Australia’s Victoria state is once again directly connected to South America with the continent’s largest airline, LATAM, resuming flights between Santiago and Melbourne.

The first direct flight from South America to Victoria since 2020 touched down at Melbourne airport on 2 September, operated by a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Flights will initially operate three times a week, departing Chile’s capital for the 11,000-kilometre journey across the Pacific Ocean on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to arrive in Melbourne the following day.

Services from Melbourne to Santiago depart on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, providing a direct link for passengers and Victorian exporters into Chile and beyond through LATAM’s extensive network.

The flights are operated by Boeing 787-9 aircraft, seating 30 in business class and up to 283 in economy class.

LATAM has two 787-9 cabin configurations. Currently, the older 2-2-2 configured business cabin is available on Melbourne-Santiago.

LATAM’s Australian operations were paused in April 2020 due to the pandemic, with flights from Sydney via Auckland to Santiago restarting in March 2022, with three weekly services and building to daily services by December 2022.

“The resumption of flights to Santiago restores our direct connection to South America and brings the number of international carriers flying into Melbourne back to pre-pandemic levels,” said Melbourne airport chief executive, Lorie Argus.

“Prior to Covid-19 we had 36 airlines operating international flights into Melbourne Airport and returning to that number has taken hard work from our team and the Victorian state government. LATAM’s return takes our overall international capacity back to 97 per cent of pre-pandemic levels and by the end of the year we expect to be back at 100 per cent.