LATAM Airlines Group is temporarily suspending 23 routes, both domestically and internationally, due to the current pandemic and its Chapter 11 reorganization. This news comes after LATAM closed its branch in Argentina, scrapping both domestic and international routes from this country. Let’s investigate further.
Which routes will be affected?
In a statement seen by Simple Flying, LATAM said that the following domestic routes have been scrapped for the time being:
- Concepción-Punta Arenas
- Antofagasta-La Serena
- Calama-La Serena
- Santiago-Puerto Natales
Meanwhile, LATAM also suspended 16 international routes. These are:
- Santiago-Rio de Janeiro
- Santiago-Porto Alegre
- Santiago Melbourne
- Santiago-Punta Cana
- Santiago-Punta del Este
- Easter Island-Papeete
The carrier added,
“The reactivation of these routes will be evaluated according to the development of the pandemic and the restrictions imposed by local authorities.”
Which international routes will we see back?
This week, we reported that a US court ruled that LATAM was allowed remove specific aircraft from its fleet. The South American carrier has flexibility over 111 leased aircraft, both narrowbody and widebody.
LATAM will undoubtedly get rid of some of the fleet that flew with LATAM Argentina. But the carrier had a total fleet of 320 aircraft before the pandemic, thus, it is doubtful that it will keep a number this high. Roberto Alvo, LATAM’s CEO, said in early June that the carrier had 42,000 employees, but, at the time it only needed 5,000 to function. The same principle applies to the fleet.
We expect that the Chile-Brazil routes will come back. LATAM has deep ties in both countries, as seen throughout its history. The same will likely happen for the routes from Santiago to Quito and Cusco. Those two markets are quite essential to be underserved for too long.
The routes to Punta Cana, Cancún, and Punta del Este will likely depend on the rebound of tourism in Latin America. They will eventually come back, but they’ll do as the intraregional tourism restarts.
We expect that the routes of Iquique-Salta, Concepción-Lima, Calama-Lima, and Santiago-Melbourne could be axed.
And, what about Easter Island-Papeete? It is the first time in history that the air connectivity between Chile and Tahiti has been interrupted. We think it will come back as the inhabitants of Easter Island have deep ties with the Pacific islanders.
Could the domestic routes be in jeopardy?
Over the last few years, LATAM Airlines Group have lost the inside track in the Chilean domestic market. With the surge of low-cost carriers such as Sky Airlines, LATAM saw that it couldn’t compete. Its story is similar to what Aeromexico dealt with in Mexico with the appearance of Volaris, Viva Aerobus, and Interjet.
Instead, LATAM Airlines Group focused its operation on making the international routes profitable. It created a one of a kind service that provided long haul operations for the South American market – and has been very successful at it. It was so successful that it managed to keep the small domestic routes even when those were not breaking even. The same happened in Argentina, where LATAM operated for 15 years, with net losses in the last four years.
But now, LATAM faces its most severe crisis in its history. The coronavirus pandemic came to destroy the South American air industry and markets. With this in mind, the Chilean carrier will have to look closely at the seven domestic routes it has just suspended. In conclusion, we don’t expect all of the suspended routes to return.
How many routes do you expect to see back? Let us know in the comments.