LATAM Airlines Group is hoping to relaunch its iconic Santiago-Auckland-Sydney route during 2022’s first quarter, the airline confirmed Simple Flying today. This flight has been suspended since 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the travel restrictions worldwide. Nevertheless, there could be a date in sight to relaunch it.
The iconic route
In 2019, LATAM Airlines Group had two destinations in Australia and one in New Zealand. The airline operated the routes Santiago de Chile-Auckland-Sydney, Santiago de Chile-Sydney, and Santiago de Chile-Melbourne, offering 36,091 seats per month.
LATAM used its Boeing 787-8 fleet to connect with Melbourne and the bigger 787-9 to Auckland and Sydney. Simple Flying reviewed LATAM’s business class between Sydney and Auckland in 2019.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Air New Zealand and Qantas also flew between Oceania and South America. Air New Zealand connected Auckland with Buenos Aires using its B777-200/200ER fleet; Qantas flew between Sydney and Santiago with its Boeing 747-400 fleet. Nowadays, there are zero scheduled commercial flights between both regions, although Qantas did operate its largest flight ever between Buenos Aires and Darwin last week.
Both regions have had some of the strictest travel restrictions worldwide, which hasn’t helped either to restore the connectivity. Nevertheless, LATAM expects things will change shortly.
Relaunching the route
Today, LATAM sources confirmed to Simple Flying that restoring the routes to Auckland and Sydney is a possibility. The route to Melbourne is still suspended, and there’s no date in sight for a restart yet.
At the earliest, LATAM would reactivate the route from March 1, 2022, with three weekly flights using its B787-9 fleet. Then, it could increase to six flights per week by the end of March.
LATAM is very interested in restoring its connectivity to New Zealand and Australia, as it was a unique market. Moreover, the airline also has invested in acquiring slots at these hubs, so it should have a strong incentive to keep on flying these routes.
Nevertheless, many things can still go wrong between today and that date. The airline sources did point out that travel restrictions have to be eased on both sides, and the pandemic has to continue its downwards trajectory before an official announcement can be made.
How’s LATAM international connectivity?
In October 2021, LATAM Airlines Group is offering 846 flights to international destinations not in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The carrier (currently under Chapter 11) has a capacity of 224,206 seats in these routes. LATAM has 19 international routes not to Latin America and the Caribbean, mainly to the US.
A couple of years ago, LATAM offered 1,483 monthly flights, including destinations like Johannesburg (from Sao Paulo) and Sydney. LATAM Airlines Group still has to recover 43% of its pre-pandemic capacity and 17 routes, according to stats by Cirium.
According to its latest projections, the South American carrier expects to recover its international long-haul connectivity by 2024 fully. Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, LATAM has reshaped and resized its long-haul fleet. It has converted quite a few Boeing 767-300ERs into freighters, rejected the leases of its Airbus A350 fleet, and sent some Boeing 787 Dreamliners from Chile to Brazil (to fill the gap left by the exit of the A350).
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