By João Machado
LATAM to Incorporate Five ex-Norwegian 787s
As LATAM Airlines Group proceeds its Chapter 11 bankruptcy process into a solid and financially sustainable future, the airline conglomerate keeps reviewing its fleet plan; last week, it announced the leasing of 28 new Airbus A320neo added to the previously existing order for 42 aircraft of the newest generation of narrowbodies.
Now, within the filings of the bankruptcy process of the group, this week LATAM has filed documents that showed it reached an agreement with lessor Avolon of Ireland for three Boeing 787-9s and with lessor ORIX Aviation of Japan for two aircraft of the same type. All of the five previously operated for European low-cost Norwegian Air Shuttle in their ultimately flawed low-cost, long-haul venture.
LATAM is already an operator of the Boeing 787 family, concentrating all in the Chilean branch of the group. According to Airfleets.net, the company operates 10 of the smaller 787-8 version and 13 787-9s; this does not include four units of the 787-9 that were returned to the lessors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The five new frames, delivered to Norwegian between May 2017 and April 2019, were previously registered G-CJUI and LN-LNN; G-CKNZ and SE-RXZ; G-CKWC; G-CKWF and G-CKWU, according to data by Planespotters.net.
As with the new order for the A320neos, LATAM has reached the new agreement due to the favorable market conditions caused by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the aviation industry. As demand for air travel shrunk considerably – especially for long-haul segments – so did leasing rates. In fact, in both filings, the group discloses that all five aircraft will be paid in a “power by the hour-based rent for an established period and a competitive fixed rental rate once the PBH Period expires.” Agreements like these between airlines and lessors are especially common during the pandemic.
Although the filings do not disclose much information about the utilization of the assets, it is likely that these 787-9 will help replace the A350-900s that were phased out by LATAM Brasil. Brazilian aviation news website Aeroflap reported last Wednesday that LATAM is already selling tickets for domestic flights between São Paulo and Manaus operated by the 787-9, starting from October.
As reported by AirlineGeeks in April, LATAM Brasil will operate the Chilean-registered 787s with Brazilian personnel in a regime known as “interchange.” which allows foreign-registered aircraft to operate with local crews. Such a process differs from fifth-freedom flights as the flights are operated by LATAM Brasil crews and effectively fly as LATAM Brasil aircraft.
While Norwegian operated its 787-9 in a very dense configuration of 56 Premium Economy seats and 282 seats in Economy. LATAM’s latest interior in the 787-9s count with 30 fully-flat Premium Business seats, 57 seats in LATAM+ with a larger pitch and 216 seats in Economy, according to data by SeatGuru. It was not disclosed whether LATAM will update the interior of the five new 787-9s, although it is very likely, as LATAM’s long-haul services rely importantly on premium customers that value a Business class product.