LATAM Brazil’s general director, Jerome Cadier, has informed its employees on April 8 that the airline group will retire all its 11 A350 aircraft from its fleet between this and next week. The airline plans to reduce its widebody fleet and turn it more homogenous under one OEM, Boeing. 

LATAM Airlines Group received its first A350-900 in 2015. The original order was for 27 aircraft, as Airbus published in a statement. Six years later, in the midst of the worst pandemic in aviation history, the airline decided to end this adventure, having only ever received thirteen A350s. Seven out of the eleven aircraft now set to be retired are leased from AerCap.

The South American giant, which is under a Chapter 11 reorganization in the US for a year now, is looking to become simpler, more sustainable, and competitive. Therefore, it has to adjust the size of its fleet to the current environment. 

“Among these decisions, one is the restructuring of our widebody fleet in Brazil. Therefore, today we announce that seven aircraft A350 are leaving our LATAM Brazil fleet immediately; next week, another four will go as well. With that, starting this month, LATAM’s widebody fleet will be composed of B777/B767 and B787,” said Jerome Cadier. 

Widebody fleet reduced
At the end of 2020, LATAM Airline Group had a widebody fleet of 60 aircraft. It was composed of 17 Boeing 767s, ten -300ERs, 22 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, and the 11 Airbus A350s. Nevertheless, LATAM has faced a downturn due to the fall in international capacity. 

Currently, the airline isn’t flying many long-haul routes due to travel restrictions. For instance, Chile closed its borders in April, and many countries have restricted the traffic coming from Brazil, LATAM’s two main markets. 

To cope with this slower recovery, LATAM is adjusting its long-haul fleet. Besides the A350 retirement, LATAM’s management has decided to convert up to eight 767s into freighters in the next three years. Plus, it has retired four 787 Dreamliners. 

“This decision, besides having a smaller and homogenous fleet, allows us to have a more efficient widebody operation to go through this lower demand period in our international capacity,” said Cadier. 

Fewer airplanes
At the end of 2019, LATAM had a fleet of more than 340 aircraft. One year later, LATAM had it reduced to 300 planes, with plans to downsize it more. In 2020, LATAM saw a 69.9 percent fall in passenger revenue, which led to a net loss of US$ -4.54 billion. 

The airline group had to file for a Chapter 11 reorganization and get US$2.45 in Debtor-In Possession (DIP) funding from several investors, including Qatar Airways and the Cueto family. 

LATAM is currently working on its reorganization plan, which intends to present in the second half of 2021. The airline has until June 30 to show it, and the deadline for voting is on August 23. Nevertheless, the date for filing the Reorganization Plan may be further extended subject to the US Court’s approval, said LATAM.

For AerCap, the return of the seven aircraft means that a quarter of its A350-fleet will become available. The lessor has 27 -900s in its portfolio.  

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