Lan Peru is planning to launch flights from Lima to Easter Island in Chile and from Cuzco to Iguacu Falls in Brazil as part of the next phase of its continuing international network expansion.
LAN VP of North America and the Caribbean, Pablo Yunis, says the Chile-based airline group is focusing on further growing its Lima hub with several new routes and additional frequencies to key business destinations. He says the expansion is part of a project to create a second bank of flights at Lima.
This expansion includes four weekly flights from Lima to San Francisco, which were announced in January and will launch at the beginning July, as well as new flights to Easter Island, to be launched sometime in the second half of 2010. Several new routes to other Latin American destinations may also be launched later this year.
Currently at its Lima hub LAN has only one connecting bank for northbound flights and one bank for southbound flights. Yunis says by July a second bank will be fully implemented, resulting in improved connection times for several North America-South America city pairs.
"This is an ongoing project," Yunis told ATI and Flightglobal in a recent interview. "It will start showing in June and July this year." He adds that some flights to North America will also be re-timed to better synchronise with the South American flights. LAN now links Lima with Los Angeles, Miami and New York JFK with a connection at JFK to a LAN-operated flight to Toronto.
Yunis says currently passengers on some routes have a long layover in one direction but after the project is completed later this year there will be short layovers in both directions. The shorter layovers are made possible by the retimed US flights as well as extra frequencies which are planned on some of Lan Peru's most dense South American routes such as Lima-Sao Paulo.
"We're having a lot of growth in our regional network," Yunis says.
LAN has been steadily expanding its network out of Lima, where there are now flights to over 20 international destinations as well as more than a dozen domestic destinations. Over the last year several international destinations have been added including Cordoba in Argentina, Iquique in Chile, Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic and Cartagena in Colombia.
While several of the new routes added over the last two years were northbound out of Lima, Yunis says going forward the focus will be more on southbound destinations such as Easter Island. Southbound destinations have the added advantage of connection to LAN's North American flights.
Yunis says the new Lima-Easter Island service will launch sometime in the second half of the year with a couple of weekly frequencies. But an exact launch date and schedule has not yet been set. He says the new route will probably be offered year-round but "we'll have to see how demand responds".
Easter Island is a big leisure destination now served only from LAN's Santiago hub. The new Lima flight will significantly reduce the travel time for passengers heading to Easter Island from North America.
Yunis says LAN also hopes to add the Galapagos, another popular leisure destination for Americans, in its network through a new flight from its Guayaquil hub that will be operated by a codeshare partner. ATI reported in October that Ecuadorean carrier TAME was planning to add LAN Ecuador's code on its flights to the Galapagos. LAN is unable to launch its own flights to the Galapagos from Ecuador or Peru, although there would likely be high demand for both services, because new carriers are blocked by the Ecuadorean government from launching any services to the island chain's two airports.
Iguacu, South America's largest waterfall located on the Argentina-Brazil-Paraguay border, is another popular tourist destination for foreigners. Yunis says the planned Lan Peru Iguacu flight will operate from Cuzco rather than Lima as Cuzco is next to Peru's largest tourist attraction, Machu Picchu. Yunis expects the Cuzco-Iguacu flight will launch in the second half of the year but no schedule or launch date has been set.
Yunis explains LAN has decided to focus its expansion this year on Peru as it more centrally located in Latin America than Chile. "Peru is a bigger country and geographically it's more centrally located," Yunis says.
Grupo TACA also has been rapidly expanding its Lima hub, citing Peru's central geographic location.