Brazilian-Chilean carrier LATAM’s Boeing 777-300ER fleet will be gradually retrofitted, beginning from the second half of 2018. According to LATAM Brazil’s CEO, Jerome Cardier, the decision marks the confidence the subsidiary has on the model and, above all, the aircraft efficiency despite its fuel consumption. As long as oil prices remain at the current prices, the 777s will be serving LATAM long-haul routes for a good while.
Although the number of aircraft to be retrofitted is not yet final, some sources say that at least six of the ten Boeing 777 that are active in LATAM’s fleet will receive new interiors. The retrofit was announced on Jan. 17 during a press event. According to Cardier, the fleet, which has an average of 10 years and a maximum of 15 years, has already received a “light” modernization, given that within the strategy of LATAM the model previously would not have be used for much longer.
Dubbed as “expensive” by the executive due to the high fuel consumption compared to other models, the former TAM Boeing 777 had a certain and close expiration date within LATAM operations after the LAN-TAM merger. The strategy review came with the drop in oil, which at current prices (despite a recent surge) allows other operational advantages of the 777 to be considered, making it viable for “another ten or twelve years.”
The cabin retrofit will include changes to the first six Economy rows, adding more pitch and: “It won’t transform those seats into a Economy Plus class: it will add just more leg room”, Cardier said. According to LATAM Brazil CEO, the cabin will have a configuration similar to Boeing’s most modern aircraft, 787 Dreamliner.
The redesign of the 777’s interior should begin in the second half of next year, with an expected delivery rate of one aircraft every 45 days. This process can last up to 15 months, provided all ten airplanes are retrofitted. Without revealing specific numbers, Jerome Cardier talks about a “mega investment” for this process and compares it with the latest (and light) retrofit, which had a cost of about $ 5 million per aircraft.
Besides this change, LATAM recently decided to go forward with onboard Wi-Fi service implementation throughout its entire fleet. In an industry that has “radically changed in 2017,” as Cardier says, LATAM has chosen to wait as long as it can to implement wi-fi connectivity in its aircraft. “We consciously deferred the implementation; we did not see that it was a positive business case, because of the equipment costs, weight and aerodynamics that reflect in consumption,” he explained.
The installation of the equipment is set to start next April. The expectation is that the totality of the fleet will be online by the end of 2019. “We realized that now, with other ways of financing that are not limited to the airfare the passenger pays, the offer of this service becomes a differential,” he concluded.
Technology and systems expert, occasional spotter, not-so-dynamic midfielder, blogger, husband, father of three cats; he believes that Latin America's aviation industry past, present, and future offer a lot of stories to be told.
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