LATAM Airlines, currently under bankruptcy protection, has decided to cease operations in Argentina for an indefinite period, citing local economic conditions exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is regrettable but inevitable news. Today, LATAM must focus on transforming the group to adapt to post-COVID-19 aviation,” said Roberto Alvo, CEO of LATAM Airlines Group, in a press release. “Argentina has always been a fundamental country for the group and will remain so, with LATAM’s other affiliates continuing to connect passengers from Argentina with Latin America and the world.”
Latin America’s largest carrier used to run flights to 12 destinations across the South American country, whose economy has been in turmoil ever since it defaulted on bond payments.
The chaotic economic conditions, says LATAM, will make it difficult to build structural agreements with local industry actors. The sudden move leaves as many as 1,700 jobs in jeopardy, according to Buenos Aires Times.
The news comes amid reports that Argentina would reopen its domestic airports in July and allow international flights from mid-August onward.
A merger of Chile’s LAN and Brazil’s TAM, LATAM carried 69 million passengers last year. Until the pandemic hit the region, it operated a fleet of 315 aircraft, providing passenger transport services to 137 destinations in 24 countries, and cargo service to 144 destinations.
The airline has however made it clear that it would continue to serve other international destinations in the United States, Brazil, Chile, and Peru.
Across the world, the aviation industry took a devastating blow from the coronavirus outbreak, as governments ordered the grounding of flights and delayed to bail out airlines. LATAM’s Brazilian subsidiary is reportedly seeking a bailout from the government.