Peru is a big country, even 37 times as big as the Netherlands. The most common ways to travel the long distances between the bigger cities in Peru is by comfortable overnight bus, or by flying. For those who can afford to fly, this is of course the most comfortable option. Because flying Peru is so common there are several airlines which operate in Peru. These airlines include: Sky, JetSMART, Star Peru and LATAM.

The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on flying Peru

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, there was still a decent competition between various different airline companies on important flying routes within Peru, like the one between Lima and Cusco. But even then LATAM was already a dominating airline company with a lot of political power. This power would often give them preferences on landing rights and slots for flying out of Lima and Cusco airport. During the pandemic some airline companies didn’t survive the lack of flights and income. Likely because of its size and political power, LATAM was better protected from the losses during the pandemic. Now in 2024 it seems that LATAM has really strengthened its dominant position.

LATAM price differences

Not long before the pandemic LATAM was still charging different prices for flight tickets for Peruvians and foreigners. Sometimes these price differences were more than 100 US$ on a retour ticket. We once had clients who had been doing volunteer work in Peru. After their volunteer work we organized their trip to Cusco and Machu Picchu, but they had bought their own flight tickets online, because this was cheaper. However, they had bought their tickets on a Peruvian website from LATAM, with prices for Peruvian citizens. For those not known with the LATAM policies of that time, it wasn’t really clear that these tickets weren’t meant for foreigners. They also didn’t know that the fine for trying to use these tickets was 170 US$ p.p.! On their flight from Lima to Cusco, nobody noticed the difference, since it was only a small code difference in the ticket. But when they wanted to board their flight from Cusco to Lima they were refused to board the plane, unless they each paid a 170 US$ fine for trying to use tickets for Peruvian citizen…

Which airline to choose to fly in Peru?

Just before the pandemic LATAM finally changed its ticket policies introducing same price tickets for everyone, Peruvian nationals and foreigners alike. Because of their dominant position flying in Peru with LATAM is often still more expensive then flying with Sky, or JetSMART. But, when you travel through Peru and you are on a tight schedule, it is often better to pay a little extra to fly with LATAM. The reason? LATAM flights are more reliable. Especially during raining season (between December and April) when flights to and from Cusco and Puerto Maldonado are frequently delayed, or even cancelled, flights from LATAM get preferences over flights from other airlines. This is because of their strong political position, because they have more airplanes and also more departing slots. All of this combined makes it for LATAM much easier to reschedule your flight when bad weather, or other unpredictable circumstances cause flight delays in Peru.

Flying to Peru

Chinchero, Cusco airport flying Peru
The new Cusco airport will be behind Chinchero

Almost all of the airlines that offer international flights into Peru are flying into Lima airport. The exception is Copa Airlines, who also has direct flights between Panama City and Chiclayo. This is likely because of commercial relationships between both cities. Before the pandemic there were also direct flights between La Paz and Cusco, but unfortunately this airline went bankrupt. The past years they started building a new international airport close to Chinchero, between Cusco and the Sacred Valley. When this airport is ready, which could take many more years, the Peruvian government hopes that international tourists with limited time will be able to visit Cusco and Machu Picchu on a long weekend trip.
Before the pandemic there were briefly also international flights between Iquitos and Panama. But there were complains that customs service in Iquitos wasn’t properly organized, so it became a popular smuggling route. Because of this it isn’t sure if they will reopen international flights between Panama and Iquitos.

Flying from Peru

Lima airport is a small and well organized airport, so in general flying out of Peru goes smooth. For tourists who want to bring Coca leaves as a souvenir, please don’t. Although sales and use of Coca leaves is legal within Peru, it isn’t allowed to export them. Be also careful when you buy archaeological souvenirs. It is not allowed to buy, or transport original archaeological objects from Peru. Of course most tourists wouldn’t do this. But some souvenirs can look very realistic, so in these cases it is important that you keep the receipt with which you can proof your legal purchase before flying out of Peru. When you fly on the same day with LATAM from Cusco to Lima as your international flight out of Peru, you can often already check your luggage in for your international flight. If you overstayed your tourist visa while traveling through Peru, you will fist have to go to a special office at Lima Airport to pay your fine.