South American airline group LATAM is not ruling out further destinations in Australia but says it will concentrate on getting its Santiago-Melbourne flight running well before attempting further expansion.
LATAM, which already flies Boeing 787-9s to Sydney via Auckland, will start using the planes on the first non-stop service between South America and Melbourne in October next year.
The South American giant has been a steadfast supporter of the potential for traffic growth between the two continents and the new Melbourne -Santiago route is a sign that confidence is starting to pay off.
It has signed a deal with Tourism Australia and the Victorian Government to promote the route, which will take about 13 hours heading to Santiago and 15 hours coming back. The route complements LATAMs daily B787-9 services between Sydney and Santiago via Auckland as well non-stop Boeing 747-400 Sydney-Santiago codeshare services operated by alliance partner Qantas,
The new service means a reduced travel time for Melburnians and also gives LATAM the ability to offer the Victorian capital as a transfer point for passengers from cities such as Perth and Adelaide.
Its Boeing 787-9s have 220 seats in economy, 54 seats in Space+ and 30 in Premium Business. Seats in all cabins have access to video on demand and business class passengers have seats that recline into a fully flat bed. They also have a newly-designed menu featuring Latin American cuisine as well as premium Chilean and Argentinian wines.
LATAM currently brings about 190,000 passengers per year into Oceania — the three times weekly Melbourne flights will add another 75,000 — and Asia Pacific managing director, Patricio Aylwin, told Airline Ratings the market was doing well.
“So the Sydney-Auckland route as we currently have it is doing well and we know there’s a lot of potential in other destinations and points of sale within Australia as well,’’ he said. “We’ve always been looking for opportunities and we thought now was the right time to add more capacity into another port in Australia.’’
Asked if there were no plans to look at Downunder destinations beyond Sydney and Melbourne, Alwin said the group needed to take its expansion “one stage at a time’’ and added that it was also not looking at flying directly from Sydney to Santiago at this stage.
But he was optimistic Melbourne could go daily from the initial flights on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to do that for sure,’’ he said. “I think everyone would like to operate everywhere successfully and we’re no different to that.’’
Also on the South American airline’s radar is the potential of connecting South America with South-East Asia through Australia — a possibility that has also stirred the interest of Air New Zealand and Qantas.
Aylwin pointed to a codeshare with oneworld partner Cathay Pacific in Auckland as an example.
That’s just one,’’ he said “There’s potential for others as well.’’
The renewed push into Australia comes as LATAM this year relaunched its brand under a new coral and indigo logo as part of the ongoing amalgamation of the former Chilean-based LAN and Brazilian TAM airlines since the two merged in 2012.
Aylwin said the merger had made good progress, particularly this year with the new brand, but officials had known the process would take time.
”Our customers are starting to see one brand and one product more and more often, ‘’ he said. “ We still have, obviously, aircraft which are not all painted to the new LATAM livery.
“There’s still some time to go but the progress has been good and I think it’s becoming more and more consistent over time. It’s becoming a LATAM product rather than two separate brands.’’