Ouch: LATAM Retiring Entire Airbus A350 Fleet

Filed Under: LATAM

LATAM has just announced that its entire Airbus A350 fleet will be retired.

LATAM’s A350 retirement decision

LATAM Brazil currently operates a fleet of 11 Airbus A350-900, and the company’s CEO has today announced plans for those planes to be retired effective immediately.

LATAM Airlines Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May 2020, just months after Delta Air Lines purchased a 20% stake in the South American airline conglomerate.

Due to the current bankruptcy proceedings, the airline needs to cut costs and streamline its fleet, and apparently that’s coming at the expense of the A350. LATAM Brazil took delivery of its first A350 back in 2016, and the average age of this fleet is just three years.

The airline originally had over two dozen of these planes on order (including some A350-1000s), but almost half of those orders were canceled in 2020 (and Delta paid $62 million to undo a deal by which the airline was supposed to take over LATAM’s remaining A350 commitments).

For what it’s worth, the A350s were a legacy order from TAM, from before the airline merged with LAN (with the latter airline having ordered 787s). It seems like LATAM never fully had a need for the A350s — the planes had been leased to other carriers, and the airline was even looking to get out of this commitment pre-pandemic.

LATAM’s A350-900 business class

LATAM will operate all-Boeing long haul aircraft

With this announcement, the LATAM Airlines Group will exclusively operate Boeing aircraft on all long haul routes.

Up until now, LATAM Brazil’s long haul fleet consisted of:

  • 13 Airbus A350-900s
  • 10 Boeing 777-300ERs
  • 13 Boeing 767-300ERs

LATAM Brazil is keeping its Boeing 767-300s

With the A350-900s being retired, the airline will instead just have older Boeing aircraft in its long haul fleet. LATAM’s 767s are an average of eight years old, while LATAM’s 777s are an average of 10 years old. On the plus side, at least LATAM has installed new business class seats on these planes.

Why would LATAM dump its newest long haul aircraft, rather than retiring older aircraft? Well, due to Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, presumably LATAM found a way to return these planes to leasing companies with favorable terms, and I imagine the payments on the 767s and 777s are much lower.

At this point LATAM’s only latest generation long haul aircraft will be the 22 Boeing 787s in LATAM Chile’s fleet, including 10 787-8s and 12 787-9s. I suppose if the airline group is looking to simplify its fleet, it makes sense to focus on the 787s over A350s, given that there are more of them.

LATAM Chile operates a fleet of 22 Boeing 787s

Bottom line

LATAM will be retiring its entire Airbus A350 fleet. This means LATAM Brazil will be left with only 767s and 777s, and the LATAM Airlines Group overall doesn’t have any new long haul aircraft orders remaining.

Since this represents roughly one-third of LATAM Brazil’s long haul fleet, I’d expect some significant route cutbacks at the airline post-coronavirus, or perhaps we’ll see some 787s transferred from the Chile subsidiary.

I’m curious to see which airline picks up these A350s…

What do you make of LATAM retiring its entire A350 fleet?

(Featured image courtesy of Ken Fielding)

  1. Delta planned to take them.
    That was the first plan. Was on the first one MAO GRU. Second flight for it

  2. Delta getting these A350’s will at least drop their average fleet age to about 43 years

  3. Seems like the A350 never quite fit into the merged LATAM. The airline doesn’t operate any ultra-long haul routes, and the 787-8/9 can cover the missions just fine. While cargo traffic to and from Brazil will remain robust, demand for passenger travel will not, given Brazil’s current COVID crisis.

  4. There’s rumours that VS are going to retire their ex Air Berlin A332’s which are used in the leisure routes, perhaps 4 A350’s will fill the gap.

  5. I really wish they could scrounge up some spare change to finish the business class retrofits on the Brazil. I’ve flown the 767 on MEX-GRU flights a few times, and while I definitely won’t complain about the $700 RT fare I paid, the seats feel tight and past their prime.

    (I haven’t seen any updates on retrofit but assume they came to a halt with the bankruptcy?)

  6. I thought Delta had to give up the 4 LATAM 359s in the previous deal (and paid a fine too), why would they take 13 now?

    I initially think they could go to Qatar but I don’t think they have A350 shortage now…

  7. Untied is looking for some widebody capacity as its PW 777 fleet is grounded; they even have A350s on order.

  8. Delta will not be taking these. They actually paid 62M in fees to pass up not taking these aircraft

  9. @James S: draconian and unjustified lockdown measures imposed by left wing state governorns and mayors tanked the Braziliam economy.

  10. @Tim Dunn – the A350’s place in United’s fleet is dubious at best. They’ve repeatedly pushed the first deliveries back. The most recent deferral in exchange for buying A321XLRs is all the way to 2027.

    With regards to the grounded P&W 77A’s, you’ll probably see them covered by other narrow and widebody jets. Those 777s covered exclusively domestic flying between UA’s hubs and to Hawaii from a few cities.

  11. @Tim Dunn, UA is pulling the 767-400ER fleet out of storage (along with more of the GE90 powered 777-200ERs) to cover for the 777-222As (PW) birds. UA doesn’t need nor would they consider the LATAM A350 as 777-222A (PW) replacements. UA’s A350 order is still out there from 2007 and it could be repurposed for more 321XLRs or they could even take the 350’s eventually as 777-200ER (GE90) replacement aircraft, but it seems unlikely.

  12. @shoeguy
    Kirby was pretty clear that UA was not retiring any aircraft so they would have plenty of capacity to come back with demand. Maybe they intended to get rid of the 764s and never pulled the trigger but the 764s have way less capacity than the slightly larger 777-200A fleet – and of course the 764 is alot smaller.
    So, if the 764s do become the 777-200A replacement, it is a cut in capacity which Kirby has repeatedly claimed wasn’t part of UAL’s plan.
    Interestingly, even just on their N. American system, UA has returned the lowest percentage of capacity to their network of the big 4.

    adding @Pete,
    As for the A350s on order, I too consider the order skeptical but they are worth way more than the relatively few A321XLRs on order – and the A321 is not powered by Rolls-Royce engines. I doubt if UA will get out of the A350 order without a penalty or ordering something that satisfies UA’s order to both Airbus and Rolls-Royce.

  13. Disappointing with Airbus being a lot more comfortable to fly than Boeing – with the exception of 787.

  14. @ Regis. Go find Kathy Lee. You clearly need a head check, lol.

    What tanked the Brazilian economy as of late was a complete lack of a national response, months behind in securing vaccines, and a President who tells people if they take the vaccine it’s not his fault if they turn into an alligator. I guess with the recent success in the U.S. with Biden taking the helm you will turn now to Brazil to inflict your blame on the left.

  15. @Lucky Obviously, the pandemic caused a majority of their problems, but wouldn’t sticking with the top carrier at MIA now seem like the best choice? I understand that JV’s are like royal flushes, but AA at MIA & some JFK feed (pre JetBlue partnership) + a JV with IAG has to beat ATL/JFK + KLM/AF.

    Props to AA for taking the punch (a huge one) from Delta/LATAM & turning it into a roadhouse kick by picking up Alaska/JetBlue. I truly believe that if AA had ordered some A321LR’s to be delivered in 21-22 before the XLR’s arrived and used them at SSA/CNF/REC/BSB, it would be game over for a LATAM/DL expansion out of MIA.

  16. @Tim Dunn
    I’m inclined to believe that UA will buy more A321XLRs and other A320neos from Airbus for fleet renewal of their aging A319 and A320 fleet. Unsure about the latter, as UA has 180 MAX 9/10s on order and will likely purchase -7s and -8s.

    Its difficult to see a place for A330neo or A350 in UA’s fleet. The aging 777s have a logical replacement already wearing UA colors – the 787.

  17. @charles

    Thanks for the laugh! That genuinely made me chuckle, knowing all that we know about Delta’s fondness for buying old and second-hand planes. I recall one occasion (years ago) when I suddenly realized with horror that they still flew some planes which were just as old as me. That meant they were manufactured when disco and boogie were still a thing!

  18. @Pete, I think you are correct. The 777-200 series (all engine models) replacement at UA will most probably be more 787-9 and 787-10 frames. The A319/A320 fleet are up there in age. The bulk of the fleet date back to a 1992 order placed for 100 combined, as at the time, Boeing did not have a narrow body other than the 757 capable of transcontinental US routes as the NG 737s were several years away, so UA went with the A320 family. UA received a small number of A319’s in 2002 (a top up order) and then more recently, second hand frames from a Chinese carrier. The bulk of the 319/320s in the UA fleet are between 25-28 years old. With the 321XLR order, it would stand to reason UA will repurpose the 359 order it placed in 2007 and continues to defer into 32NEO frames. Pre-merger UA ordered the 359 in 2007 a year after it emerged from bankruptcy as a 747 replacement. The 747 replacement though has been completed, with the 77Ws that were ordered and delivered.

  19. Brazil and Chile have an interchagen agreement, do chielan aircraft may operate on LATAM Brazil’s international flights and vice versa.
    So, we may see some chilean 787s flying the brazilian routes once demand start to recover and before latam brazil gets its hands on other aircraft.
    But still a pity to see the A350 go

  20. I’m sad to see LATAM part of Deltas umbrella. I’m a loyal AA member and flew LATAM many times from DFW & Miami to Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, and Porto Alegre. The lounges and food were better than most, snd the service was unique. I guess GOL is an okay partner, but I wish they would become full fledged One World members and upgrade the “experience” as well. LATAM is sorely missed in my eyes, and they don’t seem to be doing better with Delta and their “partners”….

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Reminder: OMAAT comments are changing soon. Register here to save your space.