Maximizing Marriott Bonvoy’s Unique Airline Transfer Options: Part 2

Mar 13, 2019

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There are many great redemption options in the Marriott Bonvoy program, but one of the most interesting is to convert your points to airline miles. The program currently partners with 43 airline frequent flyer programs, by far the most of any transferable currency. When you then consider all of the additional partnerships that these airline programs have, Marriott points offer a way to redeem your miles for awards on the vast majority of carriers around the world.

Nevertheless, about half of these 43 frequent flyer programs are also transfer partners of other transferable rewards programs. In Part 1 of this series, I looked at how to maximize the award travel opportunities in the first 12 of the 18 airline transfer partners that are unique to the Marriott Rewards program.

In today’s post, I’ll examine the best reward options for the remaining six.

(Spoiler alert: There’s not much to see here.)

LATAM Airlines LATAM Pass and Multiplus

LATAM’s (not always accurate) economy award chart

While Marriott’s website still lists LATAM Airlines LATAM Pass and Multiplus separately, the two programs merged in 2018, and the LATAM Pass program stopped using kilometers and now uses Multiplus points. Unfortunately, there’s no published award chart online for LATAM-operated flights, just the note that there are three types of awards (Promo, Classic and Without restrictions). To see the price for your flight, you must search online, though I did find some decent value:

  • Miami (MIA) to Lima (LIM): 30,000 points round-trip in economy
  • New York-JFK to Santiago, Chile (SCL): 54,350 points round-trip in economy
  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Santiago, Chile (SCL): 93,500 points round-trip in business class (nonstop)

Since the carrier is part of the Oneworld Alliance, you can also use your points on American, British Airways and other partners. LATAM uses a region-based chart (warning: PDF link), but there are a few notable issues with it. For starters, it displays one-way rates, so the vast majority aren’t competitive. It also isn’t accurate. For example, a round-trip business class flight from Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to London-Heathrow (LHR) was pricing at 204,000 points round-trip. According to the chart linked above, that should price at 180,000 points.

Finally, one-stop flights are all over the place. As an example of the absurdity, I found a one-way flight from San Francisco (SFO) to Sydney (SYD) via Los Angeles (LAX) available for 89,000 points.

However, if I booked the two segments separately, I would only pay a total of 59,000 points:

And no, you’re not seeing things. That one-way flight from SFO to LAX is correctly pricing at 25,000 points in economy.

Finally, this program was one of the two transfer partners that gave us an error message when trying to transfer, despite verifying that we had a valid account number.

Long story short: Unless you can successfully get your points to transfer and find decent award rates on LATAM-operated flights, stay away.

Lufthansa Miles & More

This is the frequent flyer program for not just Lufthansa, but also for:

  • Austrian
  • Brussels
  • Eurowings
  • LOT Polish
  • Adria
  • Croatia
  • Condor
  • Luxair

The best uses for this Star Alliance program include:

  • Booking two stopovers and two open jaws on round-trip awards.
  • Flights to Hawaii for 40,000 miles round-trip.
  • Booking Lufthansa First Class more than two weeks in advance as Star Alliance partners don’t see these awards.
  • Middle East in business class for 135,000 miles round-trip.
  • Bargain fares on select routes.

Just watch out for very expensive fuel surcharges on most awards except United flights in the US as well as Air New Zealand, Avianca and LATAM. You’ll also want to be aware of the upcoming devaluation this May, one that’ll mainly impact premium class awards. Finally, when we tested transfers, Miles & More received the points within 3 days. That isn’t too long but can feel like an eternity if you’re trying to book a premium class award with limited availability.

Saudia Airlines

There’s not a lot of value in this program’s SkyTeam award charts (warning: PDF link), but there are couple spots that stand out from the US:

  • South America in economy class for 45,000 miles round-trip.
  • South America in business class for 90,000 miles round-trip.

Just note that our test transfer to Saudia’s Alfursan program took 5 days.

South African Airways Voyager

This is the South African Airways seasonal promotion award chart.

This program from the often financially distressed carrier offers very little value. However, they offer a “JourneyBlitz” award promotions that can be compelling. For example, if you can find a economy class awards from the US to Africa and back within the promotional dates, you’d pay just 29,400 miles round-trip. That’s an astonishingly good value.

TAP Air Portugal

Here are the off-peak prices for Miles & Cash awards on TAP Air Portugal.

There’s not a lot of value in this carrier’s Star Alliance award chart, but there’s some decent options for TAP operated flights. For example, flights to Portugal and the Azores are just 100,000 miles round-trip in business, and flights to Europe, Spain and North Africa are 105,000 miles in business. During the carrier’s “Savings” season, the prices drop to 91,500 to the Azores and Portugal and 96,500 to Spain, North Africa and Europe. TAP also offers Miles & Cash options that can be compelling. This could be a good option as the carrier expands Its US presence.

There’s a big caveat, however: Our test transfer never posted to our TAP Portugal account. As a result, I’d strongly discourage you from thinking about this redemption option.

Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer

While not a member of any airline alliance, Virgin Australia partners with:

  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Alitalia
  • Capital Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Etihad Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • SilkAir
  • Hainan Airlines
  • Hong Kong Airlines.

It uses distance-based charts that can offer some value, such as short-haul flights on Delta under 600 miles for just 7,800 in economy. However, with Delta’s frequent award sales that drop domestic flights as low as 5,000 miles each way, you may be better off booking with SkyMiles.

Bottom Line

As you can probably see, this round of unique transfer partners in the Marriott Bonvoy program leave a lot to be desired. While Lufthansa can offer some decent value, the upcoming May devaluation hits first and business class awards hard, and the out-of-pocket cost due to fuel surcharges hurts. In addition, two of the above programs were unable to receive our test transfers to begin with. As a result, if you’re considering transferring your Marriott points to an airline, I’d strongly encourage you to stick with some of the options from Part 1.

Have you booked awards with any of these programs?

Featured photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy

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