LATAM Airlines has announced the forthcoming launch of a new route linking South America and Israel. Effective from the 12 December 2018, the Chile headquartered airline will offer thrice weekly services to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport.
The LATAM services will depart from Santiago Airport in Chile and then call at Sao Paulo in Brazil before heading across the Atlantic Ocean to Israel. The South American connection will open up new opportunities for religious travellers and pilgrims wishing to visit the Holy Land.
Sao Paulo has a sizable Jewish community, estimated at 120,000, and the LATAM stopover will serve them too. LATAM's CEO in Brazil, Jerome Cadier, told reporters no other airline flew between South America and Israel and the service would open up new frontiers for travellers.
Flight times for the South American segment of the LATAM flights will be a little less than four hours while the transatlantic crossing is about 13 hours. The total time in the air is about 1 hour 30 minutes less than that offered by Israeli airline El Al when it used to fly the same route.
El Al's flights took longer as they had to avoid flying through the airspace of some countries in Africa. Since El Al pulled the plug on its service six years ago, passengers flying between the two locations have had to resort to convoluted and time consuming routes via Europe and Africa.
Commenting on the new collaboration with LATAM, the tourism-minister of Israel said it likely would increase two-way tourism and strengthen ties with Chile and Brazil. Yariv Levin also confirmed Israel was subsidising the service to the tune of about US$920,000 (£653,000) a year.