LATAM Airlines Group confirmed the expansion of its cargo fleet, increasing it from 11 to 21 Boeing 767 planes in 2023. This will boost by nearly 100% its freighter capacity and put LATAM as the biggest cargo operator in Latin America. Let’s investigate further.
LATAM’s interest in the freighter division
LATAM currently has 11 Boeing 767-300F. Despite most of LATAM’s business being now heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the freighter segment is growing smoothly.
LATAM cargo revenues had a 36.8% increase during 2021’s first quarter, with the airline obtaining US$345.2 million. To seize this market, in March, LATAM announced the conversion of up to eight 767 into freighters.
This original announcement included four firm conversions with Boeing and four options. Now, LATAM has exercised the four options plus added two more B767-300ERs.
Andrés Bianchi, LATAM Cargo CEO, said,
“The decision to expand our fleet is based on the attractive growth opportunities available, recent efficiency improvements, and flexibility. Thanks to these elements, we believe we will grow profitably, even if facing conditions similar to those that we faced before the pandemic. This expansion will allow us to continue responding to our customers’ needs and supporting the region’s economic growth.”
When will LATAM receive the freighters?
LATAM currently has 17 Boeing 767-300ER in commercial passenger service. These planes are part of the long-haul fleet of LATAM, which was recently shaken up by the Airbus A350 exit.
Today’s announcement means LATAM will reduce its 767-300ERs fleet to seven units within the next two years.
Between 2021 and 2022, LATAM expects to receive its first four converted aircraft; the six additional airplanes will arrive between 2022 and 2023. Upon completion of the plan, the Group will have almost doubled its freighter capacity and reduced the average fleet age from 17 to 14 years.
While LATAM receives all the converted freighters, the airline will use a hybrid format of commercial airplanes doing cargo operations. The airline will use some 767-300ERs for this type of flight.
It will completely remove the seats from three planes, which will allow a payload of up to 46 tons per flight. Two of these aircraft are already operational. The third one will be available in the upcoming months.
How will LATAM use its freighter fleet?
The Latin American air cargo industry is not recovering well from the COVID-19 pandemic. The economic uncertainty in the region, plus many bankruptcies, has heavily impacted this segment’s performance.
Nevertheless, it seems like the airlines are already taking steps to change the direction of the current crisis. For instance, Grupo Aeromexico recently launched an uncontested cargo-only route between Mexico City and Wuhan, China.
LATAM aims to improve the connectivity between South and North America. Plus, the reinforcement of LATAM’s capacity will position the group as the leading freighter operator in the region.
Kamal Hadad, LATAM Cargo’s Network and Alliances Director stated,
“In particular, capacity from Colombia and Ecuador will be strengthened to support the flower export industry. Additional flights to support Chilean salmon exports as well as import traffic into the country will also be reinforced. Capacity to and from Brazil will go up as we add routes from North America and Europe, boosting both the export and import markets.”
What do you think of LATAM’s freighter plans? Let us know in the comments.