Saturday, April 4, 2015

BQB Lineas Aereas to Suspend Operations on April 11

BQB recently announced that it would suspend operations on April 11. The Uruguayan airline started flying in May 2010 as a subsidiary of Buquebus, which operates the main ferry services between Argentina and Uruguay, having a virtual monopoly on the route.       

The carrier had grown by early 2014 to operate 4 ATR-72-200's; CX-JCL (c/n 805), CX-JPL (c/n 816), CX-POS (c/n 636) and CX-LFL (c/n 570) plus an A320 leased from Spanish carrier Vueling, EC-LLJ (c/n 4661) from Montevideo (MVD) to Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP), Asuncion (ASU), Paraguay and various Brazilian points. BQB also took delivery of a leased A319 in May 2014, CX-SAN (c/n 1703), which reportedly never entered service.  

However, signs of financial difficulties appeared in August 2014 when it briefly failed to make payments to the IATA clearinghouse with more significant problems being signaled by the cancellation of services to the Brazilian cities of Porto Alegre (POA), Curitiba (CWB) and Sao Paulo Guarulhos (GRU), all in September. In addition, the airline returned one of its ATR-72-200's, CX-LFL (c/n 570) to the Toulouse, France headquarters of the aircraft's manufacturer, Aerospatiale, in February 2015. 

BQB started operations in May 2010 with domestic flights from Montevideo (MVD) to Salto (STY), Uruguay followed by service between Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) and Punta del Este (PDP), Uruguay but sought to expand and fill the void left by PLUNA when the latter carrier shut down operations in June 2012.  However, the Argentine authorities never allowed BQB to establish a major presence on the lucrative Montevideo (MVD) - Aeroparque (AEP) route, being limited to two daily frequencies. In addition to the airline's domestic flights to Salto (STY), it also flew to Rivera (RVY), Uruguay but abandoned both routes due to poor loads.           

As it now wraps up services, BQB is down to two ATR-72-200's and 2x/daily flights from Montevideo (MVD) to Aeroparque and 5x/weekly to Asuncion (ASU).

Factors in the airline's decision to close include conflict with the Uruguayan government over BQB's controversial role in the failed late 2012 attempt to auction off the seven company-owned ex-PLUNA CRJ-900's plus the imminent start-up of Alas Uruguay with 737-300's.

Rumor has it that BQB's operation might still be salvaged in the form of a purchase by the privately-owned Bolivian airline, Amaszonas, which is seeking to expand in the region.       


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