What Will Happen When LATAM Leaves The oneworld Alliance?

LATAM is oneworld’s largest member in South America. As a result, when LATAM announced they were leaving oneworld in favor of a partnership with Delta Air Lines, it sent a ripple throughout the aviation world. As oneworld’s only South American airline, this decision will affect the alliance negatively.

LATAM A320neo
LATAMs withdrawal from the oneworld alliance will leave oneworld without a South American partner. Photo: Airbus

LATAM is leaving oneworld

Shortly after announcing a major partnership with Delta Air Lines, LATAM announced they would be departing from the oneworld alliance. This made sense as it meant LATAM would not be pursuing greater cooperation with founding member, American Airlines.

American Airlines
LATAM’s partnership with American Airlines faced many regulatory hurdles. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Outside of American, LATAM did not partner closely with many other airlines in the oneworld alliance. Indeed, American had the greatest presence in South America after LATAM of all the oneworld airlines. As alliance memberships can come at high costs, it makes financial sense for the airline to exit the alliance to seek additional partners. China Southern used a similar rationale for their departure from the Skyteam alliance.

oneworld loses a South American partner

LATAM leaving oneworld means that the alliance will no longer have a major member in South America. Thus, this creates a critical gap in the alliance network. And, as one of American Airlines’ most profitable regions, this move will undoubtedly harm the alliance in the long-term.

Partnerships that enable for reciprocal frequent-flier benefits, checked baggage agreements, and codesharing can ease the connection process for travelers and airlines alike. It is unclear if LATAM will seek to maintain other oneworld partners outside of the alliance.

In the short term, without those partnerships, oneworld passengers will face mixed-airline itineraries that can be a hassle in terms of re-checking luggage and ticketing.

oneworld livery
oneworld will soon have a critical gap in South America. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

LATAM’s history with alliances

LATAM as known today was once two separate airlines. LAN and TAM came together to form the South American giant a few years ago. As part of the merger, TAM, a member of the Star Alliance network, left that alliance as the new airline chose to be a member of the oneworld alliance. This was likely to leverage their key partnership with American Airlines.

TAM before becoming LATAM
After TAM merged with LAN, the new airline chose oneworld over Star Alliance. Photo: Airbus

Fortunately for Star Alliance, they still had Avianca for a major presence in South America. Skyteam, meanwhile, had Aerolíneas Argentinas, although they do not have as large a presence as either LATAM or Avianca.

Will LATAM join Skyteam after leaving oneworld?

Now that LATAM is partnering with Delta, this begs the question of whether LATAM will join the Skyteam alliance. However, this move seems unlikely. On one hand, LATAM’s independence will allow the airline to pursue partnerships and opportunities. Not to mention, as a member of an alliance, this comes with additional expenses. Although it is not impossible for LATAM to join Skyteam, they likely will not do so anytime soon.

LATAM, after leaving oneworld, will likely not join Skyteam anytime soon. Photo: Bidgee via Wikimedia Commons

How do you think LATAM’s departure will affect oneworld? Let us know in the comments!