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A LATAM Airlines Boeing 787-9 departing LAX (Photo: AirlineGeeks | James Dinsdale)

LATAM Makes Significant Route Adjustments Across Multiple Countries

South American carrier LATAM has suspended ticket sales on 23 routes across its network, including several domestic routes within Chile and international routes from Brazil, Chile and Peru. At the same time, the Santiago-headquartered carrier has made the bold move to suspend international destinations from five Argentinean destinations to the carrier’s hubs in Santiago, Lima and Sao Paulo until 2021.

This is part of the carrier’s restructuring process the airline submitted as part of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection that seeks to make the carrier more efficient in what is likely to be a smaller post-COVID-19 market.

The South American carrier will be axing seven domestic routes within Chile, which are mostly intra-provincial routes including Concepcion – Punta Arenas, Antofagasta – La Serena and Santiago – Castro. Internationally, the airline will be discontinuing flights from its base in Santiago to 12 international destinations including Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, Cusco, Punta Cana and Melbourne.

Also, from Chile, LATAM will no longer fly from the northern city of Iquique to La Paz and from Easter Island to Papeete, a route which originated in Santiago using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Instead, the airline will discontinue the South Pacific crossing from Easter Island. This was first reported by Chilean outlet Aero-Naves.

LATAM is also making a significant scale back on international routes from Argentina. In the past, the airline had built a structure that connected five provincial cities of Cordoba, Mendoza, San Miguel de Tucuman, Salta and Rosario with some of the carrier’s hubs in Santiago, Lima and Sao Paulo, enabling passengers to connect to onward destinations throughout The Americas, Europe, South Africa and Oceania. This move also affects flights from the capital city of Buenos Aires to Brazilian cities of Recife, Salvador and Rio de Janeiro, all popular holiday destinations for South American travelers.

The airline is suspending these routes until 2021 and in the meantime will only operate flights from Buenos Aires to the carrier’s hubs in Santiago, Lima and Sao Paulo. With LATAM closing its Argentinean subsidiary last week, this leaves several Argentinean cities out of the airline span of operations until next year.

Closed borders are likely to push back travel resumption

While Europe is already seeing demand starting to ramp up as the old continent approaches the summer season; South America is still lagging behind. While the region is behind the contagion curve, informality and state fragility have built a tougher case for countries like Peru, Chile and Argentina which are still seeing a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases.

In this way, airlines expect a slower resumption of travel to and from and within the region. Argentina has closed its borders until September and Peru until October. Meanwhile, Chile is maintaining limited domestic and international connectivity. However, the borders remain shut for non-residents.

In a socio-economic context where COVID-19 contingency measures have severely contracted several Latin American economies, it is not known how the market will behave once mobility restrictions have been reduced.

On one hand, business travel might not pick up to pre-pandemic levels as many cross-border interactions have been successfully executed through teleconferencing. On the other, a growing financially constrained population might push back vacation expenses until the economy recovers. In the middle, Latin American airlines are trying hard to stay afloat through turbulent times.

Jose Antonio Payet
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Jose Antonio Payet
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