Austral Líneas Aereas (Austral) is a regional airline based at Jorge Newbery Airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The airline operates to regional and domestic destinations withing Argentina, using a fleet of MD-80 and Embraer E190 aircraft. Austral is a subsidiary of Argentinian national carrier Aerolineas Argentinas and is owned by the Argentinean State.
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Aerolineas Argentinas is aiming to turn around its unprofitable long-haul operation by renewing its widebody fleet, adding capacity to several existing destinations and implementing codeshares with its SkyTeam partners. The airline plans to acquire 12 A330-200s over the next four years, allowing it to replace most of its A340s – the only widebody type in its current fleet.
Aerolineas remains unprofitable, an exception in a Latin American industry which has one of the highest profit margins and growth rates in the global industry. Aerolineas and its highly protectionist government owner are often criticised by more successful Latin American airline groups, with a particularly hostile backlash against Argentina taking place at the recent ALTA 2012 Airline Leaders Forum. But Aerolineas has improved its outlook significantly since renationalising and embarking on a restructuring at the end of 2008.
Fixing the long-haul network remains a challenge but the airline’s management team is putting in place the right strategies to give Aerolineas a chance to turn around - and hopefully give the government the confidence to loosen its unhelpfully protective aviation policies.
Aerolineas Argentinas formally joined the SkyTeam Alliance on 29-Aug-2012, completing an important component in the flag carrier’s strategy to reverse several years of unprofitability and lacklustre service standards. SkyTeam will allow Aerolineas to virtually expand its relatively small and highly unprofitable international network as the carrier aims to quickly start codesharing with several current and prospective members. But the alliance alone will not fix Aerolineas’ deep-rooted problems and the government-owned flag carrier still has to overcome several challenges to achieve sustained profitability.
For SkyTeam, Aerolineas Argentinas fills an important white spot in South America, a fast-growing region where the alliance previously lacked any local members. But SkyTeam still badly lags behind oneworld and Star in the increasingly important Latin American market. The alliance is now striving to woo Brazil’s Gol as a new member, which would allow SkyTeam to close the gap with its rivals.
Argentina’s aviation market has taken another step backwards as the country’s Government continues to come up with new measures aimed at protecting struggling flag carrier Aerolineas Argentinas. Aerolineas, which has not yet completed the restructuring it started three years ago after the carrier was renationalised, faces another challenging year while Latin America’s other leading carriers prosper without any government subsidies or protection.
In the latest example of protectionism, Argentinean civil aviation authorities last month decided to revoke LAN Argentina’s permits to operate international flights from Buenos Aires’ downtown airport, Aeroparque Jorge Newbery. LAN is vehemently protesting the decision on the grounds the Chile-based airline group, which has had an affiliate in Argentina since 2005, is being unfairly discriminated against. LAN currently operates two important international business routes from Aeroparque, Santiago and Sao Paulo Guarulhos.
Aerolineas Argentinas plans to pursue further capacity and fleet expansion as the renationalised carrier enters the next phase of its transformation. Aerolineas, however, has had to push back expectations for returning to profitability until at least 2H2012. With a highly unprofitable international operation and a roughly break-even domestic business, Aerolineas now stands alone in Latin America as the only loss-making major carrier in the region.
Air India, India’s state-owned national carrier, is continuing to struggle to cope with continued and significant losses and accumulated high debt levels as it seeks another government equity infusion. Air India is facing pressure to turn around its operations not only from within but from Star Alliance, with formal entry into the alliance dependent on achieving certain membership requirements which Air India has been slow to meet.