LATAM Airlines Group and the Union of LATAM Pilots (SPL) in Chile reached an agreement on Wednesday, cooling off the possibility of a strike which was set to begin on Thursday, the Union said in a statement.

Avoiding the strike last minute

Having recently emerged from its Chapter 11 bankruptcy process, LATAM quickly faced a new challenge, the possibility of an industrial action taken by its team of pilots. On November 2, with a 99% overwhelming majority, the pilots in the company voted in favor of a strike. In a Facebook statement, SPL said,

“In the midst of the crisis, LATAM Airlines implemented an adjustment that involved the dismissal of some 240 pilots, a 30% salary reduction, and a move towards a variable salary model. We are asking for a clear act of justice: to recover the conditions we had before the adjustment implemented by the company, which hit us very hard.”

The Union represents 313 of the airline’s nearly 500 pilots. Both parties reached a fair deal minutes before the deadline expired, managing to defuse a strike which at some point seemed inevitable, said SPL.

As reported by Reuters, the union argued that 240 pilots were fired, and compensation was reduced by 30% during the COVID-19 pandemic. While company executives and other employees have since recovered 100% of their pre-pandemic salaries, pilots continue to have a reduced wage, added the SPL.

A LATAM aircraft

Photo: Getty Images.

Support from other pilot unions worldwide

During these past few days, the LATAM pilots received support from other unions worldwide. The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) and the Oneworld Cockpit Crew Coalition (OCCC) stood in support of LATAM Airlines pilots. They said it was unfortunate that LATAM management continued its “bad faith bargaining tactics” in the face of robust travel demand.

OCCC Chair, Captain John Sluys, said that the overwhelming vote for strike action shows that employees must also participate in the airline’s recovery. “The professional pilots of SPL made great sacrifices to get the airline through the difficult time. It is time for management to do the right thing as the company is emerging from the storm.”

LATAM emerging from Chapter 11

After 29 months, LATAM Airlines emerged from US Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It was the last Latin American airline to emerge, following the steps of regional competitors Avianca and Aeromexico.

LATAM completed its restructuring and emerged “with a solid financial position.” The airline reduced around 35% of its debt (around $3.6 billion less) from the pre-filing period and reached over $2.2 billion in liquidity.

When talking about the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, LATAM’s CEO, Roberto Alvo, said that the company couldn’t forget the people it lost in this crisis. “Although we tried our best to keep everyone, the irresistible force pandemic forced us to resize to survive. I want you to know that I think of you in these moments,” he added.

In October 2022, LATAM Chile recovered 75% of its protected operation versus 2019 levels. The airline reached 17 domestic and 25 international destinations from this South American country.

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