LATAM Airlines Group S.A – a route planning perspective: Biggest South American carrier, but few points served in Europe/US…

LATAM: Which alliance? In just the past week, TAM has started important new routes from Rio to the competing fortresses of Frankfurt (Star Alliance) and London Heathrow (oneworld). In Frankfurt, Martin Bein, Fraport’s SVP Traffic & Terminal Management, cuts the “Cake of the Week”  with TAM’s Jose Sales Filho, Director Europe, Middle East & Asia (who is significantly based in Madrid…Iberia’s oneworld stronghold). In London, Sue Faithfull, TAM’s UK & Ireland GM, introduces the new Rio-Heathrow service to delighted future customers: SuperClubs’ Annabelle Marshall and Brazil’s UK Ambassador, Eduardo Monteiro de Barros Roxo.

With bases in different countries, it is not surprising that there is little network overlap between Brazil’s TAM and Chile’s LAN, which announced their merger intention to create “LATAM” last week. The merger has been a long time coming, with close links existing between the Cueto family of LAN and the Amaro family of TAM.

The combination of Latin America’s largest and most successful carriers will create an airline group with over 200 aircraft, with a further 200 on order. It conveniently bridges South America’s Spanish and Portuguese-speaking language blocs via its most dynamic economies, but raises plenty of route planning-related questions surrounding whether it should now follow LAN’s oneworld or TAM’s Star Alliance allegiances.

The announcement trumpeted $400 million in annual synergies which, among other savings, would stem from “alignment of the passenger networks”. But, overall, the two sides placed greater emphasis on the prospects of LATAM’s new routes: “Growth enabled by the transaction would reach new destinations… together, LAN and TAM will be able to offer new destinations that neither company could have supported on its own…”

In this article, analyses the meaning of LATAM in purely network terms.

Chart: Latin America's top 15 airports - TAM-LAN presence (weekly departing seats)

Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 4 August 2010

With Brazil as its backyard, TAM is the larger carrier in terms of fleet and passengers carried. Analysis of the 15 busiest airports in Latin America shows where TAM and LAN have the strongest presence.

TAM has a major presence at the eight Brazilian airports that make it into the top 15, while LAN is the dominant carrier at just two; Lima in Peru and Santiago in Chile. It also has a significant presence at Buenos Aires’ Jorge Newbery airport. Among the busiest airports in the region, LAN/TAM have little or no presence in Bogota, Cancun, Mexico City and San Juan.

Services to North America and Europe but Asia is out of range

While having a fairly comprehensive network within lower South America, it is worth examining what long-haul services both carriers offer.

Continent TAM LAN
North America Miami (GIG, GRU, MAO)
New York JFK (GIG, GRU)
Orlando (GRU)
Los Angeles (LIM)
New York JFK (LIM, SCL)
San Francisco (LIM)
Europe Frankfurt (GIG, GRU)
London Heathrow (GIG, GRU)
Madrid (GRU)
Milan Malpensa (GRU)
Paris CDG (GIG, GRU)
Madrid (GYE, LIM, SCL, UIO)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 4 August 2010 plus new routes from GIG to LHR, FRA started this week.
*One-stop service

TAM only began non-stop services from Rio de Janeiro to London Heathrow and Frankfurt this week, although both are already served non-stop from São Paulo. Paris was the first European destination to be served by the airline from both Rio and São Paulo. By linking their South American networks, it should become easier to generate additional traffic volumes on these long-haul routes.

It is worth mentioning that due to geographic location and current aircraft range limitations, neither carrier has any services to Asia. Passengers wishing to travel between South America and Asia have a number of options; either via the US with US carriers, via Europe with European carriers or via the Middle East on Emirates or Qatar Airways.

All for one(world) or two for Star?

One issue that has yet to be resolved is which alliance the combined carrier will choose. LAN is a longstanding member of oneworld, while TAM recently joined Star Alliance.’s editorial staff are evenly biased between the two alliances, but both camps agree that LATAM probably will choose Star, which offers partners in two important European markets; TAP in Portugal and Spanair in Spain, while oneworld ‘only’ offers Spanish Iberia.


  1. Jose Mulet says:

    I would join STAR. If the new LATAM carrier is after the long haul markets in Europe in particular, then flights to cities such as: MAN-BRU-MUC-CAI-CPH-IST-LIS would feed into smaller European destinations via STAR carriers. IB already flys to many Latin American cities. Great potential for air cargo as well.

  2. Henk Ombelet says:

    You forgot to mention that LAN actually does fly to Australia and New Zealand.

    Regarding the alliance choice – it would be bad for competition if two of the strongest Latin American carriers join the same alliance – whether that’s Star or oneworld. Star is also already talking to COPA, TACA and Avianca. Having 5 alliance members (and 7 if you include subsidiaries AeroRepublica and OceanAir) in Latin America would seem a bit much. So either LATAM joins oneworld, or TACA-Avianca and possibly Copa have to rethink their alliance strategy.

  3. Mike Clayton says:

    Re Lan/TAM. Don’t forget! > L A N flies to Sydney/SYD. Onward connections to Asia/S E Asia available via this routing!

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