Brazil and Chile for $731 - Israel and South America have never been so close. On December 13, the first flight by South American LATAM Airlines will take between Tel Aviv and Santiago, Chile, with an intermediate stop in Sao Paolo, Brazil. A flight to Argentina via Sao Paolo costs $800.
Officially, LATAM was founded in 2010 through a merger between Chilean airline LAN and Brazilian airline TAM. The company flies to 120 destinations, including 40 in Brazil, 19 in Peru, 12 in Argentina, and five in Ecuador. LATAM has now decided to expand its business in European countries. The route it is inaugurating in Tel Aviv is in addition to two recently inaugurated routes to Rome and Lisbon, and will be followed by a route to Munich, in addition to its routes to Madrid, Paris, Johannesburg, and others.
Two years ago, the Israel Ministry of Tourism began soliciting LATAM to add a route to Israel, given that there have been no direct flights from Israel to Central and South America for the past seven years. The Ministry of Tourism's aim is to bolster tourism from countries such as Argentina, Peru, and Chile, while realizing that the grant that the company will receive - €750,000 for three weekly flights - will also be quite useful to travelers from Israel to South America, with an emphasis on both the business community and demobilized soldiers taking trips to South America following their army service.
LATAM has had an office in Israel for many years. Its representative in Israel, Daniel Faians, was appointed CEO of LATAM Israel. At a press conference conducted today in Tel Aviv by LATAM executives, Faians did not conceal his excitement, together with all of those present. Ministry of Tourism director general Amir Levy said that he had traveled to South America following his own military service, and his son had also returned from a lengthy trip to the region, which was "the number one destination for demobilized soldiers."
"You have nothing to worry about," Levy told LATAM's representatives. "First of all, Israelis will support you with the post-military service travelers. Secondly, our efforts are gathering momentum. We're breaking the record for incoming tourism year after year, with an emphasis on South America. Direct flights mean important major support for the effort to increase passenger traffic from South America. We've already seen how the entry of airlines such as Air India and Chinese carrier Hainan Airlines immediately expands the market, and it will happen here, too. I believe that we'll develop more routes from destinations in South America and continue to set new records."
LATAM's route from Tel Aviv is officially to Santiago, with a stop in Sao Paolo. In order to encourage the market to become familiar with the airline, the initial price of $731 for a ticket to Santiago or Sao Paolo reflects a 235% discount on the usual price - a very competitive price that also includes two 23-kilogram suitcases for tourist class passengers.
Dreamliners with 213 tourist class seats and 30 business class seats will be used for the three weekly flights from Israel. A business class ticket will cost $2,700-3,000.
LATAM senior VP Europe, Middle East, and Africa Contreras Brain Rodrigo talked about the airlines aspirations to consolidate its position "and be one of the world's three largest airlines. This is the reason why we're are augmenting our international destinations, and Tel Aviv is a special strategic destination. Both Israel's cultural wealth and its commercial and economic cooperation with various countries in our region constitute potential for passenger traffic. Our target is 65,000 passengers a year, and to increase the number of tourists that visited Israel from South America last year by 20%. Every second passenger in South America is one of our passengers. The company operates 1,300 flights a day and carries 68 million passengers a year."
LATAM's air fleet consists of 314 airplanes, 48 of which are long-range airliners (787/8 and 787/9 Dreamliners and Airbus 350s). The fleet's average age is seven years. "The company is in the midst of a major operation to upgrade and enlarge its fleet at a cost of $400 million." LATAM is one of the leading airlines in the area of corporate responsibility and environmental activity, and has won a series of prizes for it.
The flight from Tel Aviv to Sao Paolo takes 15 hours. Flights take off at 6:00 PM on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays and land in Sao Paolo at 7:30 AM. The total flight time from Tel Aviv to Santiago is 19 hours, while the return flight from Brazil to Tel Aviv takes 13-14 hours. The route to Brazil passes over Cyprus, Greece, Italy, France, Portugal, Cape Verde, and Senegal.
The last time a direct flight was operated from Tel Aviv to Brazil was a route to Sao Paolo by El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. (TASE: ELAL), a route that was terminated in 2011. Only two years after its launch, El Al's route to Mexico was also canceled, both of them for commercial reasons.
Figures recently published by the Central Bureau of Statistics show that 2.8 million tourists visited Israel in January-September 2018. Almost 300,000 came from Asia, 1.6 million from Europe, 704,700 from North America, including 620,000 from the US and the rest from Canada and Mexico. The Central Bureau of Statistics reported that 93,200 tourists from South America visited Israel, including 39,000 from Brazil and 26,300 from Argentina. The target of LATAM and the Israel Ministry of Tourism is to increase these numbers by 20% every year.
"We're offering flights not only from point to point, but also flights from Tel Aviv to an entire continent," Rodrigo said. "Starting this December, Israel and Latin America will be much closer and accessible to each other than ever before. Our strong point is the connection to a wide range of destinations. From Sao Paolo, Israeli passengers can continue to more than 120 different destinations and cities all over Latin America in countries like Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, and Paraguay."
LATAM is a member of the Oneworld alliance, which also includes British Airways, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and others.
LATAM Airlines recently received a five-star global airline rating for its flight experience in the APEX 2019 framework, based on the experiences related in passenger feedback.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 10, 2018
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