MIAMI — LATAM Airlines, South America’s largest carrier by passenger numbers, will begin introducing Premium Economy to its entire Airbus A319, A320, and A321 fleet.

Starting on March 1, the airline will introduce the new class on its international routes, and on March 16 for domestic routes in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru. 

LATAM A319. PHOTO: Rafael Luiz Canossa.

Currently, LATAM offers Premium Economy on its Santiago – Buenos Aires, Santiago – Lima, Santiago – São Paulo, São Paulo – Buenos Aires, and São Paulo – Lima routes. 

LATAM’s Premium Economy class will occupy the first three rows of each aircraft and is limited to a maximum of twelve seats, with the middle seat being blocked off, similar to many regional European business classes. 

Holding a boarding pass for a Premium Economy seat entitles the passenger to use LATAM’s priority check-in counters, priority boarding queues, a menu specifically designed for this cabin.

On an international flight, it allows entry to a LATAM VIP lounge. 

Additionally, LATAM Pass members will earn 125% mileage and will be able to check three pieces of luggage, with each piece weighing up to 23 kilograms (~50 lbs). 

This announcement marks another feather in LATAM’s cap, so soon after Delta purchased a 20% stake in the airline for $1.9 billion one month ago; the capital resulted from Delta having sold its stake in Brazil’s GOL, an important LATAM rival in South America. 

With LATAM planning to leave the Oneworld airline alliance likely by Q4 of this year—and LATAM Colombia, LATAM Ecuador, and LATAM Peru and Delta launching codeshare flights in Q1 of this year—American Airlines and indeed, Oneworld will be left without the dominant player in the South American market. 

Traditionally, in terms of US-originating traffic, American Airlines has dominated the Latin American market through its major hubs in both Dallas and Miami. However, when a Chilean court rejected its plans for wider route cooperation with LATAM Airlines, plans that also would have included IAG members British Airways and Iberia.

Sensing massive business and tourism potential in the region, Delta decided to not only become part-owner of LATAM but also show that it was willing to be a good partner by offering an extra US$350 million to aid in its transition out of Oneworld. 

With a modernizing fleet, increasing number of South American destinations, and come March the gradual introduction of Premium Economy seating, LATAM and Delta customers have a great deal to look forward to this year. 

On the other hand, whether or not LATAM joins Delta’s Skyteam is as of yet undecided.