LATAM Airlines Group has announced it is resuming its flights between Santiago, Australia and New Zealand after a two-year travel pause between nations.
The Santiago-based airline will kickstart the flights from 29 March, operating three times a week from the beginning.
The news comes only days before Australia will open its borders to fully vaccinated foreign tourists again on 21 February, a move which will see leisurely travel return for the first time since March 2020.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have actively collaborated with authorities to safely move towards a revival of the travel industry,” said Claudio Moro, regional marketing and e-commerce manager at LATAM.
“The resumption of routes to New Zealand and Australia is one more step on the way to a new normal.
“We will continue working toward greater international connectivity, always having the health and safety of our passengers and collaborators as a priority,” Moro added.
Latin Americans must prove they are vaccinated 14 days prior to the departure of their flight and present a negative PCR test 72 hours before.
The inaugural flight LA801 will operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, leaving Santiago 00:40 local time, then landing in Auckland at 5:15am, and in Sydney at 9:35am.
The returning flight LA800 will operate on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, leaving Sydney at 11:35am local time, landing in Auckland at 4:40pm and arriving in Santiago at 1:40pm.
Along with Australia, New Zealand is slowly opening up its borders to foreign tourists after ongoing closures due to strict COVID-19 protocols.
In early February, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Australians would be allowed to travel to New Zealand without an exemption or quarantine requirement from July.
By October 2022, New Zealand is set to reopen its international borders to all visa categories, including tourists from all over the world, for the first time in over two years.
While LATAM is opening up to Oceania from March, Qantas still is yet to announce whether it will restart its Sydney-Santiago route in the coming months.
The airline group is slowly increasing its operational levels amid recovering from the pandemic’s woes, including filing for bankruptcy in May 2020.
In January 2022, LATAM estimated its commercial passenger operations would rise to 66 per cent of its 2019 levels in February.
The company said the forecast could change depending on travel disruptions pertaining to the Omicron variant of COVID-19.