BQB Lineas Aereas
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BQB Líneas Aéreas is a regional airline based at Punta del Este and Montevideo airports, Uruguay. BQB commenced operations in 2010 and currently operates service between inland regions in Uruguay and Brazil and the coastal cities Punta del Este and Montevideo. BQB has secured rights to operate from its Punta del Este and Montevideo hubs to Buenos Aires, Rosario and Cordoba in Argentina, and Florianopolis in Brazil. The airline is owned by integrated Uruguayan tour operator Buquebus.
Location of BQB Lineas Aereas main hub (Punta del Este Airport)
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BQB Líneas Aéreas has accelerated expansion, positioning it as Uruguay’s new flag carrier 18 months after the demise of Pluna.
BQB began pursuing expansion in late 2013 with four new routes, its first jet (a wet-leased A320) and a fourth ATR 72 turboprop. The carrier is planning further expansion in 2014, including the acquisition of a fifth ATR 72 and up to three A319s while the wet-leased A320 will be returned.
BQB should be large enough by the end of 2014 to render the proposed re-launch of Pluna or the establishment of another new Uruguayan carrier unnecessary. Uruguay is a small market and BQB is already about one third the size of Pluna, which had operated a fleet of 13 CRJ900s.
The demise of Pluna has left a large void in the Uruguayan market that will be partially filled through expansion by carriers from neighbouring Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay as well as by tiny Uruguayan regional carrier BQB Air. The Uruguayan Government has opted against bailing out Pluna, which ceased operations on 05-Jul-2012, and is instead now trying to find another carrier (either new or existing) to take over its routes and, potentially, its employees and fleet.
But the end result will almost certainly be the the lack of a network carrier for Uruguay and the sale of Pluna’s 13 Bombardier CRJ900 regional jets to overseas buyers. While some of Pluna routes could be taken over by other carriers, there will almost certainly be a steep reduction in traffic at Montevideo’s Carrasco International Airport as the Uruguayan market is too small to support more than a handful of point-to-point routes.
Pluna CEO Matthias Campiani has issued a warning of a potential collapse of Uruguay’s flag carrier, driven by sluggish Latin American economies and the restrictive policies of the region’s governments, particularly Argentina, which has practiced fierce protectionism since the renationalisation of flag carrier Aerolineas Argentinas in 2008.
Yet Uruguay's challenges in Argentina – where Pluna deploys 21% of international seats – are not new, as evidenced by the carrier's recent strategy to expand into Brazil instead. Argentina's protectionism has understandably been a sore point for Mr Campiani, who is resolute and will see that objectives are accomplished. While Pluna has encountered losses, it has in recent times broken even. There is no doubt Pluna has suffered from protectionism and like most carriers is seeing a downturn from global economic events, but a collapse is difficult to envision.