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Argentina is the second largest country in South America, has 34 airports and multiple regional carriers. Aerolíneas Argentinas is the nation’s flag carrier and the largest domestic and international airline, based at Buenos Aires International Airport (Ministro Pistarini International Airport). Domestic services are based out of the domestic airport Aeroparque Jorge Newbery. Aerolíneas Argentinas' sister company, Austral Líneas Aereas, is the second largest airline.
Comando de Regiones Areas (CRA) is the safety and navigation service provider for Argentina’s airspace. The Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation (DAC - Departamento de Aviacao Civil) oversees and regulates the airspace.
Airports in Argentina
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JetBlue plans to introduce its first destination south of the equator in Nov-2013 with new daily service from Fort Lauderdale in South Florida to Lima in Peru. The move is consistent with the carrier’s plan to use Fort Lauderdale as a springboard into Latin America as JetBlue indicates more international service from the airport is in the pipeline.
JetBlue is also seizing a prime opportunity to introduce low-cost competition in market where the only LCC presence is a single weekly flight operated by Spirit Airlines. Other carriers operating in the South Florida-Lima market are oneworld partners American Airlines and LAN and Star Alliance member TACA Peru.
Services JetBlue has launched from Fort Lauderdale to Latin America appear to have a short maturation time, which results in the carrier looking to harvest more of those opportunities to balance out new market introductions that take longer to mature. JetBlue has identified about 20 potential new markets in Central America, South America and the Caribbean that are viable from Fort Lauderdale.
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.
Brazil's Gol has shifted the focus of its plans to re-launch US flights by applying for one-stop service to Miami and Orlando via Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic after its attempts to serve Miami via Caracas were denied by the Venezuelan government. Gol’s failed attempt results in American Airlines and Venezuela's Santa Barbara Airlines retaining a duopoly in the US-Venezuela market, and a less desirable route for pick-up traffic for Gol through Santo Domingo.
The decision by the Venezuelan government appears to reflect a trend by the country’s authorities to deny South American airlines access to the US through Caracas. Aerolineas Argentinas earlier this year attempted unsuccessfully to secure authority to route its new second daily Buenos Aires-Miami frequency through Venezuela’s capital. Aerolineas will now launch the new flight as a non-stop service in Dec-2012 (it already operates one daily non-stop between Buenos Aires and Miami).
Meanwhile, smaller Caribbean carriers are trying to fill the void in the under-served US-Venezuela market by offering more one-stop connections via the Caribbean to circumvent the restrictive air transport agreement between the US and Venezuela.
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.
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.
Boliviana de Aviacion set to expand as re-launch of Aerosur is unlikely due to government roadblocks
Bolivia’s Government has reportedly rejected a bailout plan for beleaguered Aerosur, which ceased operations in May-2012 after buckling under mounting tax burdens. The latest move adds fuel to arguments repeatedly made by Aerosur's private owners of the Bolivian Government showing a bias towards state-owned Boliviana de Aviacion (BoA) since BoA launched operations in 2009. BoA immediately drove down domestic fares in Bolivia and quickly captured a domestic market share equal to Aerosur.
BoA also launched international operations in 2010 and is now poised to accelerate expansion of its international network, which currently consists of only two destinations. Aerosur was Bolivia's largest international carrier and its demise creates opportunities for BoA, the country's small regional carriers and the 10 foreign carriers that currently serve the Bolivian market. New foreign carriers are also likely to launch services to Bolivia, with Spain's Air Europa particularly eager to join BoA in filling the void left by Aerosur on the key Madrid route.