South American airline LAN didn't set out to win a chunk of the competitive trans-Tasman business travel market, but there's no denying that its Auckland stop-over en route from Sydney to Santiago has won over many passengers.
The combination of keenly-priced fares and a smooth-riding Boeing 787 Dreamliner makes an appealing alternative to the flights offered by Oneworld partner Qantas as well as Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand.
"Our main focus is definitely Santiago and South America – it's where we have the strength and the network, it's the reason we are here" Patricio Aylwin, managing director of Asia Pacific for LATAM, tells Australian Business Traveller.
"But what comes across the Tasman is welcome, we love the Tasman (traffic) and we will fight for it."
Aylwin is aware of the unique position which LAN holds on the trans-Tasman route – a position with both upsides and downsides.
"We have a good product, but we do not have the frequency (of flights) that other airlines have, and the itinerary is the time it is" he admits, referencing a 6am departure on the return leg from Auckland to Sydney. "So we price accordingly and are competitive in our pricing, and I think we do a decent job at that."
Sweet deals plus a Dreamliner
Looking at Sydney-Auckland business class return fares for the end of October, for example, LAN comes in as low as $778 against Qantas' $1,055 Business Sale fares or mid-range $1,609 Business Saver deals, with Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand around the $1,399 mark.
Those prices will seem even sweeter towards the end of this month when LAN upgrades the Sydney-Auckland-Santiago route from the current Boeing 787-8 to a Boeing 787-9 with an all-new cabin and seats.
The 30 wide seats convert to lie-flat beds with a decent amount of personal space.
Each seat gets it own 15.4 inch video screen, with AC and USB ports to keep your travel tech charged up en route.
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