LATAM Plans European Debut From Colombia
LATAM Airlines Group is planning to open a new nonstop connection between Bogota and Madrid, marking the carrier’s European debut from Colombia.
The inaugural flight linking Bogota’s El Dorado International Airport (BOG) and Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD) is scheduled to commence on July 3, 2024. Operations will be daily using Boeing 787-8 aircraft with 247 seats.
The development follows Chile-based LATAM’s request to Colombia’s civil aviation authority Aerocivil in October for permission to operate fifth-freedom flights connecting the two cities as part of a route that originates and ends at Santiago’s Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport (SCL) in Chile.
LATAM currently offers four nonstop routes to Spain, linking Lima, Peru; Santiago; and Sao Paulo Guarulhos with Madrid. Additionally, the airline flies to Barcelona from Sao Paulo. Once flights between Bogota and Madrid begin, the carrier will become the fifth to connect the capital cities alongside Air Europa, Avianca, Iberia and Plus Ultra Lineas Aereas.
Data provided by OAG Schedules Analyser shows that Avianca operates the 4,987-mi. (4,334-nm) sector four times per day at present, while Spain’s Iberia provides three daily flights. Air Europa offers the route 3X-weekly, and Plus Ultra Lineas Aereas runs a 3X-weekly MAD-BOG-Cartagena, Colombia-MAD service. Overall Bogota-Madrid capacity currently stands at a combined 34,600 two-way seats, compared with around 21,700 at this time in 2019 when Avianca and Iberia were flying up to 3X-daily and 2X-daily, respectively.
“We celebrate the increase in capacity towards our largest European destination," says Stephane Marcoux, BOG's aviation marketing director. "With LATAM entering the Madrid market, El Dorado International Airport will offer our passengers more than 35 weekly flights to the Spanish capital currently served by four airlines."
LATAM’s plans for the new European service come days after it opened another new international route from BOG, flying three times a week to Venezuela’s capital, Caracas. The move increases the number of international points served from Colombia’s capital to eight, with 87X-weekly departures and 15,600 weekly departure seats. It is currently the second-largest provider of international capacity from BOG with a 9.1% share of the market, behind Avianca on 54%.
The latest expansion is set to contribute to a record month for Colombia’s international market in December 2023. Analysis of OAG data shows that monthly international capacity is expected to reach almost 2.3 million seats this month, topping the previous monthly high of 2.14 million seats set in August 2023. It marks a rise of 36% compared with the level achieved in December 2019 before the pandemic.
Speaking to Routes in October, Marcoux said the airport enjoyed a record year for traffic in 2022, with more than 36 million passengers, and is on course for a second successive record year. The positive results come despite a tumultuous start to 2023 for Colombia’s aviation market following the demise of homegrown carriers Viva and Ultra Air.
“We have witnessed an increase in capacity, stimulated by the more efficient operations of our airlines driven by the good practices of our operational team,” Marcoux said. “During the summer 2023 season, we saw a 5.5% increase in seats and a 12.2% increase in [available seat kilometers] versus summer 2022. By the fourth quarter, our domestic capacity should be fully recovered, and, by the end of the year, we forecast capacity growth of more than 15% compared to the first quarter.”
Other recent route successes at the airport, which will host Routes Americas 2024, include the launch of Edelweiss Air’s 2X-weekly Zurich-Bogota-Cartagena-Zurich service in November, and the opening of Avianca’s flights to La Paz, Bolivia, via Cusco, Peru.