Sunday, December 30, 2012

FLEET UPDATE: BQB's Third ATR-72-212A CX-LFL due to arrive in January 2013

Blog editor's wife Laura about to board BQB ATR-72-212A, CX-JPL at Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) for a flight to Punta del Este (PDP) on 16Sep11.

BQB Lineas Aereas' is scheduled to receive a third ATR-72-212A in January 2013 which will be registered CX-LFL after BQB owner Juan Carlos Lopez Mena's son Luciano Federico Lopez.  

The other two ATR's in BQB's fleet are also named after sons of Lopez Mena; CX-JPL signifies Juan Patricio Lopez and CX-JCL's namesake is unknown to the editor of this blog.       

Source:  Aviacion News 29Nov12
Photo:    Phil Perry

UPDATE 01Jan13:  

Blog reader "Sr. G" has noted that the initials JCL refer to BQB owner Juan Carlos Lopez himself !    

Friday, December 28, 2012

ex-PLUNA Employees need US$ 15 million more for New Airline

El Observador of Uruguay reports that the former employees of PLUNA forming a new carrier to replace the former national airline need US$ 15 million more to get the new operation off the ground.

Their business plan calls for US$ 30 million in start-up capital.  They are already getting US$ 15 million from the Fondo del Desarollo (Fondes), the Uruguayan state entity that provides development funds to new enterprises plus the Uruguayan government is likely to assume two years of debt payments on the seven CRJ-900's that will form the new carrier's fleet, effectively subsidizing the new operation by US$ 34.4 million.  

The employees were looking to receive the additional US$ 15 million from the Venezuelan state development bank BANDES but that bank's losses this year make such financing unlikely.  They are reportedly talking with two other banks at the present time about loans for the operation.          

The new carrier was planning to start up on April 1 but the employees will need the financing in place before then to meet that date.  Also, Uruguayan government legislation tied to the use of the assets of the former PLUNA call for the replacement airline to be operational within 180 days or the assets will be freed up for possible use by the proposed carriers of other parties.

Source:  El Observador 27Dec12  

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

New Name Suggestions for PLUNA Replacement Airline

With the former PLUNA workers apparently proceeding to start a new airline to replace the failed  Uruguayan national carrier, there has been some discussion about the successor carrier's possible name.  Some of the suggestions have been serious with others mocking the process, including the airline's sudden shutdown stranding hundreds of passengers or leaving them with worthless tickets and the Cosmo failed auction fiasco.     

Most of the workers reportedly want to keep the PLUNA name, which is an acronym for Primeras Lineas Uruguayas de Navegacion Aerea (First Uruguayan Lines of Aerial Navigation).
However many other ideas have come up.  New name suggestions as posted online by readers of the El Observador Uruguay newspaper website include:

Air Uruguay

Uruguay Airways

Alas Uruguayas (Uruguayan Wings)


Air Pepe ("Pepe" is Uruguayan President Jose Mujica's nickname)

SLUNA (Segunda "Second" Lineas Uruguayas de Navegacion Aerea)

LUNA (Lineas Uruguayas de Navegacion Aerea) but also means "moon", so this is a joke

PLUNAgate (in reference to the controversies surrounding the shutdown, mostly financial)   

Air Fenix (arisen from the ashes)

Titanic Airlines

Contribuyente Airlines (Taxpayer Airlines, since they always end up paying for it)

Source:  El Observador 29Nov12

Monday, December 24, 2012

Leal Lineas Aereas, MD-80 Operator, Ceases Operations

Leal Lineas Aereas of Salta, Argentina, famous for the duck logo on the tails of its two MD-83's, ceased operations after having operated a number of vacation charter flights in recent years. 

All three of its aircraft are parked in the maintenance area at Buenos Aires Ezeiza International Airport (EZE).  They are:

MD-83, LV-CIT (c/n 49568/1380) with duck logo on blue tail::

MD-83, LV-CSW (c/n 49845) with duck logo on violet-colored tail:

MD-87, LV-BSC (c/n 49727/1621):

The MD-83's were flown for Leal by Flying America based at San Fernando (FDO) north of Buenos Aires.



Saturday, December 22, 2012

BQB Lineas Aereas Planning Asuncion (ASU) Hub Operation

Catching up on some older news, as of 19Oct12, the Uruguayan airline BQB Lineas Aereas was planning to apply for an airline operator's certificate with the Paraguayan National Civil Aeronautics Bureau (DINAC) in order to base a regional hub in Asuncion (ASU), the nation's capital, flying to various cities in neighboring countries.  The certification process was expected to take three months. 

Editor's Comments:  The plan would presumably be to have flights to/from ASU feed each other. Given the airport's central geographic location between Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay, the concept could work if the airline were to obtain the necessary route rights from the various governments involved.  BQB would need more aircraft beyond its present two ATR-72-500's and they would need to be longer-range and faster-flying planes too.  

Source:   El Pais Uruguay 19Oct12

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Argentine Government Multiple Discriminatory Measures to Protect Aerolineas Argentinas

LAN Argentina and LAN Peru have been the airlines most damaged by the policies of  Argentina's ANAC.  Taxiing above is LAN Argentina A320, LV-BRA, at Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) on 07Jul10.  Photo: Phil Perry

The Argentine government's National Civil Aviation Administration (ANAC) recently denied LAN Argentina's request to add one more A320 to its fleet forcing the airline to cancel additional flights to Comodoro Rivadavia (CRD) and Ushuaia (USH).  The aircraft would have been the 11th A320 in LAN Argentina's fleet and a registration had even been tentatively reserved for it, LV-CZY. 

No clear reasons were given for the denial but this action is only the latest of many such denials and discriminatory measures taken by the ANAC against competing airlines, both foreign and domestic, to shield Aerolineas Argentinas, which has been losing US$ 2 million per day for the past year with no end in sight, from competition.   

Similar measures and denials during the past 2-3 years include:

* Sky Airlines of Chile applied to fly Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) to Santiago (SCL) starting in September 2010 but permission was delayed forcing the airline to postpone the start of service three months until December of that year after having sold tickets on the route.  This caused great inconvenience to passengers and the airline. 

* AeroVIP, set up by PLUNA as an Argentine subsidiary, was repeatedly denied route rights making the project unviable.

* PLUNA was denied route right requests to several points in Argentina with the only new airport that they were allowed to fly to being Cordoba (COR).

* ORSNA, the Argentine airport regulatory authority, ordered in December 2010 that the jetways at Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) be reserved for the exclusive use of Aerolineas Argentinas and Austral with other carriers only allowed to use the remote stands.

* TACA flew some charters from Mendoza (MDZ) to Lima (LIM) in early 2011 and applied for permanent authority to fly on a scheduled basis on the route but was similarly never given permission.

* LAN Peru applied to fly from Iguazu (IGR) to Lima (LIM) but was denied permission only a few weeks prior to the scheduled start of service in January 2011 forcing the airline to fly to neighboring Foz de Iguacu (IGU).  The Brazilian authorities did not hesitate to grant permission to LAN Peru and welcomed them with open arms.      

* COPA sought permission to fly from Rosario (ROS) to Panama City (PTY) in late 2011 but was denied the request. 

* In early 2012, LAN Argentina was forced to move its regional flights to neighboring countries, such as Brazil and Chile, from Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) to Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) while Aerolineas Argentinas and Austral continued to fly to these points from AEP.

* Also in early 2012, LAN Argentina was denied permission to add another 767 to its fleet that would have been used to increase Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Miami (MIA) flights from 7x/weekly to 10x/weekly. 

* LAN Peru flew from Rosario (ROS) to Lima (LIM) for several months but were denied permission to continue the flights with the last one operating on 29Feb12.

The latest rumor is that Aeroparque (AEP) will be reserved for the exclusive use of Aerolineas and Austral forcing other airlines to move operations to San Fernando (FDO) or Ezeiza (EZE).  Of course, due to reciprocal international route rights, Gol and TAM of Brazil, LAN of Chile, and BQB of Uruguay could not be forced to move out of AEP as long as Aerolineas and Austral continued to fly out of there to those countries but Argentine airlines would be obligated to obey the order.  This includes LAN Argentina, which would have to move to Ezeiza (EZE) but the airline would not be able to compete from that airport (20 miles / 32 km from downtown Buenos Aires) with AR/AU flights out of convenient Aeroparque (AEP).  

LAN Argentina's parent airline, LAN, would be forced to shut down its Argentine affiliate, throwing several hundred employees out of work.  These would probably be hired on by AR/AU much as the "paper" airline Lineas Aereas Federales did with former LAPA and Southern Winds employees in 2003.  Interestingly, Aerolineas Argentinas' planned fleet expansion for 2017 shows a doubling of 737-700/800 aircraft.  Where are they going to fly all of those planes ?  Could the plan to push LAN Argentina to Ezeiza (EZE) be part of a deliberate strategy to force LAN out of Argentina to create a virtual AR/AU monopoly on domestic flights ?

Sources:  La Nacion 11Dec10
              La Nacion 12Jul11
              La Nacion 12Jan12
              Aviacion News 01Mar12
              La Nacion 20Nov12 
              Aviacion News 22Nov12

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Maintenance of Former PLUNA Operation has Cost US$ 13 million

Maintaining all 13 former PLUNA CRJ-900's and flightcrew current since the airline's shutdown on 05Jul12 plus making loan payments on the seven owned aircraft has cost US$ 13.1 million to date. The trust in charge of the aircraft has paid these costs financed by public funds. 

Approx. US$ 8.8 million of the total has gone to ScotiaBank for installment payments due on the loans for the seven company-owned planes with another US$ 4.3 million going to maintaining the 13 aircraft flight-ready and flight crews current.

50 CRJ-900 flightcrew members have traveled to Madrid for simulator training.  The goal is to maintain the pilots ready to fly and avoid possibly more expensive retraining should their type ratings lapse.

In addition, 40 personnel are employed in doing the minimum maintenance required to avoid deterioration of any of the aircraft systems compared to 80 employees doing full-maintenance on the planes prior to PLUNA's shutdown.  Maintenance work includes testing altitude and flightspeed equipment plus short test flights between Montevideo (MVD) and Punta del Este (PDP). 

Source: El Observador Uruguay 29Nov12   

Friday, December 14, 2012

ROUTE UPDATES: Aerolineas Argentinas, Andes & LAN Argentina to fly Argentina-Originating Charters this Summer

Andes Lineas Aereas will be operating many charters from Argentina to Brazil and the Dominican Republic this summer with their MD-80's.  Pictured is Andes MD-83, LV-BTH, landing at Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) on 24Sep10.  Photo: Phil Perry  

Three airlines have been authorized by the Argentine ANAC to fly charters from Argentina to foreign destinations during the upcoming southern hemisphere summer - Aerolineas Argentinas, Andes and LAN Argentina.

The process was lengthy with the conclusion only arrived at recently.  Aerolineas Argentinas was given first choice of routes with other carriers only allowed to fly the routes that Aerolineas agrees to, effectively giving the national carrier a regulatory role in Argentine aviation policy.

The ANAC also required that the airlines operating charters from Argentina must be Argentine, operate regularly scheduled services (not charter-only operators) and use aircraft registered in Argentina.  This ruled out charter-only carriers like Leal Lineas Aereas that flew two MD-83's and an MD-87 on charters in the past and the use of foreign aircraft such as Vueling A320's leased in by Andes last year. 

Some of the seats that were sold to tour operators will be operated on a pure-charter basis while others will be part-charters using regularly-scheduled flights. 

Charter flights will include:

Aerolineas Argentinas 

Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Porto Seguro (BPS), 4x/week 

Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Salvador de Bahia (SSA), 4x/week

Because these destinations are in the far northeastern coast of Brazil, Aerolineas will likely operate 737-700/800's or A340's on these routes (not Austral's EMB-190's).

Part-charters with extra sections will also be operated from Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) to Caracas (CCS), Rio de Janeiro Galeao (GIG), Florianopolis (FLN), and Cancun (CUN)

Andes Lineas Aereas

Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Punta Cana (PUJ), Dominican Republic

Cordoba (COR) - Punta Cana (PUJ), Dominican Republic

Rosario (ROS) - Punta Cana (PUJ), Dominican Republic

Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Salvador de Bahia (SSA)

Cordoba (COR) - Salvador de Bahia (SSA)

Rosario (ROS) - Salvador de Bahia (SSA)

Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Porto Seguro (BPS) 

Cordoba (COR) - Porto Seguro (BPS) 

Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Samana (AZS), Dominican Republic

Rosario (ROS) - Samana (AZS), Dominican Republic

Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - La Romana (LRM), Dominican Republic

Cordoba (COR) - Talara (TYL) in northwestern Peru, unconfirmed

All to be operated 1x/week with MD-80's. 

LAN Argentina

Cordoba (COR) - Salta (SLA) - Porto Seguro (BPS) - Maceio (MCZ), Daily with A320

Source: Aviacion News 01Nov12

Please note that La Voz, Cordoba's daily newspaper, reported in its online edition on 26Oct12 that charters to be operated from Cordoba (COR) will be the following, somewhat different from Aviacion News: 

Andes Lineas Aereas 

Recife (REC)
Salvador de Bahía (SSA)
Punta Cana (PUJ)
La Romana (LRM)
Punta Sal / Talara (TYL) 

All above with 1x/week flights. 

Porto Seguro (BPS) with 2x/week flights.

LAN Argentina

Maceio (MCZ), 1x/week

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

ROUTE UPDATES: Airlines Increase & Introduce New Service to Montevideo (MVD) Replacing PLUNA

Several airlines have increased existing service or introduced new service from Montevideo (MVD) since PLUNA shut down in early July, including:

Austral Lineas Aereas 

New Service with Embraer 190 to:

Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP), 5x/day

BQB Lineas Aereas 

New Service with ATR-72-500 to:

Asuncion (ASU), 5x/week initially, later increased to daily

Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP), 2x/day

Florianopolis (FLN) starting in December


Increased Service with A319 to:

Santiago (SCL), from 2x/day to 3x/day


Increased Service with A320 to:

Sao Paulo Guarulhos (GRU), from 2x to 3x/day

New Service with A320 to:

Rio de Janeiro (GIG), 1x/day

In addition, Gol is rumored to be considering increasing its MVD to GRU flights from 1x/day to 2x/day and starting daily MVD to GIG flights next year. 

Sources: Aviacion News
             El Pais Uruguay 27Oct12
             El Observador Uruguay 01Dec12

Monday, December 10, 2012

BQB - No Agreement with Iberia to Codeshare between MVD & MAD - Negotiating with other Airlines

It turns out that BQB Lineas Aereas' agreement to codeshare with Iberia on the Uruguayan airline's planned new service between Montevideo (MVD) and Madrid (MAD) in April was announced prematurely as the two carriers made no such agreement.  BQB is instead pursuing codesharing or similar partnerships with other European carriers to connect passengers through Madrid (MAD) to other European cities.

Separately, the airline announced plans to hire approx. 100 personnel, including pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and other ground personnel to operate the new route.

But will the service start without marketing agreements with other carriers being in place ?     

Source:  El Observador Uruguay 09Dec12 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

BQB Announces Intention to Fly Montevideo (MVD) - Madrid (MAD) with 767-300ER's

BQB Lineas Aereas has announced its intention to operate the Montevideo (MVD) - Madrid (MAD) route six-times weekly effective April 2013 on a codeshare basis with Iberia now that the Spanish airline has officially announced that it will stop flying the route effective April 1.  The Uruguayan airline is looking to lease two 767-300ER's for the service, which it hopes to operate with Uruguayan pilots, cabin crew, ground staff, and mechanics.

Editor's Comments:  

The proposed service seems viable given that it would be operated on a codeshare basis with Iberia which means that seats on the flights would be sold using the Spanish airline's huge market presence, both through its own marketing resources and those of its oneworld airline alliance partners.  The codesharing would presumably extend on flights beyond Madrid (MAD) connecting to other European points served by Iberia, thereby enhancing the possibilities of this service.

At least for now, this would be the best way for Iberia to continue serving the Montevideo (MVD) to Europe market.  However, with reports that TAM will likely join the oneworld alliance as part of its merger with LAN, it might be better for Iberia to codeshare with TAM from Montevideo (MVD) to Sao Paulo (SAO) to Madrid (MAD) to keep the revenue in the oneworld alliance although such a service would not be nonstop to Madrid (MAD) as BQB's is planned to be. 

Source:  El Observador Uruguay 07Dec12

Friday, December 7, 2012

ROUTE UPDATE: Iberia Discontinuing Montevideo (MVD) - Madrid (MAD) Flights in April 2013

Iberia Airlines announced in mid-November that it was going to reduce flights between Montevideo (MVD) and Madrid (MAD) from six per week to five-times weekly on 01Jan13 only to recently announce that it is going to discontinue all service between the two cities effective next April.

The airline has recorded high load factors on the route with the first quarter of 2012 having 89% seat occupancy and the second quarter 84%.  

Editor's Comments:  While this might suggest good profitability, a lot depends on the average fare yield on the route.  Even with high load factors, if nearly all the tickets sold were discounted economy-class fares, Iberia might be losing money on the route.  On most routes, a full-service carrier like Iberia would need for 10% or more of the passengers to be higher-fare paying business travelers.     
There was speculation initially that LAN or COPA would replace Iberia on the route but neither carrier is authorized to fly between Montevideo (MVD) and Madrid (MAD) plus COPA does not have long-range aircraft for transoceanic flights nor would MVD-MAD fit into its route system.  The route would not make sense for LAN either as they would be competing with TAM, part of the same ownership group, whose flights from Montevideo (MVD) to Sao Paulo Guarulhos (GRU) connect to TAM's Madrid (MAD) flights.

BQB Lineas Aereas' owner Juan Carlos Lopez Mena has expressed interest in flying the route on a codeshare basis with Iberia.  How this would work given BQB's lack of long-range aircraft is uncertain but a reader of El Pais Uruguay online suggested that BQB might fly the A320 that they are supposed to receive early next year from Montevideo (MVD) to Guarulhos (GRU) or Rio de Janeiro Galeao (GIG) connecting to Iberia.  But with LAN/TAM likely to stay in the oneworld airline alliance which Iberia also belongs to, this would seem unlikely because it would compete with TAM's Montevideo (MVD) flights to Guarulhos (GRU) connecting to Iberia to Madrid (MAD).  

Sources: Aviacion News 29Nov12
             El Observador Uruguay 01Dec12
             El Pais Uruguay 01Dec12

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Montevideo (MVD) Passenger Traffic down 45% without PLUNA

Passenger traffic at Montevideo (MVD) was down 45% during the three months of June, July, and August 2012 compared to the same months in 2011.  This period coincides with the demise and eventual shutting down of PLUNA on July 6.

MVD had the following passenger traffic in those months of 2011: June 137,953; July 185,734; and August 189,446 for a total of 512,773 passengers.  By comparison, in 2012 the passenger numbers fell to 73,830 travelers in June, 102,780 in July, and 103,782 in August for a total of 280,392 travelers.  The drop of 232,381 travelers representing a 45.3% year-over-year decline. 

The year had started off very well for MVD with a 17.1% increase in travelers during the January to May months (477,393 passengers in 2011 to 559,156 in 2012) but the subsequent decline in passengers the following three months yielded an 8.9% drop in cumulative numbers through August.       

Aerolineas Argentinas was one beneficiary of PLUNA's shutdown as it operated 78 more flights between Buenos Aires and Montevideo during June-August than in the same months in 2011 carrying 4,004 more passengers in the process.

Source: El Pais Uruguay 03Nov12

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

FLEET UPDATE: All Six Leased ex-PLUNA CRJ-900's departed Montevideo (MVD) to Canada Today

All six ex-PLUNA CRJ-900's that were leased-in from Export Development Canada departed Montevideo (MVD) today, one after another with the first one taking off at 8:40am.  The aircraft reportedly had their PLUNA titles and Uruguayan registrations removed with Canadian registrations added.  Their flights to Canada were going to reportedly route via Peru, presumably Lima (LIM).

They were the six most recent CRJ-900's that PLUNA received, joining the fleet in 2010 and 2011. The six specific aircraft were, as previously reported:

CX-CRH (c/n 15233)
CX-CRI (c/n 15234)
CX-CRK (c/n 15239)
CX-CRL (c/n 15273)
CX-CRM (c/n 15274)
CX-CRN (c/n 15275)

Source:  El Observador Uruguay 04Dec12
             El Pais Uruguay 04Dec12

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Former PLUNA Workers' New Airline Project Moves Forward

Former Buenos Aires employees of PLUNA in front of ex-PLUNA ticket counter at Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) in mid-October 2012.  The workers were protesting that they were not paid for the last month of work prior to PLUNA's shutdown.  (photo taken with permission of workers)  

President Jose Mujica of Uruguay recently signed a law that would enable the trust managing the seven former company-owned PLUNA CRJ-900's to negotiate the sale, lease, or transfer of the aircraft to an entity formed by the former PLUNA workers.  The law bill will now go to the Uruguayan congress to be voted on.  

If passed, the seven aircraft will end up in the hands of the workers' cooperative being formed by a group of former PLUNA employees to start a new airline replacing the defunct national carrier, though on a smaller scale than the original airline. The entity receiving the aircraft will negotiate route rights and frequencies with the Uruguayan government. 

Though the terms of the handover of the planes have not yet been determined, it was previously reported that the Uruguayan government was considering giving the aircraft to the workers for free.  One condition that has been imposed is that the workers will have 180 days to get the airline up-and-running using the seven CRJ-900's.  If they fail to meet this deadline, the planes would be made available to other parties.  Whatever happens will require the president's approval before going forth.  

The head of the workers' union, Cesar Iroldi, indicated that the workers' cooperative will approach the Fondes (Development Funds Office) for the start-up capital in the next few days.  Fondes was formed by the present government to fund entrepreneurial efforts and is capitalized with 30% of the  Banco de la Republica's (Uruguayan national bank) income.

The workers claim that they expect the new airline to be operational by 01Apr13 with 450 employees and their business plan projects a US$ 7 million loss in the first year of operations.  The new airline's name is yet to be determined.  President Mujica remarked that they will need to get somebody with significant managerial experience and a substantial presence in the business world to run the airline.                

Sources:  El Pais Uruguay 28Nov12, 29Nov12
              El Observador Uruguay 28Nov12

Photo:     Phil Perry