LATAM Airlines suspends Argentina unit, ending its Miami-Buenos Aires route
Americans will have one less option to fly to Buenos Aires after the coronavirus pandemic following bankrupt LATAM Airlines' decision to close its Argentina unit.
The South American carrier has ceased all operations at its Argentine subsidiary for an "indefinite period," LATAM said on Wednesday. The move effects all of LATAM's domestic flights in the country, while most of its international services to Argentina are likely to be flown by its other affiliates following the crisis.
U.S. flights between Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) and Miami (MIA) will not resume after the coronavirus pandemic passes. LATAM spokesperson Martin Diaz confirmed that the airline will only serve the market via connections through its hubs in Brazil, Chile or Peru. American Airlines and Aerolineas Argentinas will continue to fly the Buenos Aires-Miami route.
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“This is regrettable but inevitable news," Roberto Alvo, CEO of LATAM, said in a statement. "Today, LATAM must focus on transforming the group to adapt to post-COVID-19 aviation."
LATAM has flown under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since May 26. The restructuring excludes its loyalty program, LATAM Pass, as well as its affiliates in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.
The airline was the second in South America to file for bankruptcy after Avianca. The Colombian carrier has closed its affiliate in Peru since beginning restructuring.
Related: LATAM Airlines hopes to speed Delta partnership through bankruptcy restructuring
The lack of government aid has hit South American airlines hard. Brazil has been alone in the region to support carriers financially through the crisis. Argentina has not offered any aid to the industry despite grounding all commercial flights in April through Sept. 1.
Argentina's largest carrier, Aerolineas Argentinas, is owned by the state.
The Latin American airline trade organization ALTA has warned the Argentine government of an "imminent and substantial risk" to country's airlines if the grounding stays in place without any financial assistance to the industry.
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LATAM was the second largest domestic carrier in Argentina after Aerolineas in 2019, according to Cirium schedules. The airline operated nearly 13% of flights in the country.
Internationally, LATAM connected Buenos Aires to nine cities across South America, including its hubs in Lima (LIM), São Paulo Guarulhos (GRU) and Santiago, Chile (SCL). It also offered flights to Miami.
LATAM's Argentine unit was due to become part of the carrier's new partnership with Delta Air Lines. Unveiled last September, the deal includes a joint venture covering all of the carriers' flights between between South America and the U.S., as well as improved connectivity and reciprocal frequent flyer benefits.
Related: Delta members can soon earn and redeem SkyMiles on LATAM flights
Delta and LATAM had yet to implement a codeshare agreement covering the latter's Argentine operations prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. At the time, the partnership only extended to LATAM's flights in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
Prior to the crisis, Delta served Buenos Aires from its Atlanta (ATL) base, Cirium shows.
LATAM has not commented on the status of its Airbus A320s based in Argentina. However, it has already sought bankruptcy court approval to return 24 planes in its 320-jet strong fleet to leasing companies.
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