Alexandre de Gunten spoke with Travel Weekly contributing editor
Carla Hunt about the advances in transportation to Chile.
TW: Chile has become a popular place, as evidenced by your
record passenger figures (up 40% last year over 1996) and the
increase in flight frequencies from the U.S. Can you give us a
rundown on new flight services?
De Gunten: First let me say that the big increase in 1997 was a
nice combination of business-driven traffic combined with an
increase in leisure passengers, with figures further helped by the
demise of Ladeco Airlines.
And certainly, our airline schedules this year look very
different from last year. In July we added daily nonstop service
from Los Angeles to Santiago; between New York and Lima; we now
have daily flights that continue to Santiago, and we expect to open
service between Miami and Lima in the near future. From our Miami
hub, we also have increased our flights to Bogota and to Guayaquil
(three weekly for each destination), plus two to Caracas.
Latin American carriers are all increasing regional flights. For
instance, from Santiago, we have seven flights a day to Buenos
Aires, three flights a day into Lima, and daily service to
Furthermore, air service has stepped up to secondary cities in
neighboring countries, such as our flights to Cordoba and Mendoza
in Argentina, as well as to Ushuaia which helps to service the
leisure traffic to the Antarctica cruise market.
And this was the year LanChile introduced the first South
American flight -- one weekly -- to Mount Pleasant airport in the
TW: You have said that route growth is part of an overall $370
million investment in an across-the-board upgrade of LanChile. And
the other elements?
De Gunten: To maintain our market-share leadership, which last
year was 39.5%, we are standardizing our long-haul fleet, which has
an average age of less than three years, with all Boeing 767-300ER
aircraft; three new Boeings are being added this year, two more in
1999. Also we are renewing the short and medium-range fleet through
a contract with Airbus.
A milestone for LanChile this year was the recent unveiling of
our new corporate identity that seeks a fine mix of our "southern"
hospitality and friendliness with more modern, efficient and
professional representation. In addition to new aircraft -- with
redesigned interiors and such first and business class amenities as
seats with individual video monitors, personal reading lights,
computer ports and added lumbar support -- we have new uniforms,
new menus and a new logo.
TW: Although LanChile is now privatized, as the flag carrier,
are there special efforts planned for continued development of the
U.S. market to Chile?
De Gunten: We are responsible for our destination promotion and
for facilitating travel for the business and leisure visitor.
Our biggest move this year was signing a code-share agreement
with American Airlines, whose services feed into our U.S. gateways,
which is important to the increase of passenger services and
Under this agreement, members of both LanPass and AAdvantage
frequent flyer programs earn mileage credit and redeem travel
awards. In addition to earning regular mileage credits, benefits
include bonus miles in business and first class. We have a similar
industry partnership with Canadian Airlines.
Furthermore, for leisure travel expansion, we work with some 40
tour operators in the U.S., who together offer the marketplace a
varied leisure package that spans the travel possibilities from top
to bottom in our long, thin country where we serve 15 destinations
including Easter Island. Additionally, those tour programs take
advantage of our increased services to neighboring countries such
as Argentina and Peru.
We continue to support the Chilean National Tourist Office
(Sernatur) in maintaining a Destination Chile toll-free line [(800)
CHILE-66] to answer questions and provide travel information. We
also participate regularly in the Destination Chile Seminars that
are held throughout the year around the U.S. The western area is
the focus for October meetings.
LanChile reservations: (888) 657-7666
Web site: www.lanchile.cl.