Thursday, June 30, 2016

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

NEW AIRLINE PLANS: Irelandia Aviation looking to buy Andes Lineas Aereas to start an Argentine Low-Cost Carrier

Andes Lineas Aereas MD-83, LV-AYD (c/n 53015), taxis at Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) on 21Jun16.  (Phil Perry Photo)   

Andes as it operates today might disappear if Irelandia Aviation succeeds in buying all or part of the carrier to launch a new LCC in Argentina. 

Declan Ryan of Irelandia Aviation, the "airline development company" that has launched five different Low-Cost Carriers (LCC's), including Ryanair (Ireland), Allegiant (USA), Tiger Airways (Singapore), Viva Aerobus (Mexico) and Viva Colombia, was recently in Buenos Aires for the second time in two months for meetings with the Argentine Transportation Minister Guillermo Dietrich and Miguel Ziadi, the CEO of Salta, Argentina based Andes Lineas Aereas.

Irelandia wants to establish a low-cost carrier in Argentina now that the country is more open to new airline ventures under the new president and government that took power on 10Dec15 following approx. ten years of effectively being closed to any new carriers entering the market during the previous government.

Argentina - Air Travel Market that should be Triple its Current Size

The development company looks at Argentina as a severely underdeveloped air transportation market with only about 5-7% of Argentines having flown with the vast majority taking long-distance buses when traveling domestically.  According to Ryan, this results in "ridiculous" situations, such as students taking 20-hour bus rides from Buenos Aires to Bariloche (lakeside and mountainside resort near the Andes mountains) for their traditional end-of-school-year celebrations when they could cover the same distance in a 2-hour flight. 

Ryan pointed out that only 2.5% of Colombians had flown prior to LCC's entering the market there whereas today 10% have traveled by air.  On the other extreme, Spain, which has five LCC's, counts 70-80% of its citizenry as having flown.  Ryan estimates that his company starting an LCC in Argentina would triple the number of Argentines flying regularly to at least 20% of the population. 

Irelandia LCC entering Argentina through Andes like Avianca with MacAir Jet

Irelandia is looking at entering Argentina by the same means as Avianca did when it purchased MacAir Jet earlier this year, with Irelandia's acquisition target being Andes Lineas Aereas, an MD-80 operator with a fleet of five aircraft based in the northwestern Argentine city of Salta.  Ryan has indicated that it would take about five aircraft (presumably a more economical aircraft than Andes' MD-80's) and US$ 50 million to start an LCC in Argentina. 

Start up in 2017 using Alternative Airports

Target date for the new LCC startup is 2017 with a yet-to-be-defined route network that would consist of city pairs with lower-cost alternative airports that travelers would be willing to pay US$ 50 to fly between.  Ryan noted Cordoba (COR) and La Plata (LPG), located some 35 miles southeast of Argentina's capital Buenos Aires and serving a city of 700,000 in its own right, as interesting candidates for LCC service.                     

La Plata (LPG) has two runways but only one, 02/20, is in use with only half of its 4,679 ft. length currently available for flight operations.  Presumably the full runway could be developed for use plus its southwestern end is bordered by farmland that could possibly be purchased to extend its length.  The airport has a small terminal and ramp area but there is enough room on the existing airport property to expand the ramp significantly, build a reasonably-large terminal and add support facilities, such as hangars and parking for passenger vehicles. 

Obstacles to LCC's in Argentina

Although Declan Ryan sees plenty of opportunity in Argentina for LCC's, he notes that the following obstacles need to be overcome:

* Argentina currently has minimum airfare regulations that would need to be eliminated to allow LCC's to establish low enough airfares to stimulate market demand while still allowing for a profitable operation through efficient, cost-effective management.

* Nearly all of the airports in Argentina that have commercial service are run by Aeropuertos Argentinos 2000, a monopolistic private franchise, with fees that Ryan considers much too high, which are reportedly much higher than in neighboring countries.  In contrast, Colombia's airports are managed by four different companies, with airports competing with each other to attract airline service.       

* Argentina's airline labor unions are very strong making it difficult to introduce the idea of worker cross-utilization for multiple functionality in different job roles that would maximize efficiency and make it easier to offer low fares.         

More developments should be expected in the coming months. 

Sources: via Carlos Abella

Monday, June 27, 2016

FLEET UPDATE: LATAM Argentina adds 14th A320 to its fleet, LV-GLP (c/n 1355)

LATAM Chile recently transferred A320 CC-COF (c/n 1355) to LATAM Argentina where it has been re-registered as LV-GLP, the Argentine affiliate's 14th A320. The aircraft continues to carry LAN titles and the full LAN scheme.

The previous most recent addition to the LAN Argentina (now LATAM Argentina) fleet was on 29Oct14 when LAN Airlines CC-BAI (c/n 4543) was transferred to Argentina and re-registered as LV-FUX.  


Sunday, June 26, 2016

FLEET UPDATE: Amaszonas Uruguay's first CRJ-200 receives a Uruguayan registration

Amaszonas Uruguay's first aircraft, CRJ-200LR (c/n 7209), which was transferred from the carrier's parent company, Amaszonas of Bolivia, recently had its Bolivian registration CP-2969 cancelled and replaced with a new Uruguayan registration, CX-SDU.  

With the aircraft on the Uruguayan register, Amaszonas will now be able to start flying on the Montevideo (MVD) - Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) "Air Bridge" for which it has received authorization and expects to start flying in July. 


Friday, June 24, 2016

NEW AIRLINE PLANS: Avianca Argentina affiliate - Plans to Start Service on 01Dec16 with Six 70-Seat Turboprops

More details recently emerged about Avianca's planned Argentina affiliate at the Aviation Day Conference held in Buenos Aires in late May.  

Avianca CEO German Efromovich indicated that the new carrier, which has not been named yet, would start service on December 1, initially with eight 70-seat turboprops, probably ATR-72's or Q400's, on a route system centered on hubs at Cordoba (COR) and Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) plus a mini-hub at Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE), where the airline would feed Avianca's Colombia flights. 

The airline, to be headed by CEO Carlos Carlunga, the former head of Mac Air Jet, which Avianca purchased to gain a foothold in Argentina, expects to have a fleet of 18 turboprops and 250-300 employees by 2018, making an investment of US$ 100 million in Argentina during that time.  

Efromovich indicated that the carrier already has a route structure in mind that would be mostly secondary in nature, typically with 500 km long (312 miles) segments avoiding direct competition with the main carriers in Argentina (Aerolineas Argentinas, Austral and LATAM Argentina) by flying routes such as San Luis (LUQ) - Rio Cuarto (RCU) - Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP).  One of the few exceptions to this strategy would likely be the Cordoba (COR) - Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) route, which is the most heavily-traveled domestic route in the country. 

The new carrier expects that there will be a public route solicitation in August where it will apply to the ANAC Argentine aviation authority for the route rights it is seeking.  

Efromovich indicated that the process of putting together operations manuals, requesting authorizations, acquiring certifications, etc. was underway but the Argentine authorities have since indicated that they have not received any requests from the new carrier yet.             


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

PHOTO: LATAM Chile A319, CC-CPE, at Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) on 21Jun16

LATAM Chile A319, CC-CPE (c/n 2321), taxis in the carrier's inaugural color scheme at Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) on 21Jun16.  (Phil Perry Photo) 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

FLEET UPDATE: Aerolineas Argentinas 737-7Q8 LV-CMK (c/n 28240/832), leaves fleet, to join Southwest Airlines

Aerolineas Argentinas 737-7Q8, LV-CMK (c/n 28240/832), taxis at Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) on 14Aug14.  (Phil Perry Photo)

LV-CMK left Argentina on 02Jun16 on a Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Caracas (CCS) - Miami (MIA) - Boeing Paine Field (PAE) routing.  The aircraft will join five other ex-Aerolineas 737-700's that have gone to Southwest Airlines:

ex LV-CBG - (c/n 30235/672) - now N7838A
ex LV-CAM - (c/n 30243/919) - now N7839A
ex LV-CBS - (c/n 30236/715) - now N7840A 
ex LV-CCR - (c/n 30237/730) - now N7842A
ex LV-CPH - (c/n 28238/817) - now N7850A


Monday, June 6, 2016

FLEET UPDATE: Austral's 24th Embraer 190, LV-GBK, ex-Republic Airways, arrived at Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) on 02Jun16

The second ex-Republic Airways E190 to join Austral's fleet, LV-GBK (c/n 291) ex-N165HQ, arrived at Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) on the evening of 02Jun16 having flown in from San Jose (SJO) via Lima (LIM) where it had undergone lengthy preparations for entry into service at the Costa Rican MRO COOPESA.

Austral actually took delivery of the plane from Republic on 23Jan16.  The aircraft, plus its sistership LV-GAQ (c/n 275) (see underwent extensive work at the Griffiss International Airport (RME) in Rome, New York and then at COOPESA in Costa Rica before finally arriving in Argentina.

LV-GBK is Austral's 24th Embraer 190 and only the second used E190 to enter its fleet with the other 22 airframes having been delivered factory-new from Brazil.      


Friday, May 27, 2016

Sol Lineas Aereas - The Final Months - Part 3 of 3 - Sol's Fleet Today

Air Nostrum CRJ-200ER, EC-MJY (c/n 7915) ex-LV-GIH, in Sol colors but with small Air Nostrum titles on approach to Toulouse Blagnac (TLS) France on 24Mar16.  

Photo by "Eurospot" used with photographer's permission: 

Sol's Former Fleet Today


Two of Sol's CRJ-200's were reportedly parked at Rosario (ROS) soon after the carrier ceased operations with the third going to Asuncion (ASU).  By 24Feb16, all three were spotted in Asuncion (ASU) with apparently two, (c/n 7915) and (c/n 7975) departing back to Air Nostrum in Spain in March.    

LV-GIH (c/n 7915) was re-registered as EC-MJY.

LV-GII (c/n 7975) was re-registered as EC-MJZ.   

In the meantime, the third CRJ-200, LV-GIJ (c/n 7466), which was supposed to be re-registered as EC-MJX, presumably returned to Spain although the author of this blog knows of no confirmed reports of this. 

Interesting photos of two the CRJ-200's in Sol's blue colors but with small Air Nostrum titles and with their new Spanish registrations: 

EC-MJY (c/n 7915):  See top of posting 

EC-MJZ (c/n 7975):

Saab 340's

Sol's five Saab 340's are reportedly parked in Rosario (ROS), the airline's former base. They are in, order of when they joined the Sol fleet:

* Saab 340A, LV-BEX (c/n 14), is one of the first Saab 340's to have been built way back in 1985.  Sol took delivery of the plane on 02Aug06 but stored the aircraft in February 2012. 

* Saab 340A, LV-BEW (c/n 150), was delivered to Business Express in 1989 and joined the Sol fleet on 07Aug06.   

* Saab 340A, LV-CEI (c/n 12), is also one of the first Saab 340's to have been manufactured with Comair (USA) taking delivery of the plane on 29Mar85.
Sol added the aircraft to its fleet on 30Jul10.

* Saab 340B, LV-CSK (c/n 168), was delivered in 1989 and flew for several European airlines before joining Sol on 14Nov11.   

* Saab 340B, LV-CYC (c/n 310), was delivered in 1992 and flew for several carriers in Europe, the USA, and Australia before joining Sol on 28Jul12.   

Sol also flew three more Saab 340's in its 10-year history::

* Saab 340A, LV-BMD (c/n 123), was originally delivered in 1988, flying for several airlines, all in the USA, prior to joining the Sol fleet on 01Oct07.  On 02Jan13, the pilots lost directional control of the aircraft while taxiing for takeoff at Mendoza (MDZ) exiting the taxiway onto rough ground.  Propeller blades from the #1 engine were damaged with shrapnel causing a 5 centimeter hole in the fuselage.  Nobody was hurt but the aircraft was deemed to be beyond economical repair. 

* Saab 340A, LV-BTP (c/n 131), joined Sol on 03Jan09 but left to Sky Bahamas on 23Aug14.

* Saab 340A, LV-CEJ (c/n 25), joined the fleet on 30Jul10, the same date as LV-CEI.  It crashed on 18May11 in the province of Rio Negro, Argentina due to severe icing and subsequent loss of control with the loss of all 3 crew and 19 passengers.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sol Lineas Aereas - The Final Months - Part 2 of 3 - The Airline Shuts Down & tries to Reorganize

Sol employees protest at the airline's former ticket counter at Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) on 17Mar16.  The signs say "No aviation worker fired" and "You are are richer (referring to the airline's owners) and 300 more families are without work". (Phil Perry Photo)    

Aerolineas Argentinas / Austral Agreement with Sol Lineas Aereas

With the election of new Argentine President Mauricio Macri, who took office on 10Dec15, Aerolineas' senior management was changed so that the state-owned carrier would be run in line with President Macri's wishes.  Isela Costantini, a high-ranking executive at Mercedes Benz Argentina, took over the reins at Aerolineas on Monday, 04Jan16 and upon examining the finances and operations of the loss-plagued carrier, promptly cancelled the agreement with Sol on 14Jan16, which she judged to be extremely disadvantageous to Aerolineas.     

What were the terms of the Aerolineas / Sol agreement ?  The information published in news media has been spotty and piecemeal making it difficult to determine with certainty what the terms were.  Below is the editor's interpretation from several different sources.    

Capacity Purchase Agreement 

Aerolineas entered into a "Capacity Purchase Agreement" with Sol, similar to such arrangements between major carriers and regionals / commuters in the US and Europe, whereby the major purchases the entire seat inventory of the smaller carrier and sells it through the larger carrier's formidable marketing apparatus, keeping the revenue for itself.

Two Versions of Agreement

One version of the agreement is that Aerolineas reportedly agreed to cover all of Sol's company costs, including flying operations, administrative costs, etc. + 12% in guaranteed profit, with the latter expected to be approximately US$ 5.50 million per year.

Another version has Aerolineas agreeing to pay Sol for 210 monthly hours use of its four 34-seat Saab 340's at US$ 2,600 per block hour for a total of US$ 552,510 each plane.  Similarly, the national carrier was to pay for 210 monthly hours x US$ 3,000 = US$ 630,000 per month for each CRJ-200.  Some reports have also indicated that Aerolineas separately provided fuel for these operations.  

Aerolineas' Projected Losses from Agreement

Aerolineas had already given Sol 125 million pesos (approx. US$ 8 million) before the change of government in December with the new management estimating that continuing the agreement would have resulted in a loss to Aerolineas of 1 million pesos (approx. US$ 65,000) per day.
Some said that Aerolineas was paying Sol 80% more for flying these routes than if it had just operated the routes itself with sister carrier Austral's E190's.  It appears that this might be the case in the first version above where all of Sol's costs were covered by Aerolineas but in the second version it seems the opposite would be true because Austral's E190's would probably cost a lot more to operate than Sol's 34-seat Saab 340's and 50-seat CRJ-200's.   

With the cancellation of the Aerolineas agreement, Air Nostrum cancelled its partnership with Sol leading the latter's management to declare the carrier's continuing operations to be unviable and suspend operations on 15Jan16.  

Sol looks for new Business Partners to resume Operations  

The sudden shutdown of Sol caused a lot of commotion for passengers who found themselves with cancelled flights, but mostly affected Sol's 220 employees who suddenly lost their jobs.

The Argentine government worked with Sol and other parties to get the airline operating again both to avoid the loss of connectivity and preserve jobs. 

Via Bariloche + London Supply + American Jet

Initially three companies; the Via Bariloche bus operator and owner of small commuter airline SAPSA, London Supply, operator of El Calafate (FTE) and Ushuaia (USH) airports, and American Jet (an FBO and charter company with a fleet of business jets and an ATR-42 flying for the oil industry in Neuquen), all looked at making investments in Sol but did not get very far in the process before dropping out.

Amaszonas Interest

This was followed by the promising interest shown by Amaszonas of Bolivia, which was and is expanding in the region with affiliates Amaszonas Paraguay and now Amaszonas Uruguay, and also operates the same CRJ-200 type of aircraft that Sol flew.  Expanding into Argentina with both domestic flights and international connectivity to its other affiliates seemed like a natural fit for the airline's expansion plans.  However, when the Avianca Group of Colombia bought Macair as a base for establishing a domestic operation in Argentina, Amaszonas dropped out of pursuing Sol, saying that it could not compete with a large and powerful company like Avianca, although some thought that it was a convenient excuse for Amaszonas to back out.

With no agreement with any other carriers or investors in sight, Sol Lineas Aereas shut down completely on 31Mar16 after nearly 10 years of flight operations. 

Avion Revue, Latin American Edition, April 2015, Issue #194, "Sol deja de Operar", p.30-34

Monday, May 23, 2016

ROUTE UPDATE: Air Europa to replace the A330 with the 787-8 between Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) and Madrid (MAD), effective 10Jan17

Air Europa will replace its daily A330-200 service between Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) and Madrid (MAD) with the 787-8, effective 10Jan17.   

Air Europa will become the seventh carrier to operate the 787 from Ezeiza so far, joining the current service of AeroMexico to Mexico City (MEX), AVIANCA to Bogota (BOG), and United to Houston Intercontinental (IAH), all using the 787-8, and the future service of Air New Zealand's 787-9's to Auckland (AKL), effective 30Oct16.  American and LAN have both also flown the 787 from Ezeiza, to Dallas Ft. Worth (DFW) and Santiago (SCL), respectively, using the -8 model. 

Source: via Eric Trum

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Sol Lineas Aereas - The Final Months - Part 1 of 3 - Three CRJ-200's Delivered

Sol Lineas Aereas CRJ-200ER, LV-GII (c/n 7975), takes off runway 31 at Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) on 02Jan16, less than two weeks before the carrier shut down. (Phil Perry Photo) 

This blog's last posting on Sol Lineas Aereas was in late September 2015 when the airline was seemingly embarking on an exciting new era of expansion and jet service but, sadly, only a little over three months later, Sol, was shut down by its ownership on 15Jan16.

Three CRJ-200's delivered (of six that were planned)

Sol took delivery of its first CRJ-200ER, registered EC-IVH (c/n 7915), from Air Nostrum on 20Sep15.  Surprisingly, the aircraft was not painted in the blue and orange colors of Sol, but in a scheme almost identical to that of Aerolineas Argentinas' sister carrier Austral Lineas Aereas, with the exception of a different tail logo and Sol titles instead of Austral.  This livery reflected that Sol was to assume the role of a regional carrier covering low-density routes for Aerolineas Argentinas and Austral and feeding the two carriers' flights at Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) and potentially other cities.  

The resemblance was not lost on Austral's pilot's union, UALA, long a rival of Aerolineas pilots' union, that interpreted the similarity of schemes as an indication that Sol might take over much of the Argentine domestic flying done by Austral's E190's.  Strong objections and tensions between UALA and Aerolineas / Austral management ensued.        

The aircraft was re-registered as LV-GIH and, after some training and route trials, it entered service on 19Oct15 on "El Corredor Petrolero" (The Oil Corridor) flying from Rosario (ROS) - Cordoba (COR) - Neuquen (NQN) - Comodoro Rivadavia (CRD) and back, so named because much of the passenger traffic going to the latter two cities is oil-related business travel.  Flight crews were said to be a mix of Argentine and Spanish nationals. 

Two more CRJ-200ER's were delivered by Air Nostrum to Sol, EC-JCL (c/n 7975), which was re-registered as LV-GII, in late October and EC-HSH (c/n 7466), later becoming LV-GIJ, in December.  Both aircraft were also painted in the Austral-style scheme. 

CRJ-200 Routes

In addition to "The Oil Corridor", Sol planned to fly at least the following routes (and apparently started some prior to shutdown):

* Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) - Mar del Plata (MDQ) - Bahia Blanca (BHI) - Trelew (REL) - Comodoro Rivadavia (CRD) along the Atlantic seaboard and appropriately known as "El Corredor Atlantico".

Summer seasonal services:

* Rosario (ROS) - Mar del Plata (MDQ)

* Rosario (ROS) - Punta del Este (PDP)

* Cordoba (COR) - Punta del Este (PDP)

* Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) - Villa Gesell (VLG)   

Air Nostrum buys Shareholding of Sol

In addition to the agreement with Aerolineas, a key factor in Sol's new undertaking was the participation of the Spanish regional carrier, Air Nostrum, which was granted a 45% (some say 49%) share of Sol in exchange for the six CRJ-200's that the carrier was due to give Sol, plus corresponding training, maintenance and spares support.

Air Nostrum was establishing a new business unit, Air Nostrum Technics Americas, based in Paraguay to provide maintenance and spares support to operators of Bombardier, ATR, and CASA aircraft in Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay.  Amaszonas of Bolivia and Amaszonas Paraguay are customers and Sol was to be one too.  In addition, the existence of this new business venture created an outlet for Air Nostrum to dispose of its CRJ-200 fleet, which was redundant to its needs.