There is no magic formula for dealing with the unexpected. Unforeseen events may surprise us with complications in everyday life, but in aviation, they are even more of a challenge due to the many circumstances that influence our operation of nearly 1,400 daily flights. On average, a LAN or TAM aircraft takes off somewhere in the world every minute.
The constant revision of the aircraft by technicians and crew members in order to guarantee its proper function before takeoff; cleaning the aircraft between connections; the logistics involved in boarding you and storing your luggage – along with the thousands of elements that travel on board (fuel, cargo, catering, in-flight entertainment, duty-free items, and more) – all must be performed optimally before, during, and after a flight. And despite our best intentions, even a tiny problem can cause a chain reaction. For instance, we need to consider any issue detected with the airplane, evaluate it, and – if it can’t be resolved promptly – supply one of our backup aircraft. In the case of weather issues, we need to monitor the meteorological conditions before we are able to resume operations, many times causing inconvenience to our passengers.
We know that it can be difficult to understand why a storm in New York or the eruption of a volcano anywhere in the world might delay your flight or connection, but these contingencies have an impact not only on the affected destination, but also on the subsequent flights and scheduling at airports, on the availability of aircraft for other routes during the day or night, and on the crew members who travel on board, who have a mandated limit to the number of hours they can fly each shift.
There are also situations – some more obvious than others – that you might never imagine affecting your flight. When a passenger doesn’t make it to the gate on time because they didn’t hear the boarding call (which happens every day), we must unload their luggage, delaying takeoff by 30 minutes. Another factor we encounter in this region is that most airports don’t have enough boarding bridges to allow passengers to deplane, and when a bus arrives late to take passengers to customs, many of them will miss their connections. All these unexpected events, which often happen simultaneously, are not only a major inconvenience to our passengers, but also imply unplanned costs for the airline in terms of lodging, meals, transportation, and more.
At LATAM, we are always looking for new ways to explain unexpected events so that you will know where and when you will be able to fly as well as all the options available. In this effort, we have developed digital tools to let you monitor your flight in real time, including the Flight Status option on our Website and our smartphone app. We are also working to offer a new app in 2016 that will let you rebook your own flight using your phone, without needing to contact us directly.
While we cannot anticipate every contingency and we sometimes make mistakes, our teams will continue to work round the clock, making the greatest possible effort to continue to improve our response times, while maintaining our focus on safety and punctuality.
Enjoy your flight.
Ignacio Cueto Plaza
CEO LAN Airlines