LATAM will exit the Oneworld airline alliance as it forges ahead on a new partnership with Delta Air Lines, opening up the possibility that the South American carrier could take a seat next to Delta at the SkyTeam table.
A statement issued to media by Oneworld confirms that LATAM "intend to leave the alliance in due course and in accordance with formal contractual requirements. We are disappointed, but we respect their decision."
The move, which will leave Oneworld without its lynchpin presence in Latin America, follows an overnight announcement by Delta Air Lines that it will buy a 20% stake in LATAM worth US$1.9 billion to create a major partnership between the North and South American carriers.
It also opens the door to LATAM jumping across to SkyTeam, of which Delta is a founding member. Executive Traveller has contacted LATAM to ask whether the airline may realign itself, but had not received a response at the time of publication.
“This alliance with Delta strengthens our company and enhances our leadership in Latin America by providing the best connectivity through our highly complementary route networks,” said LATAM CEO Enrique Cueto Plaza.
As part of the deal, Delta will acquire four Airbus A350 aircraft currently flown by LATAM and will take ownership of ten additional A350 jets to be delivered from 2020 to 2025.
Oneworld frequent flyer points and perks with LATAM
While LATAM remains a Oneworld member, there'll be no change to frequent flyer arrangements including the earning and redeeming of points, airport lounge access and other perks for frequent flyers.
This includes benefits for Oneworld Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald cardholders of Oneworld alliance airlines when travelling with LATAM, as well at LATAM's own tiered frequent flyers, who can expect the same treatment when jetting about with Oneworld member airlines until LATAM finalises its exit.
Approached by Executive Traveller for comment, a Qantas spokesperson confirmed that “there are no changes to our codeshare with LATAM as a result of recent announcements.”
“Qantas and LATAM have agreed that the bilateral agreement we have works well for customers and we will look for opportunities to enhance it in future.”
LATAM – previously two airlines, Chilean LAN and Brazilian TAM – has an interesting history with airline alliances.
LAN Airlines joined Oneworld back in 2000, and by 2007, had also brought three of its its South American affiliates under the Oneworld banner, including LAN Peru, LAN Argentina and LAN Ecuador.
TAM, on the other hand, joined rival Star Alliance in 2010, merged with LAN in 2012, quit Star Alliance in 2014 to join Oneworld instead, and alongside LAN, both airlines were rebranded as LATAM in 2015, a Oneworld alliance member.