Chile: Questions and Answers

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 Montevideo.

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 Falklands.

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 benefits.

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.

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