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LATAM Brasil to Use Chilean 787s on Long-Haul Services
After LATAM Brasil’s surprise announcement early this week that it would retire its entire Airbus A350-900 fleet, doubt was cast on the future of the airline’s long-haul fleet with the downsizing caused by slashing 11 aircraft from the airline’s portfolio.
Today, any potential problems have likely been solved. Brazilian aviation news website Contato Radar reported that LATAM Brasil submitted a request over a month ago to the National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC), Brazil’s aviation regulator, to add the Boeing 787 Dreamliner into its fleet.
As a group, LATAM has operated the 787 since 2012, when, still operating under the name LAN, it received its first 787-8. Currently, according to Airfleets, it operates 22 Dreamliners, including 10 787-8s and 12 of the stretched 787-9 version. All of these belong to the Santiago-based LATAM Chile, which already returned four 787-9s to their lessor in 2020 as a part of its Chapter 11 restructuring.
This way, according to Contato Radar, LATAM Airlines Group would not need to incorporate more aircraft into its fleet. Rather, it would just reshuffle 787s from its Chilean operation to its Brazilian operation while maintaining the Chilean registration of the aircraft, a process known as interchange.
Such a process differs from fifth-freedom flights, as the flight would be operated by LATAM Brasil crews and would effectively fly as a LATAM Brasil aircraft. This is not a totally new process for LATAM, as the airline used some of its Chilean 767s for Brazilian-operated flights between the U.S. and Brazil after 2018, when ANAC issued its guidelines for the interchange of aircraft.
This process would also likely free LATAM from further labor disputes with its flight workforce. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline has been using Chilean aircraft and crew for fifth-freedom flights between Brazil and other countries, a measure that the Brazilian labor union, the National Union of Aeronauts (SNA), has staked itself firmly against.
Local law does not put limits on any fifth-freedom international flights originating in Brazil. However, the SNA is against its systematic use as a way to bypass the use of Brazilian crew or aircraft as it was during the last time the airline and union went through negotiations.
Throughout 2020, LATAM Brasil had been in a negotiation to cut its pilots’ and cabin crew workers’ wages to match those offered by its competitors. Although the airline ditched the plan for a permanent reduction in February, the SNA had put the fifth-freedom flights as a centerpiece for further negotiations between workforce and airline.
Currently, using fifth-freedom rights in Brazil, LATAM Chile only connects São Paulo and Madrid with Chilean crew and aircraft, with the 787 originating in Santiago before stopping in São Paulo.
This way, the 787 can serve as a mid-point between LATAM Brasil’s 767-300s — which carry 221 passengers — and the Boeing 777-300 — which carry 410. The 787-8 has a capacity for 247 passengers, while the 787-9 carries 303. As a comparison, the airline’s Airbus A350-900 had 309 seats.
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