Next year's start of direct flights between Melbourne and Santiago is another measured step by LATAM to tap into the "trade and tourism" flow between Australian andSouth American.
Melbourne is only LATAM's second Australian destination, "but there's a lot of potential in Australia as point of origin and also a destination (for South Americans)," says Patricio Aylwin, managing director of Asia Pacific for LATAM.
"Australia is has enough big cities like Melbourne which have probably been under-served so they can give us capacity, whether through direct or indirect flights," Aylwin tells Australian Business Traveller.
While the Sydney-Santiago route involves a stop-over at Auckland, its southern sibling will run as a direct service: a decision which Aylwin says "just made more sense from all perspectives."
"We wanted to provide direct access to Melbourne and we didn’t want to extend even more capacity to Auckland."
Aylwin admits that there is "always" the possibility for Sydney-Santiago to shift to a non-stop service, despite the accidental side-effect it's had in become one of the better-value options for trans-Tasman business travellers.
However, both Sydney and Melbourne are likely to retain LATAM's Boeing 787-9 jets rather than shift to the new Airbus A350s which are "mainly flying from Brazil to the US and Europe," Aylwin says.
"The A350's performance has been very good, it's everything we expected from that aircraft, but I think the Boeing 787 is probably a better fit for Sydney and Melbourne."
To Santiago and beyond...
And despite the 7pm arrival of the 13-hour flight from Melbourne into Santiago, Aylwin expects many passengers will still hop straight onto connecting flights from Santiago to other South American cities on LATAM's extensive network – although "we are fine-tuning our schedule so people can connect even better than they could today."
"There are connections to all the major cities" from Santiago through the late evening "and we are considering connecting traffic for sure. This is not just a point-to-point flight, we know connectivity into the rest of South America is extremely important."
"Yes, there will be late arrival into cities such as Argentina, Peru and Brazil, but we think most passengers will want to continue on and arrive at their final destination as quickly as possible."