Following the introduction of routes linking Miami with Panama and Colombia a month ago, LATAM Cargo again announces a massive increase of flights to and from Bogotá and Medellin. The carrier’s ongoing intrusion in the home market of its fiercest rival, Avianca Cargo, spurs the competition further between the leading South American cargo airlines.
CEO of LATAM Cargo, Andrés Bianchi, speaks frankly: “We plan to soon increase our services on the Bogotá-Miami route from 6 to 15 weekly freighter frequencies, 2.5 times more than
today.” Quite an ambitious project as the decision comes against the background of sharp market contractions due to the coronavirus spread sending volumes south.
Right combination of network and fleet
But the carrier’s plans go even further, as seen by the upping of services from 8 to 10 per week on the Medellin-Miami and Quito-Miami leg. In a statement, Mr. Bianchi adds to this that the Miami to Cali flights will also be increased and that his management will announce specifics of a new service between Miami and a yet undisclosed South American destination in the days ahead. Once the current service initiative is accomplished, “we are in a great position to achieve our goals in Colombia - thanks to the right combination of network and fleet,” LATAM’s Cargo helmsman states.
Hubbing in Bogotá
The move comes amid its recent route offensive in both South and North America, boosting connectivity between and within both parts of the continent. “We are leaders in transportation to, from, and within Latin America, mostly thanks to our extensive and robust network.” The new routes “will give our customers more options to choose from, strengthen connectivity and facilitate trade,” Gabriel Oliva, LATAM Cargo’s Miami-based SVP Commercial for North America, Europe and Asia, commented. The manager adds to this that the Miami-Panama-Bogotá flights will consolidate the role of Panama as an importing country, and also increase its exporting potential by transporting cargo originating in the Central American country to Bogotá, Colombia, “where it can connect with the many alternatives served by our narrow body fleet, or to Santiago (Chile), Lima (Peru) and Guarulhos (Brazil) on wide-body aircraft.”
Striving for power and glory
LATAM Cargo’s toughest South American competitor is sitting right next door: Colombian carrier, Avianca. The airline, the world’s second oldest after KLM, operates 13 A330 freighters and offers cargo clients an attractive Pan-American network, but also main deck and belly hold capacity on cargo as well as passenger flights between Colombia and various U.S. and European airports, such as Brussels or Munich, for instance.
LATAM's announcement of new routes has further intensified competition between the two airlines, each of them striving for influence and glory by defending (LATAM Cargo) or becoming (Avianca Cargo) South America’s number one cargo airline.
It’s good to have friends
A duel in which allies on both sides get involved.
While Avianca is backed by Star Alliance members United and Lufthansa, and teamed up with Emirates Sky Cargo in January 2019, LATAM Cargo is supported by two fierce rivals: Delta Air Lines, which holds 20% in the carrier, and government aided Arabian carrier, Qatar Airways, which secured 10% of the Santiago de Chile and Sao Paulo-based carrier’s capital shares.
Yet, regardless of the quarrels between DL and QR, both benefit from their LATAM involvement, enabling fast transfers of freight in Sao Paulo, Santiago, Lima or Miami, and seamless transports on board the LATAM fleet to further destinations. The same goes for the trio, LH, UA, and Avianca, allowing the U.S. and German operators access to cargo markets beyond their individual networks, thanks to Avianca’s feeder services.
While LATAM Cargo pushes its Colombian route initiatives ahead, its rival Avianca remains tight lipped. However, this silence will probably not last very long as local market observers suspect a proper response.
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