Sydney-South America options for corporates improve as LATAM Airlines adds nonstop services

LATAM Airlines has unveiled plans to launch three weekly nonstop flights from Santiago to Sydney in Nov-2019. The Chile-based airline group currently serves Sydney with a daily flight via Auckland and plans to continue to operate Santiago-Auckland-Sydney four times per week after the new nonstop option is launched.


Highlights:

  • LATAM Airlines plans to upgrade three of its seven weekly Sydney flights from one-stop via Auckland to nonstop from Nov-2019;
  • Corporates will now have the flexibility of nonstop Sydney-Santiago flights every day of the week virtually year-round when also factoring in the existing nonstop service from LATAM partner Qantas;
  • Santiago is the only nonstop destination in Latin America from Sydney – as well as from Melbourne – but connections are available throughout the region using LATAM’s hub.

Qantas is currently the only airline operating nonstop services between Santiago and Sydney. It operates the route with three to five weekly flights depending on the time of year. As Qantas and LATAM are codeshare partners, the new LATAM-operated nonstop service will provide customers a daily product most of the year. This is particularly important for corporates, who appreciate the flexibility of a nonstop flight every day of the week.

Sydney-Santiago is not a huge corporate market but Santiago can act as a gateway to rest of Latin America including economic powerhouse Brazil. Santiago is LATAM’s main hub, resulting in quick one-stop connections from Sydney to destinations throughout the region.

LATAM has not yet set a launch date or begun tickets sales for Santiago-Sydney nonstops but has stated the new service will launch in Nov-2019. While the new nonstop Sydney flights will increase its nonstop seat capacity from Australia the increase will be relatively minor because the airline is reducing capacity to Melbourne.

The airline is cutting Melbourne-Santiago from five to three weekly flights in Aug-2019. It is further reducing Melbourne-Santiago capacity in Oct-2019 as it downgauges the route from 313-seat 787-9s to 247-seat 787-8s.

LATAM launched Melbourne in Oct-2017 and initially operated the service three times weekly with 787-9s. It added two 787-9 frequencies in Dec-2018, resulting in five frequencies and 1,565 weekly one-way seats. The new thrice weekly 787-8 schedule for Santiago-Melbourne will generate only 741 weekly one-way seats, representing a 53% reduction compared to the current schedule and a 21% reduction compared to the first year of the Melbourne-Santiago operation.

LATAM uses a mix of the 787-8s and 787-9s on the Santiago-Auckland-Sydney route depending on the time of year. It currently deploys 787-8s (based on May-2019 schedules) and the last couple of years has deployed -8s in the off-peak southern winter months and -9s the rest of the year.

Qantas currently uses 364-seat 747-400s on its Sydney-Santiago flights. However, Qantas is phasing out its 747 fleet in 2020 which will likely result in the route being downgauged to 236-seat 787-9s in the next year, but it could add frequencies to Santiago as it switches to the smaller twin-engined type.

It would be sensible for Qantas to at least introduce a fourth weekly flights during the off-peak winter months of May, June, August and September instead of the current schedule of three frequencies during this period. The additional flight would give Qantas and LATAM a combined daily schedule for this period and hence a daily year-round product.

However, LATAM’s launch of nonstop services on the Santiago-Sydney route could prompt Qantas to decide against adding a significant number of frequencies. A year-round 787-9 product of four weekly flights with a fifth frequency during peak periods would result in about a 30% reduction in Qantas capacity compared to the current schedule but Qantas-LATAM combined nonstop capacity would be up by over 20%.

LATAM configures its 787-9s with 30 lie flat business seats and 283 economy seats, including 51 extra legroom economy seats. Its 787-8s also have 30 lie flat business class seats but only 247 economy seats. LATAM does not have a premium economy product. Its business product on the 787 is in a relatively tight 2x2x2 configuration while economy is in the standard 3x3x3 configuration.

Qantas’ 787-9s have 42 lie flat business class seats in the more preferred 1x2x1 configuration. Its 787-9s also have 28 premium economy seats in a 2x3x2 configuration and 166 economy seats in 3x3x3 configuration. The 747-400 Qantas now uses on the Santiago route has 58 lie flat business class seats, 36 premium economy seats and 270 economy seats.