LAN and TAM have announced their intention to merge into a new South American mega-airline group, LATAM. If the merger goes forward, the new company would boast 40,000 employees and transport more than 45 million customers a year to 115 destinations in 23 countries. With little current overlap in service, the consolidation would not lead to any immediate cutbacks.
A merger website has already been created, but the biggest question remains unanswered: what alliance will the new airline be part of it? TAM recently joined Star Alliance and LAN has been a member of Oneworld since 2000. All we have is this info:
Q: LAN is a member of Oneworld and TAM is a member of Star Alliance. Is anything changing?
A: We deeply value the alliance relationships we have built. In the short term, there will be no changes regarding our alliance partners. Continue to book and fly on alliance partners as you would today. After the transaction is completed, LATAM would evaluate the best alliance options for the combined carrier group.
I can’t shed any light on what path LATAM will pursue, but negotiations for this partnership have been going on behind the scenes for months and TAM only recently joined Star Alliance. Why would TAM join Star Alliance if it knew it would be pulling out in a matter of months? Plus, the merger website states, "Frequent flyer program members will be able to earn and redeem miles on more flights, and be able to earn miles through more partners than ever before." This suggests that LATAM will be partnering with the much larger Star Alliance.
On the other hand, we saw how fiercely Oneworld battled for JAL and with the imminent demise of Mexicana, Oneworld cannot afford to lose two major Latin American carriers. As much as I would love to see LATAM join Star Alliance, I have to guess that Oneworld will put up a very big fight.
The BBC reports that the LATAM group would operate LAN and TAM separately, like Iberia/British Airways and Air France/KLM do. The frequent flyer programs would be merged, though, further suggesting that the airline won’t straddle two alliances.
(another tip of the hat to Musings of the Global Traveler)