Australians seeking to return home from South America have been forced to buy one of the most expensive economy tickets of all time. $5,500 Australian dollars ($3,387.59 US dollars) for a one-way economy ticket on the specially charted LATAM aircraft from Lima to Sydney via Santiago.
What are the details?
As citizens around the world find themselves trapped in various countries with no way to get home, they have hounded their respective governments to put them on special rescue flights. Whilst some governments have operated free flights to get their people home, others have employed charter services from airlines to operate flights on their behalf, braving border closures and contagion fears.
We have already seen a number of interesting flights over the last few days. For example, El Al operated a rescue flight to Perth for Israeli citizens, which was the first time the airline has flown to the country. Now, we are seeing LATAM perform the same service for Australians trapped in Peru.
Chimu flight has departed Peru on route to Sydney with passengers from Cusco and Lima. Thanks to all, including Peruvian airforce for hard work to make it happen. We are focussed on our ongoing work to help Aussies get home.Thanks for your patience and understanding. @MarisePayne pic.twitter.com/DGDdIVCyRB
— Diana Nelson (@embauslima) March 29, 2020
Working with the local embassy, the Australian government has given permission for LATAM to operate a direct service from South America to Sydney (Lima, Peru to Santiago, Chile, to Sydney, Australia) to get these people home. The aircraft chosen would be a LATAM Boeing 787-9 and would carry around 270 passengers on the 15-hour flight.
“When we discovered there were numerous other Australian nationals stuck in Peru, we decided to expand the operation. At Chimu, we are fortunate to have our own logistics employees on the ground in Peru so we activated our people immediately. We have spent the last fifteen years facilitating travel arrangements for travelers from around the world to visit Latin America, this is the first time in history that our focus has been to get them home.” Said Greg Carter, Co-founder of Chimu Adventures in a press release to Simple Flying.
However, because of the special last-minute chartered nature of the flight, the passengers have had to cough up $5,500 Australian dollars (roughly $3,390 US dollars) for an economy ticket, with prices increasing if they want to fly in business class. A return ticket normally costs around $1,805 AUD last minute ($1,108 USD) according to Google Flights.
Given 273 economy seats at $5,160, and 21 biz class seats at $10,872 the flight grossed $1,636,992. A tidy bit of coin for so-called humanitarian repatriation flight!
— Matthew Ryan (@mattieryan) March 29, 2020
When Simple Flying asked Chimu specifically why it was so expensive for these tickets, we were simply told: “Prices varied depending on booking class.”
What are the flight details?
Whilst details have been light from both LATAM and the company chartering the special flights (Chimu Adventures) we have found an aircraft currently flying that matches the description.
Looking at FlightRadar24, there is an aircraft in the sky that matches the description: a LATAM Boeing 787-9.
You can actually see another aircraft ahead of the plane, LAN801, which is the normal service from Santiago to Auckland (and then the fifth freedom route to Sydney).
Furthermore, looking at the flight manifest of the aircraft CC-BGH you can see that it took a special flight (LA1111) from Lima where it picked up the majority of the passengers.
From here, the tour operator is planning to hire another 787-9 to Australians home from Uruguay. The company said,
“Chimu now continues to work on the final logistics to return another planeload of Australians from Montevideo in Uruguay, this will include travelers who have been stuck on board the Ocean Atlantic unable to disembark due to port restrictions placed following the COVID-19 Pandemic announcement.”
As of this article’s deadline, it is reported that some passengers who are booking the Uruguay flight will be reimbursed from the Australian government. However, we don’t know if this deal will be retroactively applied to the Lima flight.
People left behind are at risk. Mentally and physically. Especially those who are alone. Ironic that this situation has arisen as we are trying to stop people becoming unwell… And it’s shameful that $ determines who can go home. Utterly.
— Dean Mundey (@DeanMundey) March 29, 2020
What do you think of this news? Have you ever paid so much for a ticket? Let us know in the comments.