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LATAM Brasil to Phase Out A350-900 Fleet by Next Week
Still responding to the short- and long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on international air travel, LATAM Airlines Brasil, Brazil’s second-largest domestic carrier and the largest by international metrics, is retiring its entire A350-900 fleet by the next week.
Brazil’s was LATAM’s only branch operating the A350, meaning the aircraft will leave the group. It also means the group’s widebody fleet will be solely composed by Boeing aircraft – LATAM currently operates the 767-300, the 787-8, the 787-9 and the 777-300.
The announcement, according to Brazil’s aviation news outlet Aeroflap, was made internally by LATAM Brasil’s CEO, Jerome Cadier, in a letter to employees.
“This decision, besides providing us a smaller and homogeneous fleet, has as an objective a more efficient widebody operation for us to] cross this period of smaller demand for seats in our international operation”, said the executive in the letter, according to Aeroflap.
Aviation website Contato Radar says seven of the A350s will leave the fleet today, with the remaining four leaving by next week. Data gathered on FlightRadar24 shows none of the aircraft had operated any flights in the last week, with the 767-300 and 777-300s operating what remains of LATAM Brasil’s skeleton widebody network.
Since May 2020 (and in the case of the Brazilian branch, since July 2020) LATAM Airlines Group is in a bankruptcy process under the U.S. Chapter 11 rules. This has been allowing the group to negotiate leasing agreements cancellations with more ease.
LATAM’s Troubled A350 History
Since the delivery of its first A350-900, in 2016, LATAM operated a total of 13 aircraft of the type — 11 simultaneously before COVID-19 hit the market. The recession that affected Brazil from 2015 to 2017 meant that LATAM had to review its widebody strategy, which meant four of the A350s were leased to Qatar Airways.
At the moment, LATAM has its A350 deliveries scaled down to two units, with planned delivery to 2026. The future of these two frames is still uncertain. Considering the original order, which was done by TAM back in the 2000s, the group would still have 12 A350s to receive.
LATAM Brasil’s ten 777-300s were just refurbished, with a huge investment done between 2019 and 2020. As the airline considers long-haul demand from Brazil will be considerably smaller for years to come, this generated an overlap in its high-density widebody operation between the A350 and the 777.
This way, the decision of returning the A350 to the lessors was relatively natural, especially considering the lower ownership costs of the 777.
All of LATAM’s A350s were based in its São Paulo/Guarulhos hub. Pre-COVID, the Airbus widebody jet connected the city to premium and/or mature markets, like Paris and Orlando. During LATAM’s humble reactivation of its long-haul network last year, it also got to serve a number of other routes with the aircraft, like São Paulo-Frankfurt and São Paulo-Madrid.
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