An interview with LATAM airlines’ Chief Commercial Officer, Marty St. George

LATAM airlines is the largest airline in South America, dominating the South American aviation market with over 41 million passengers being transported by the airline between January and July this year. Their route network is extremely diverse, with destinations ranging from Ecuador to Easter Island several other European, North American, African, South American and Oceanian cities. After the airline has been recovering from the COVID-19 Pandemic, as well as developing Sustainable aviation within the airline, I put a few questions to Marty St. George, their Chief Commercial Officer.

(Image credit: Simple Flying)

What is LATAM doing to reduce the environmental impact of their aircraft?

As LATAM Airlines, our commitment to sustainability is reflected in various initiatives
aimed at reducing the environmental impact and promoting responsible practices. All
of them are aligned with the ambitious goals we have established which include
carbon neutrality by 2050, eliminating single-use plastics by 2023, and becoming a
zero waste-to-landfill group by 2027. In this context, recently we achieved one of our
milestones, which was carrying out our first ferry flight with SAF; to deliver a new
A320neo. The flight utilised a fuel blend containing 30% SAF produced from used
cooking oil.

Also, at LATAM we have initiated various circular economy projects to minimise
waste onboard and promote recycling. These are: the replacement of single-use
plastics with organic materials, for example using sugar cane for packaging lids, so
far we have managed to eliminate 88% of single use plastics on board; The “Recycle
your trip” programme that promotes the segregation of certain waste generated in
the on-board service to be subsequently recycled, on domestic flights in Chile, Brasil,
Perú, Colombia, & Ecuador; The “Segundo Vuelo” (Second Flight) programme, in
which South American craftswomen and entrepreneurs transform the airline’s
uniforms and various unused textile items, giving them a second life.

Lastly, it is also worth mentioning that LATAM’s cargo division is also working on
sustainability initiatives which have been recognized by IATA with the Air Cargo
Innovation Award for the plastic reduction projects in the cargo operations in Chile
and Brazil.”

LATAM have been renewing their fleet recently, however mostly with Airbus aircraft in the short-haul sector, is it likely that with the arrival of the MAX into the scene that Boeing might be able to sneak into this area?

We have strong relationships with both Boeing and Airbus. While we have focused
on renewing our short-haul fleet with Airbus aircraft, our decisions are driven by
various factors, including unit cost and complexity, passenger comfort, and
environmental impact. As of now, we prefer the cost efficiency of an all-Airbus
short-haul fleet.

LATAM’s short haul fleet is mostly compromised of the Airbus A320 Family (Image credit: AeroTime)

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the Aviation industry at the moment?

“I believe that one of the most significant challenges facing aviation is the
decarbonization of the industry, and within this, the use of sustainable aviation fuel.
The limited quantity of SAF, due to the lack of necessary conditions for their
research, development and production, hinders the achievement of this major
objective of our industry.
Access to SAF in Latin America continues to be one of the major challenges faced
by the various actors seeking to use this type of fuel produced within the region.
South America has great potential to produce SAF in terms of natural resources and
expertise and thus make a very significant contribution to climate action. That is why,
as a South American airline group, we put all our efforts to provide visibility to this
issue. We have been working to incorporate 5% sustainable fuel by 2030, favoring
South American producers.”

LATAM airlines took delivery of their First A320 Neo Using sustainable aviation fuel earlier this year

At the moment, in some of the countries which LATAM serves, there are only a few destinations in the US, given developing relationships with Delta, is this likely to change?

Our partnership with Delta Air Lines has already expanded our reach in the United
States, providing passengers with enhanced connectivity and more travel options, as
well as improving the travel experience of both our passengers and cargo customers
by offering them new benefits, including an enhanced service. As our collaboration
continues to evolve, we will explore opportunities to strengthen connections between
our networks and potentially introduce new destinations that cater to customer
demand. We have already introduced nonstop service between Sao Paulo and
Delta’s hub in Los Angeles, and on October 29th, we are launching a new daily
service between Miami and Medellín, and Bogotá to Atlanta. On that same day, we
will also introduce three weekly flights between Lima and Delta’s Atlanta hub.”

(Image credit: Delta)

What lessons did LATAM learn from the COVID-19 pandemic?

“The pandemic was a defining moment for the aviation industry. LATAM learned the
importance of agility, adaptability, and resilience. We accelerated our digital
transformation to meet changing customer expectations and focused on safety
measures to ensure passenger confidence. The crisis also reinforced the
significance of collaboration with partners, governments, and health authorities in
managing unprecedented challenges.”

And finally, what can we see in the near future for LATAM?

“As the only global airline based in South America, we are devoted to connecting our
home continent to the world.
In the near future, LATAM Airlines will continue to prioritize sustainability, innovation,
and enhancing the passenger experience. We’re dedicated to furthering our fleet
renewal efforts, exploring new partnerships, and expanding our network to better
serve our customers.”

(Image credit: Airline Geeks)

Cover Image credit: Bloomberg

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