Melbourne Airport has now returned to its pre-pandemic level of international airlines as Chilean carrier LATAM returns to Victoria.
Flight LA805 from Santiago touched down at 5:20am on Saturday on board the 787-9 Dreamliner CC-BGT (pictured at Melbourne). LATAM will operate three flights per week between Melbourne and Santiago, and is the 36th international carrier to restart flights to Victoria since borders reopened.
The Melbourne-Santiago route, announced in April, is expected to add more than 38,500 seats to Melbourne’s international capacity, as well as more than 1,560 tonnes of annual air freight capacity between Australia and Chile.
“The resumption of flights to Santiago restores our direct connection to South America and brings the number of international carriers flying into Melbourne back to pre-pandemic levels,” said Melbourne Airport CEO Lorie Argus.
“Prior to COVID-19 we had 36 airlines operating international flights into Melbourne Airport and returning to that number has taken hard work from our team and the Victorian state government.”
“LATAM’s return takes our overall international capacity back to 97 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, and by the end of the year we expect to be back at 100 per cent. Our focus now is working with our airlines to expand their operation and explore new opportunities, so that passengers and exporters can benefit from competition and choice.”
This is the first direct scheduled flight between Victoria and South America since 2020, with the route to operate from Melbourne to Santiago on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, returning to Melbourne on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
LATAM resumed direct flights between Sydney and Santiago on 29 March last year, as well as to Auckland. At the time, Claudio Moro, regional marketing and e-commerce manager at LATAM, said the airline had “actively collaborated” with authorities to safely revive the travel industry after COVID border closures ended.
“The resumption of routes to New Zealand and Australia is one more step on the way to a new normal,” Moro said.
“We will continue working toward greater international connectivity, always having the health and safety of our passengers and collaborators as a priority.”
LATAM, during the pandemic, flew a chartered repatriation service from Peru to Melbourne, carrying 280 passengers from Lima, Cusco and Iquitos.