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Qantas to face LATAM competition on Sydney to Santiago

written by Adam Thorn | April 15, 2024

A LATAM 787-9, CC-BGK. (Image: LATAM)

Qantas will face competition on its popular service from Sydney to Santiago, Chile, after LATAM announced it would begin direct flights from 28 October.

The new four-times-weekly route will be in addition to its current service that operates via Auckland and a separate three-times-weekly flight from Melbourne.

The Flying Kangaroo has had the route to itself post-pandemic, with the latest BITRE data from the Department of Transport showing it boasted load factors of 90 per cent outbound – its fourth-highest for an international destination.

“All LATAM Airlines flights between Australia and Chile are operated on Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft,” said the Latin American airline on Monday.

“In total, LATAM will have 3,900 seats per week on flights between Australia to Latin America, that’s over 200,000 seats a year open to business and leisure travellers.”


LATAM’s service will fly outbound from Sydney on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, compared to Qantas’ flights on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

The news comes weeks after a mid-air incident on board a LATAM 787-9 flying from Sydney to Santiago via Auckland left 50 people injured and 12 in hospital.

The plane, CC-BGG, was operating flight LA800 in March when it experienced a sudden drop over the Tasman Sea around two hours after take-off, causing unrestrained passengers and crew to be violently thrown around the cabin.

The plane dropped from 41,000 to 40,692ft over a few seconds, with some passengers and flight attendants who were not wearing seatbelts crashing into the ceiling before the pilots managed to regain control.

“The plane, unannounced, just dropped. I mean, it dropped unlike anything I’ve ever experienced on any kind of minor turbulence,” passenger Brian Jokat told RNZ.

“People were thrown out of their seats, hit the top of the roof of the plane, thrown down the aisles. It was madness.

“Some of the roof panels were broken from people being thrown up and knocking through the plastic roof panels in the hallways, there was blood coming from several people’s heads, people were yelling and screaming. It was chaos.”

According to Jokat, after landing safely in Auckland at around 4pm, the pilot said his gauges had “blanked out”.

“I asked him, ‘What happened?’ And he said, ‘My instrument panel went blank. Just for a second. I lost control of the plane,’” said Jokat.

In a statement, LATAM said the plane experienced a “technical problem during the flight which caused a strong movement”.

“The plane landed at Auckland Airport as scheduled. As a result of the incident, some passengers and cabin crew were affected. They received immediate assistance and were evaluated or treated by medical staff at the airport as needed,” the carrier said.

“LATAM regrets the inconvenience and injury this situation may have caused its passengers, and reiterates its commitment to safety as a priority within the framework of its operational standards.”

A spokesperson for Hato Hone St John Ambulance told The Australian that 14 units were sent to the airport, having been notified around half an hour before the flight landed.

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