Air connections between Australia and Latin America are set to improve in the New Year with a significant new international service being launched in 2017.
The nonstop service from Melbourne to Santiago in Chile will be airline LATAM’s longest flight ever covering 11,000 kilometres and taking approximately 15 hours.
The airline will operate three non-stop flights per week between Santiago and Melbourne, becoming the first airline group to offer a direct service between the two cities, as well as the only carrier to fly non-stop between Melbourne and Latin America.
‘Over recent years, we’ve seen increasing demand for flights between Latin America and this part of the world both from business and leisure travellers and we want to continue supporting the growth of bilateral tourism and commerce,’ said Enrique Cueto, chief executive officer of LATAM Airlines Group.
‘With the Melbourne service, we are not only reinforcing LATAM’s commitment to Oceania and the Asia-Pacific, but also to offering unrivalled connectivity to, from and within Latin America,’ he added.
Australian Ambassador to Chile, Tim Kane, welcomed the new route. ‘It is an important milestone for the airline group, the state of Victoria, Australia and Latin America. Chile is Australia’s gateway to the region, just as Australia is Chile’s platform into Asia,’ he said.
‘These new non-stop flights will deepen and broaden Australia-Latin American links, open new markets, expand people to people opportunities and enhance Melbourne as a key destination for Latin American travellers to Australia and the Asia-Pacific region,’ he explained.
‘The Australian Government is strongly committed to increasing relations with Latin America and these new non-stop flights between Santiago and Melbourne will play an important role in strengthening our relationships,’ he added.
After Sydney, Melbourne will be the second city in Australia served by the airline group. LATAM currently operates seven flights per week from Santiago to Sydney via Auckland in New Zealand.
In 2015, the airline introduced the Boeing 787-9 aircraft to the route, increasing capacity by 27% and in total, LATAM transports approximately 190,000 passengers per year between Latin America and Oceania.
With the new direct Melbourne service, LATAM estimates that it will transport an additional 75,000 passengers between the two continents each year.
The new route will begin in October 2017 and leave Santiago on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, arriving in Melbourne the next day in each case. While the return flight will depart Melbourne on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, arriving in Santiago the same day.
Santiago is regarded as one of South America’s principal airline hubs and has onward connections to 124 destinations throughout Chile and Latin America, including direct services to major cities such as São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Lima, Bogota and Quito.
This gives tourists access to major destinations including Machu Picchu in Peru, Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador, Cartagena de Indias in Colombia, the Iguazú Falls in Argentina and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.