By João Machado
LATAM Brasil Outlines Growth Plans
As Brazil is through its worst phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and the vaccination campaign ramps up, airlines that operate domestically are starting to feel the effect of increased demand. This time, contrary to the shattered hopes and brief rebound of later 2020 (or, as it is called in Brazil, a “chicken flight”), companies start to gear up for good, hoping for a post-pandemic scenario.
In this regard, LATAM Brasil, the second largest airline by domestic traffic in the country pre-COVID and currently the second largest (as per June figures), outlined its plans leaving the COVID crisis behind.
By July 26th, Brazil has had 45.09% of its population immunised with the first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 17.73% with the vaccination cycle completed (including Johnson’s one-shot vaccine), according to G1.
While in July LATAM Brasil reached 75% of its pre-pandemic capacity in the domestic market, it plans to match pre-COVID figures by the end of the year. Going to show that at this stage the rebound is being driven by tourism demand, the airline affirms that three destinations are “the most seeked by [their] customers”: Maceió, Natal and Salvador, the three being state capitals in the Northeast and large national tourism hubs.
With respect to the national market, additionally, LATAM Brasil affirmed it restarted the investments in retrofitting its narrowbody fleet, originally halted by the pandemic onset. According to the airline, another 30 Airbus A320 and A321 will receive a refurbished interior by September 2022; with the change bringing the number of seats of the A320 from 174 to 180 and of the A321 from 220 to 224.
LATAM Brasil’s current domestic fleet is composed by 21 Airbus A319, 70 A320 (including three A320neo) and 29 Airbus A321.
Of the entire fleet of 143 frames operated by the airline – also composed by the Boeing 767-300 and the 777-300 for its long-haul operations, with the Airbus A350 retired in April – 110 are active (76.9%), and the airline expects to have 127 operative (88.8%) by year-end. As reported by AirlineGeeks also in April, LATAM Brasil also intends to incorporate an undisclosed number of Boeing 787s from the group’s Chilean branch for its international operations.
Although the current international network of LATAM Brasil is at 20% of pre-pandemic levels – a number that has been generally flat since COVID started – the airline says there is enough reason to be optimistic about it. Markets that have remained open, especially México, were a positive surprise, with the airline even launching a direct São Paulo-Cancún service after four years.
“We launched the direct flight with two weekly frequencies in June”, said Diogo Elias, LATAM Brasil’s Sales and Marketing Director. “In July, we had to increase it to three, since we had maximum occupation in the starting month, with more than 95% of load factors. I don’t have a doubt that, once the restrictions to international [flying] fall down, we’ll have a good rebound, especially to the United States.”