Ouch. LATAM Airlines is pulling out of Argentina
After 15 years of operation in the country, LATAM Argentina formally announced that they are going to stop operating in the country effective immediately. This means that there will now be an almost full monopoly on routes inside of Argentina, and a suspension of services to Santiago, Lima, Miami and Sao Paolo.
From the Argentine newspaper La Nacion, the exact details have yet to be worked out because there are, of course, miles of government red tape to work through with unions, pensions, aircraft, slots, and the like.
Bankrupty, Unions, and Government Corruption
It has been no secret that LATAM faced some serious challenges in Argentina. First and most recently, LATAM has declared bankruptcy due to the coronavirus, leading to flight stoppages and massive layoffs. Without a bailout from the government, the airline was doomed.
Second, Aerolineas Argentinas, their main (government owned) competitor, has been given almost exclusive rights to fly during this coronavirus. Need to be repatriated? Aerolineas has you covered. Country opening back up soon for domestic flights? Great! Except only out of the EZE airport, where only Aerolineas operates. Want a good time slot for your flight out of the local AEP airport? Sorry, Aerolineas has all those. You can have the 5am and 10pm slots, when no one else is flying. And, only one slot a day.
Finally, Aerolineas Argentinas has been subsidized for decades while operating with massive losses. Prices would be set below cost to undercut other competitors like LATAM, forcing them off of routes and out of business.
What about Flights? Tickets Booked?
If you have a flight booked to Argentina with LATAM, either a cash ticket or a miles ticket, I can almost assuredly tell you that you won’t be flying on them anymore. If by chance you booked with Delta, via cash or Skymiles, you might be in luck. Delta also partners with Aerolineas Argentinas via their Skyteam alliance. If you booked with Alaska Airlines or American Airlines, you’re going to have a significant challenge getting to where you need to go.
If you’re flying from Santiago, you can still fly with LATAM Chile, and if you’re flying from Miami you might be able to snag a flight on American. The same from Lima, if you’re lucky enough to find a flight on LATAM Peru (or route via Santiago).
If you paid cash, immediately file a claim with your credit card to try and recover some of the costs of the ticket.