It is extremely common in Peru to get a notification that your flight changed. Some airlines are famous for cancelling flights regularly while others make a lot of changes which is somewhat understandable considering that the number of passengers has been quite unpredictable thanks to COVID-19.
I fly LATAM exclusively quite a bit so I’ve had quite a bit of experience with how to deal with them. Almost without exception, the service I’ve received has been extremely positive and helpful with one exception that hasn’t affected me a lot.
For me, dealing with things like rescheduling and even cancellations aren’t a big deal. I know LATAM and most of the cities where I travel extremely well so I know what to do. For many — especially tourists here for their first time — things can be extremely stressful. The good thing is that issues are usually easily resolved and LATAM employees have always proven to be very helpful.
Here are some things I’ve learned from a lot of experience over nearly 17 years:
Customer Service Phone
One of the things that you will often be asked you to do is call their customer service phone number. I have found that connecting with someone who speaks English has proven to be impossible. (A counter representative in the Lima airport confirmed that they are aware of this problem.) One representative at a Cusco office suggested that I ask a bilingual person to make the call for me after she said she did not have the capability of refunding my fare for a flight.
LATAM’s number to call from cell phones is (01) 2138200. After I gave up on them with an earlier problem, I realized my Spanish is probably good enough to ask to be transferred internally to an English-speaking representative. I’ve heard that they are very responsive for Spanish-speaking customers.
Airport Counter Agents
Three times I’ve had flight changes that required me to go to the LATAM counter in the Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport.
The first time was when I was not allowed through the normal security line. I was sent to the new gate 44 at the top of the escalator next to the Coolbox store. I understood the directions, but when I went to the location, the security personnel outside told me they didn’t know anything about where to go. (The entrance is obvious, but there you can’t see that it’s a security entrance.) Thankfully I had plenty of time and went to the LATAM counter. Surprisingly, the agent I spoke with wasn’t aware of the new gate location, but she politely suggested a new boarding pass could solve the problem. That still didn’t work, but this time security personnel had someone escort several of us who were unclear where to go.
[NOTE: gates 40-44 are commonly used for domestic flights and require a bus trip out to your plane. LATAM also has someone waiting near the top of the escalator calling out for passengers going to Cusco or Iquitos or whichever flights are using those gate numbers.]
Another time I had my flight changed leaving not enough time to make the connection. (If you arrive on a domestic flight in Lima, you have to exit the terminal and reenter through another door which is fortunately only a few feet away. It took a little work to get to the counter, but the agent easily changed my flight to a later one and made sure I was assigned an exit row seat for which I had previously paid extra.
The last time was when my flight back to Cusco was completely cancelled (as was nearly an entire day of flights due to some kind of issue which the runway due to a strong storm the night before). Almost immediately I received and email saying that LATAM rescheduled me on an early morning flight. It was a hassle, but not too bad as I knew where to get a room and getting there and back is second nature to me after all these years.
Unfortunately for most others, it was not as easy. I had met a Canadian man who spoke no Spanish and didn’t know what to do. As he was really in a bind, I went with him to the counter area to reschedule his flight. Since there were many flights cancelled, the number of people needing assistance was very, very long. We were instructed by the man outside the counters that we had to call the customer service phone number to get help since the airport counter agents could not help. I insisted that was not an option and that they could help as they had done so before.
After some back-and-forth discussion we were finally allowed through and, of course, the agent quickly and easily rescheduled my new friend on an early morning flight to Cusco. (Interestingly, after giving up a couple of hours waiting around to help him and then exchanging contact information, I never heard from him again.)
I’ve not been able to make an online purchased for about a year now as my credit card will not go through. Apparently it’s a problem with my US-issued cards through LATAM’s card processing system so I have to go to a local office to make the purchase in person. It’s pretty easy as I gather all the information the morning before so I just hand it to the representative and let her put it all in. The only real problem is that I have to pay a $16 USD extra fee. (I know, I need to get a Peruvian bank account and a debit and/or credit card to get around this. Maybe I’ll go next week…)
Cusco has two offices. I use the office in the Plaza Real mall because it’s so much nicer to be waiting inside a climate-controlled mall instead of waiting outside the office on Avenida El Sol where COVID occupancy restrictions means you’ll probably be waiting outside in the sun for awhile if there’s a line.
Besides purchasing tickets, I have gone a couple of times to reschedule flights (see below) when necessary or to get my paid-for seat preferred location. They have never charged my any kind of extra fee for this.
You can find a list of worldwide LATAM offices here: Oficinas LATAM travel. If it’s very easy to navigate even if you don’t speak any Spanish. Besides the two offices in Cusco mentioned above, there is one in Arequipa and five in the Lima metropolitan area. (There used to be offices in other Peruvian cities, but likely these were closed during the pandemic and may open again in the future so check the link for updates.) Also, in many smaller cities like Iquitos or Puerto Maldonado, I’m sure you would be allowed to access the counter in the airport for help at any time if you have your flight information in hand either on paper or electronically.
Check Itinerary Changes Closely
If LATAM makes a change in a flight when you have a multi-leg trip planned, check any connection times closely as it could become a problem. I’ve noticed that they seem to reschedule with the first available flight no matter what the original fare.
Normally that is a good thing. (I tend to go for the cheaper fares and am comfortable with extended time in the airport waiting for my next flight.) The problem occurs when they only allow for about an hour to make your connection in Lima. If everything goes smoothly, this might be possible, but a number of things could cause you to miss your next flight:
- Arrival at an outlying area requiring a short trip on a bus trip to the baggage claim area. You won’t know this until you arrive so this alone s a good reason to make sure you have plenty of time. (This only happens with domestic flight arrivals.)
- The requirement to make the long walk to the expansive baggage claim then outside the terminal where you have to go back through a security/biosafety protocol screening before making your way upstairs to pass through security screening. This, by itself is going to take awhile.
- Longer than usual lines at entry points and security areas will cause delays, though.
- A delay in the first flight’s departure causing you to arrive in Lima later than planned.
I always aim for at least 2 hours between connections and usually longer. Departure delays in the places I frequently visit like Iquitos and Puerto Maldonado are common. The Lima airport has a nice food court area, though strangely they don’t seem to have nearly enough seats so often I and up eating at a counter while standing.
Keep in mind that LATAM frequently begins boarding at least 45 minutes before the scheduled departure time and often earlier. If you have a carryon bag and are one of the last to board, it is very possible that there won’t be a place for it in an overheard bin and you might have to check it at the gate. While the delay at the arrival airport likely won’t be long to retrieve your bag, if it contains expensive items like camera gear — something I always carry when traveling — then it becomes extremely problematic to check delicate equipment. (That is my #1 reason for making sure I have plenty of time to be at the gate at least an hour before departure since I normally am one of the first to board.)
Cancellation and Refund
This came up for the first time last week when LATAM cancelled a Monday flight and rescheduled me for a flight the night before. Besides the obviously issue of extending my trip — and the cost for an extra night’s lodging — one more day, there was the problem of a scheduled nationwide transportation strike on that Monday (!) when local transportation like buses and taxis are likely to participate. Because of this, I had no desire to travel and not be able to get transportation from the airport to the center of the city where I was staying. The possibility of the strike expanding and road blockades also encouraged me to seek a cancellation and a refund.
One of the good things about LATAM is that they always offer options to reschedule as well as requesting a full refund no matter how minor is the change or the level of fare you purchased.
I went to the LATAM office in the mall mentioned above where I was told she could not help with a refund and she said I had to call the customer service number.
This time I went through the online system and quickly went through the process of requesting a refund. (Note that is in Spanish, but I always use an internet translator to make sure I understand all the details even if looks simple.) After submitting my request for a refund on the purchased of a flight ticket and two preferred seats, I received an immediate email saying that they would respond within one week.
Apparently the only option this way is to receive the refund through a credit voucher. This isn’t a problem for me as I can use it, but for those who are not residents, this could be useless.
Within four days, I received two emails with voucher credits of $9 each for the seat purchases, but nothing about the ticket itself. I decided to wait until a week was up then contact the credit card company to ask for a refund, but on the eighth day I received an email with another voucher for the ticket fare. (The only disappointment was that the $16 fee for going to an office was not refunded.)
I do not know if the vouchers can be used in combination or if they can be used in an office. (I’ll find out when I’m ready to book my next flight and will update here.)
I haven’t bothered to try to reschedule any flights online, but apparently this is an option. The problem I’ve found is that they don’t offer many options to choose from even though there are lots of flights available. This is likely because I tend to choose a lower price fare rather than seat availability.
I’ve also noticed that rescheduling sometimes takes away any preferred seats you have already paid for. I’ve just gone to the local office or an airport counter and that has been easily fixed. (They have access to your previous payment information.)
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I’ve found that LATAM employees are extremely helpful. On those rare times when I see someone not getting help, it’s because of the passenger.
(An example was the young man who ran up to a gate in Cusco after it had been closed. He was really insistent — and increasingly angry — that they should allow him on the plane despite nearly an hour of boarding calls. His loud voice made it clear that he was off somewhere else in the very small airport instead of waiting at the gate.)
Almost all employees speak English, though I don’t know about availability of other languages within the staff at any location. Many humbly say they only speak a little when actually their fluency is usually quite good.
Hopefully you’ll never need any of this information, but when something likely does happen, hopefully you will find it useful.