Today we will be looking at LATAM’s fleet plan. The South American airline has been actively reducing the size of its fleet but also has restarted the reconfiguration project of its narrowbody planes.
At the end of 2019, LATAM had 320 passenger aircraft and 11 Boeing 767-300F. For long-haul passenger service, the South American carrier had eight Airbus A350-900, 31 Boeing 767-300, ten Boeing 777-300ER, ten Boeing 787-8, and 16 Boeing 787-9. That’s a total of 75 widebody aircraft.
Then, the COVID-19 pandemic heavily impacted the carrier’s fleet plans going forward. The airline filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy on May 26, 2020. In the last few months, it has rejected the leasing contracts on many planes.
Currently, LATAM has 286 planes. It rejected the leasing arrangements of its Airbus A350 fleet. The LATAM-A350 saga has been one of the most exciting and newsworthy during the pandemic, dragging Delta Air Lines and Qatar Airways into the mud.
LATAM has also released a few Boeing 787 Dreamliners aircraft and reduced its standing order with the American OEM. The South American company has also been actively reshaping its Boeing 767-300 fleet, both for passenger and cargo. As stated before, LATAM had 11 B767-300F prior to the pandemic and 31 commercial planes of this family. In May, LATAM announced it will increase by 90% its cargo fleet, going from 11 to 21 in the next two years. Therefore, it is reducing its 767 passenger fleet.
Moreover, during the first days of July, there was news reporting that LATAM also wants to sell nine more Boeing 767s. Once LATAM exits its Chapter 11, its long-haul fleet could easily be half of what it was on December 31, 2019.
Retrofitting the narrowbody fleet
LATAM’s fleet plan is not only focused on widebody aircraft. The Chilean company is also reconfiguring 74 Airbus A320 family planes in the next two years. Last week, LATAM announced that it would restart its reconfiguration plans, executed at LATAM’s MRO in São Carlos, Brazil. Between now and September 2022, LATAM will retrofit the cabins of 30 LATAM Brazil Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft and 44 additional planes from other LATAM branches.
The plan to retrofit the narrowbody fleet dates back to 2019. That year, LATAM invested $400 million to modernize the cabins of its A320 fleet. Up to March 2020, LATAM reconfigured 44 planes, but then it had to stop due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, after a challenging Chapter 11, LATAM is ready to restart. Alexandre Peronti, Maintenance director for LATAM Brazil said: “Relaunching the retrofit project at LATAM’s MRO is a clear indication that we are trying to compete more aggressively in the Brazilian market, with a more modern and efficient product for our clients.”
To do so, LATAM mechanics disassemble the whole cabin. They substitute all the seats, the bathrooms, and the galley. Plus, they install a new in-seat power to provide electricity to each seat and put a new direct view system that monitors the passenger cabin during landings and departures.
How’s LATAM doing currently?
In July, LATAM is operating at a 46% pre-pandemic capacity. The airline is flying approximately 880 domestic and international daily passenger segments; it is connecting 116 destinations and 16 countries. The Cargo division scheduled 1,030 freighter flights this month.
LATAM Colombia has had the best recovery, operating at 76% of the levels in July 2019. Meanwhile, LATAM Ecuador is performing the worst, at 23%.