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Auckland Airport reconnects with South America

After a two-year absence, New Zealand’s direct air connections with South America have been restored with the touch down of LATAM at Auckland Airport on March 31.

The arrival marks the start of the three times a week service, building to five times a week from July, with each Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner flight touching down twice a day as it makes the round trip between Santiago, Chile and Sydney, Australia.

Scott Tasker, General Manager of Aeronautical Commercial at Auckland Airport, said since the COVID outbreak and subsequent border closures, South America has been one of the hardest places to connect to from New Zealand and Australia.

“Particularly in those early months of the pandemic, when air connections evaporated, a trip to or from South America would have involved an expensive, multi-leg journey. For most people it would have been just too difficult, so today’s restart will be especially welcomed by those friends and families who have been separated for two, if not more, years."

New Zealand has a small but growing population of Latin Americans with more than 25,000 Latin Americans calling New Zealand home – three times the number living here a decade earlier.

New Zealand has also been a popular destination for South American travellers, said Mr Tasker.

“If you look back to 2019, we had nearly 90,000 people arrive into New Zealand from South America – about half of those from Brazil and Argentina alone. Those that were here as visitors – roughly 60% of arrivals – tended to stay longer than average.

“Not only is there now an easy option to fly between the three countries, but LATAM’s Santiago hub provides excellent connections through to the rest of the continent,” said Mr Tasker.

“And while we’ve traditionally had modest trade volumes with South America, the LATAM service will strengthen air cargo connections between New Zealand and South American markets and create market opportunities for exporters of high value products.

“We also saw Auckland Airport operate as an air freight hub between South America and Asia during the early stages of the pandemic with a number of cargo-only flights ensuring the fast, efficient flow of PPE and medical devices to South America. There’s a real opportunity to develop those global supply chain between Asia and South America via Auckland, with LATAM being an important link in this growth,” said Mr Tasker.

Pre-pandemic 29 international airlines operated at Auckland Airport, connecting to 45 destinations. As at the end of March 2022, 14 airlines fly internationally to 25 destinations. 

LATAM reconnects

  • From 31 March – 3 per week
  • From July – increases to 5 per week
  • Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner