Why LATAM’s launch of the Airbus A350 on its Joburg route is important for SA

2019-08-19 20:23 - Selene Brophy
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Aerial view of the Christ Redeemer overlooking Rio

Aerial view of the Christ Redeemer overlooking Rio de Janeiro, with the SugarLoaf

If you’re thinking about visiting South America in the near future – then Latin American airline LATAM's launch of the new Airbus 350 on the route between Johannesburg and Brazil is great news for you.

SA has been a key strategic destination since the carrier began operating its own flight connecting the region to the African continent – its first international service outside of South America after the LATAM brand launched in 2015.

With an estimated 160k passengers having made use of the service since the launch in 2016, with three weekly flights, then increased to five flights per week in 2017 – the airline is now doubling its capacity with the launch of the new A350 aircraft on the route connecting two strategic regions that have a lot to offer both tourists and business travellers.  

Read: LATAM Airlines to launch direct São Paulo to Joburg route

 “Due to the change of Aircraft to the Airbus A350 we will have more seats to offer with greater availability, better products for the passengers and competitive fares,” says Guido Blanco, LATAM Commercial Manager UK, Africa and Nordic Countries. 

“Johannesburg is one of the main gateways to the African continent, with easy connections to other destinations such as Cape Town, Durban and the island paradises of Mauritius, Seychelles and Maldives,” says Blanco.

Kruger, SA’s beaches and famous wine routes also remain core attractions for travellers to South Africa.

According to Blanco, the arrival of the Airbus 350 not only means a doubling in capacity but also a reduction in the flying time by "110 minutes from Sao Paulo to Johannesburg and between 60 to 70 from Johannesburg to Sao Paulo".

Top destinations for South Africans

“We are constantly analysing possible new routes for LATAM, with the change of aircraft we are adding more seats onto the Sao Paulo-Johannesburg route, so at the moment we are focus in Johannesburg in the African continent.”

For South African travellers the top destination is Brazil, with Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro the main cities that travellers go to.

Similarly, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Santiago or Easter Island in Chile, Lima and Cuzco in Peru, Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, Cartagena and Bogota in Colombia, and Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls in Argentina, as well as Montevideo – are firm favourites for local travellers.  

"A typical itinerary for SA travellers to the South Americas is around two weeks, due to the wide connectivity LATAM has within South American continent our passengers can include several destinations on the same trip," he says.  

It also does not hurt that South Africans have visa-free access across South American destinations - except for Mexico, Colombia and Bolivia.

Blanco admits, it has been very hard work, but “we are improving the performance of the Johannesburg route", being one of the airports with best performance when it comes to working with Airports Company South Africa.  

As South Africa looks to grow its tourism numbers to 21m by 2030, Blanco says Latam is focused on “developing its communications and marketing resources, reaching as much of the trade and passengers as possible”.

Safety, no health risks and value for money 

He says, “There are three main messages that will help us achieve this goal - "Safety, no health risks and cost effective / value for money for passengers coming to South Africa.”

Brazil was rated 9th in the number of travellers it delivered to SA with mining, tobacco and adventure tourism being especially popular reasons for visiting in 2018.

"More than 1.2 million foreign nationals visited SA this year up until May 2019 as value for money continues to grow South Africa as one of the world’s fastest growing leisure – and business – travel destinations. This was an increase of 1,5% travellers, with the industry contributing positively to a dwindling economy."

Latam is also investing over $400m (about R6.2bn at R15,42/$) in renovating the cabins of over 200 aircraft in its fleet - with the objective to offer passengers a more personalized flight experience and flexibility.

Blanco says, "Our Premium business class will have full flat beds, direct aisle access, space for personal items and a new business class service."

LATAM+ seating also has "more pitch, adjustable foot rest, more recline and leather head support. We want to offer different options to our passengers, still remaining with two cabins". 

The economy class offering with the LATAM+ sees a selection of seats with added leg room, first row seats and a number of other benefits at an added premium.  With the redesign, both will have ergonomically designed seats from Recaro, quick charge USB ports, 12’’ personal screens.

Adapting quickly to the low-cost model

“This is an industry that’s constantly changing and we need to adapt fast.”

Blanco details how Latam is remaining competitive within the low-cost environment, by allowing passengers the flexibility to choose how they want to travel and to have more options throughout their travel experience.

Latam is also launching a new low cost offering called BASIC in the domestic markets of Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Argentina.

“This has been already implemented on Chile, form August 6th and will allows traveling light with just one personal item. The fact that we are constantly adapting and trying to improve is been helping us to remain competitive."

"Renewing our cabins, will let us offer a better product to passengers… offer better fares, have more availability on the route and transport more passengers between the South African and South American continent.”

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