LATAM Airlines posts $692 million Q3 loss as pandemic headwinds persist

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FILE PHOTO: LATAM Airlines plane is seen at Santiago International Airport

By Fabian Cambero

SANTIAGO – Latin America’s largest airline, LATAM Airlines, reported losses of some $692 million in the third quarter on Tuesday, as the indebted company said it was still battling challenges from the coronavirus pandemic.

LATAM’s total revenue climbed to $1.31 billion in the July-September quarter, an increase of 156% compared with the same period last year, but only around half the level compared with before the pandemic struck in early 2020.

“Despite the pandemic, which is not over yet and that is still having an impact, we have managed to close a third quarter with better operational performance in all businesses,” Finance Vice President Ramiro Alfonsín told reporters.

The result was supported by a better performance in the domestic travel market and solid cargo business, balancing weaker performance on international routes hit by global travel restrictions that are still in flux.

The operating capacity for the quarter averaged close to half the pre-pandemic level and the airline said it expected to reach around 65% of that level by the end of the year. Alfonsín said he expected the airline’s key Brazilian operation to recover to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021 or early 2022.

In May 2020, LATAM filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States, due to the impact of the restrictions related to the pandemic. Alfonsín said on Tuesday that the airline would present the reorganization plan this month.

“Now we are finalizing the last details of our reorganization plan, for that we are meeting with stakeholders and we hope to present by November 26,” he said.

The airline, born from the merger of Chile’s LAN with Brazilian rival TAM in 2012, has operating units in Chile, Brazil, Colombia and Peru.

(Reporting by Fabián Andrés Cambero in Santiago; Editing by Matthew Lewis)