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South American airlines brace for flight cuts as second wave of virus rages in Brazil

FILE PHOTO: A Boeing 737 airplane of Gol Linhas Aereas lands at Congonhas airport in Sao Paulo

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – South America’s airlines are bracing to cut flight capacity in the region beyond original expectations as a second wave of coronavirus infections in Brazil rages on and dampens demand for travel.

Chile’s LATAM Airlines, said on Friday it expects flights in March to fall by 65% compared with March 2019, before the pandemic hit.

The new guidance shows how badly the second coronavirus wave is affecting airlines in the region, especially in Brazil, which just this week posted a new record for daily deaths. Many countries have shut borders with Brazil while state governors in recent days have imposed ever tighter lockdowns to try to stop the spread.

Domestic flights in Brazil are a key market for LATAM.

Its main rival there, Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes, said on Friday it was asking passengers with tickets booked for April to confirm whether they were actually going to take the flight, suggesting they were expecting significant cancellations.

“With the worsening of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gol is adapting its flight schedules for the month of April,” the airline said in a statement.”

(Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun in Sao Paulo; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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