America's largest airline LATAM files for USA bankruptcy protection

The carrier aims to continue operating and hopes to reduce its debt through the bankruptcy process.

Latam's bankruptcy filing includes parent company Latam Airlines Group S.A. and its affiliated airlines in Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, as well as its businesses in the U.S.

"LATAM intends to rely on specific relief that will allow it to pay its employees, meet benefit obligations, pay critical suppliers and conduct other day-to-day business operations as the group works with the court and creditors to resolve its case".

"We have implemented a series of hard measures to mitigate the impact of this unprecedented industry disruption, but ultimately this path represents the best option", Chief Executive Roberto Alvo said in a statement regarding the filing.

LATAM is the latest corporate victim of the coronavirus pandemic that has brought a virtual halt to air travel, joining Colombia's Avianca Holdings SA and Australia's Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd in bankruptcy protection as it seeks to restructure its debt.

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The airline operated more than 1,300 flights a day and transported 74 million passengers past year. The carrier's affiliates in Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina are not part of the bankruptcy case.

The money is coming from shareholders including the Cuetos, the Amaro family and Qatar Airways, according to a company statement. It now has $1.3 billion on hand, it said.

LATAM will continue to fly while it is in bankruptcy protection, the company said.

Latam listed assets of more than $21 billion and total liabilities of nearly $18 billion in its bankruptcy petition.

FILE - In this July 25, 2016, file photo, an agent of LATAM airlines stands by the counters at the airport in Santiago, Chile.

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Last month, the Chilean-Brazilian airline said it was scaling back its operations by 95 per cent in response to the global health crisis. If negotiations are unsuccessful, LATAM acknowledged in its legal filing that its Brazil unit might file for bankruptcy as well.

The task was made more urgent this past weekend by U.S. President Donald Trump's order to restrict non-U.S. citizens arriving from Brazil to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Latam traces its roots to Lan Airlines, founded in Chile in 1929 and privatized in 1989 during the last years of the Pinochet dictatorship.

Delta Air Lines Inc a year ago paid $1.9 billion for a 20% stake during better times for the industry, becoming one of the largest shareholders in the company.

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