It’s no longer speculation. LAN and TAM have announced the intention to merge into a new company called LATAM (which, on paper, looks like as much of a people pleaser as United’s new livery). They will continue to operate as distinct airlines, though I’m sure this means only one thing — either LAN is moving to the Star Alliance, or TAM is moving to OneWorld. While there’s not a huge amount to gain here for either alliance (as both airlines have decent coverage in South America), there’s a lot to lose here. Whichever alliance they ditch will almost completely lose South America coverage, especially on the flights within the continent.
Musings of the Global Traveller has a pretty thorough analysis on what’s up for grabs here. My thoughts? I have to imagine they’ll go with the Star Alliance, as it has much more reach and much more limited coverage in South America outside the two airlines, meaning they have more to gain. On the other hand, OneWorld is already stronger within South America, and maybe LAN doesn’t want to give up the connecting traffic they get from American. But I still have to imagine they’ll go with the Star Alliance at the end of the day.
It’ll be interesting to watch this, though I can’t say I’m terribly excited about the merger. I was happy using American miles for LAN and United miles for TAM.