LATAM never could really figure out what to do with its fleet of A350s. And now the fleet is no more. The company plans to remove the A350 from its Brazilian operations effective immediately.
LATAM’s rough A350 history
The company’s A350 fleet came from an order placed by TAM in 2005, when it was an independent Brazilian airline and prior to the 2012 LAN merger that created LATAM. The order was updated in 2014, after the merger, to adjust delivery dates.
Once the planes started to arrive it was clear they didn’t quite fit in the operation.
LATAM eventually leased four of the fleet to Qatar Airways, an investor in LATAM. The move helped the part-owner in its efforts to massively expand service from Doha and also stemmed some of the losses back home.
In 2019 the company was ready to shift its order book and part of the active A350 fleet to Delta Air Lines, also a partner and investor in LATAM. That deal fell apart as the global health pandemic tore through the industry. Delta ultimately paid LATAM $62 million to not take the four already delivered aircraft.
Fleet simplicity matters more
And so, once again, LATAM struggled to find a use for the planes. In the end, consolidating from four major fleet types (777/767, 787, A320, A350) to three proved too compelling financially for the operation. The company previously spoke of the value fleet simplicity presents when updating product, including a rapid, fleet-wide rollout of its premium economy in under 6 months.
From a passenger perspective the A350s are relatively similar to the 787. And while the 777-300ERs started a refresh cycle in 2019, the A350s were not slated to receive the update (though new delivery A350-1000s would arrive with the product; that’s not happening now obviously). In that sense it isn’t a huge loss, though it obviously reflects diminished demand for travel to and from Brazil right now thanks to continued pandemic challenges.
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