LX.

  2. Speaking of Columbia, tangentially and off-topic, do you know if there is a Oneworld lounge in Bogota? Thanks Gary.

  3. I guess Star is still competitive in the Caribbean basin, but if your travels take you to deep South America with any frequency, Oneworld is really the only game in town these days. Their market dominance is unusual compared to other major travel markets.

    It’s also worth noting that US Airways just announced their first South American flights (Brazil) from Philadelphia. Will that become another significant South American gateway for oneworld? Count me as skeptical — PHL is still something of a hinterland int’l destination, and the geography doesn’t favor South American travel — but it is interesting.

  4. great news! although TAM availability is very difficult to find. I travel a lot to South America and have 1M miles on UA and BA and have yet to redeem a single flight on TAM. LAN is pretty good in terms of availability but readers be warned they have many glitches currently and flight cancellations for award seats without any warnings to travellers!

  5. Ever try redeeming an award on TAM? GOOD LUCK! First off they don’t let you book an interBrazil flight until 3 months out plus they have lots of black-out dates.

  6. @Pamela T – the American lounge there closed in October, but IIRC there’s supposed to be a LAN lounge opening this spring

  7. Just adding to what’s already been said ad-nauseam: JJ availability is terrible, if not non-existant. I’m GRU based and every time I take a(n) (award) trip I check JJ, but I’ve only ever been able to actually redeem on it once, regionally: GRU/EZE/GRU.

    So unless they open up space once they join OW, their addition will be pretty much non-news.

  8. @ Pamela T – It is Colombia not Columbia. If you have Priority Pass, Avianca’s lounge just opened and it is very nice.

  9. TAM announched horrible changes to their FF program last week – add another huge desvaluation for this year conut-, but there was (only) one upside to the changes. Intra-Brazil flights that were available only three months out including to members of their own program, will be available for a year out. That should release space to other carriers as well (at least that’s what I’d expect).

  10. TAM *ruins* my long range *A awards in S. America, and I always end up looking for 5th freedom flights to get around.

    Is there any hope that TAM will open oneworld availability out farther?

    When is the soonest we could be expected to make bookings using Avios on TAM?

    I’d say this is not much loss to *A, but is it really a win for OW?

  11. LAN upgrades with AA miles seem to be nonstarters, if I read the LAN page correctly. Then, since they code share, I thought i could simply use my AA miles to upgrade my DCA-Santiago trip next fall. No go.

    Did I miss something?

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