The lean years caused by the pandemic, are over for the two South American cargo heavyweights. Since business is picking up again, both players have announced that they will be expanding their freighter fleets. LATAM Cargo just welcomed its third Boeing 767 BCF and expects number four to follow in September, a company release revealed last week. Just days before, rival Avianca Cargo announced that it was adding 2 to 4 A330 freighter aircraft as part of its expansion plans, thus boosting its main deck capacity by up to 70% by 2024.
LATAM Cargo chief, Andrés Bianchi, and his counterpart, Gabriel Oliva from Avianca Cargo, are presumably in an excellent mood these days. The freight business is running extremely well, passenger traffic is growing strongly again leading to a swift increase in passenger aircraft belly capacity, spurring cargo sales opportunities. And then there are new freighters on the horizon for both South American carriers. In a nutshell: both executives and their respective teams face rosy times.
LATAM Cargo claims pole position in Latin America…
Take LATAM Cargo. The carrier just welcomed its third converted Boeing 767 BCF, with a fourth conversion following in September. With this increase, LATAM Cargo and its subsidiaries spread across South America, will finish the year with 16 freighters.
This fleet includes six Boeing 767 BCFs that are expected to arrive during 2023. In total, and according to its plans, between 19 and 22 all-cargo aircraft will belong to LATAM Group come 2023. These massive main deck capacities being offered to the market reaffirm its position as the leading cargo operator in the region. As illustrated by its flower business, for example: 16,400 tons were loaded on board of LATAM aircraft during Mother’s Day season - a new record, states Mr. Bianchi. Flowers, fruit, vegetables, seafood, and similar natural resources, are the main export commodities leaving Latin America by air to North America or Europe.
These products are also at the top of Avianca Cargo’s transport list. "Avianca Cargo is the leader in the South American flower market," states Cargo Chief Gabriel Oliva. "We moved 17,500 tons of total cargo from Colombia and Ecuador this past mother season," he proudly reports. Colombia, but also Ecuador, and, as far as fresh produce is concerned, Brazil, are the main producers of agricultural goods, which account for a considerable share of the GNP of their countries.
… but is challenged by Avianca Cargo
Last week, the Bogotá-based airline announced its intention to add 2 to 4 Airbus 330 P2F to its fleet by 2024, upping its total main deck capacity by 70% at best. German Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW) will carry out the conversions, and requires between 6 to 8 months to transform an A330 passenger aircraft into a freighter.
Once the work is done, the aircraft will be the first converted freighters to fly in Avianca Cargo colors.
Currently, "our fleet in Colombia consists of 6 A330-200. And then we have our affiliate company AeroUnion with 3 A300 and 2 767-200."
With the arrival of the conversions, “we will not only offer greater capacity, but also an increasingly robust and flexible route network focused on the needs of our customers and
facilitating trade between Latin America and the entire world. We reaffirm our commitment to continue supporting the economies of the region, serving as a strategic ally for our customers and the
industries,” comments Mr. Oliva.
More common interests than differences
Both Latin American airlines, although fierce rivals, serve similar markets, have comparable networks and fleet structures, and had to file for creditor protection when the passenger market nearly collapsed during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, in contrast to LATAM, Avianca has managed to escape Chapter 11, and recently announced that it was joining forces with Brazilian carrier, Gol Linhas Aereas, in a holding named Abra Group.
In contrast, competitor LATAM has not yet emerged from Chapter 11, but expects to manage this in the second half of 2022. Its shareholders have meanwhile consented the restructuring plan. What is still missing, is the Court’s approval.
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