Monday, December 1, 2014

Alas Uruguay: Continues to Organize, Receiving One 737-300 in December

Alas Uruguay, the airline being started by former PLUNA employees, continues to organize with the start-up reportedly being in the second of five steps of certification by the Uruguayan Civil Aviation Directorate (DINACIA - Direccion Nacional de Aviacion Civil e Infraestructura Aeronautica) as of October.  

The carrier is said to have leased one 134/138-seat 737-300 from Ukraine with up to three more expected from the U.S.  The first example, reportedly UR-GAN (c/n 28569/2996) and currently operating with Ukraine International Airlines, is due in Montevideo (MVD) on December 15.  Typical lease payments for this type of aircraft range from US$ 80,000 - 130,000 monthly. 

Alas plans to start with charter flights followed by scheduled services to some of the former destinations operated to by PLUNA, some of which are currently served by BQB Lineas Aereas. These would include Asuncion, Paraguay, Santiago, Chile and several Brazilian points, including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, but the "make-or-break" route for Alas will be the highly-profitable "Air Bridge" between Montevideo (MVD) and Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP).  Alas considers itself the successor airline to PLUNA and appears to be assuming that it will inherit the latter's route rights but some of the MVD-AEP slots have been granted to BQB, albeit on a temporary basis, while most of them have been taken over by Aerolineas Argentinas / Austral.  Taking the rights from BQB will presumably not be easy and negotiating with the Argentine authorities will be even more difficult. 

Alas' marketing strategy remains to be seen and will largely depend on the routes it operates but there has been talk of agreements with the Amadeus and SABRE global distribution systems.  

The carrier is being organized as a cooperative starting with 50 employees with eventual plans for 225 staff.  Start-up funding will come primarily from a US$ 15 million loan from the FONDES Uruguayan government development fund to be granted in five installments subject to the carrier meeting performance goals. The fund has already handed over the first installment of US$ 400,000.  The government has also declared Alas Uruguay to be of "national interest" qualifying the airline for tax exemptions.

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