On 10Apr18, Judge Nestor Barral lifted restrictions on the number of flight operations by commercial carriers at the El Palomar (EPA) airport / air base located west of Buenos Aires and used by new Argentine LCC (Low-Cost Carrier) Flybondi for its flights servicing that city. Previously, on 10Jan18, Federal Judge Martina Forns of the San Martin district had imposed a temporary injunction on flights at EPA pending the results of an environmental impact study determining the likely effects of commercial flights on the residential neighborhoods adjacent to the airfield. This order was partly nullified by another legal finding on 01Feb18 limiting flight operations to six daily movements (takeoffs or landings) at EPA while the environmental impact study was being conducted.
Flybondi Buenos Aires Flights split at Two Airports
With Flybondi being the only airline operating out of El Palomar (EPA), this measure effectively allowed the LCC to operate all three of the daily permitted takeoffs and all three landings but all of its additional flights serving the Buenos Aires region had to be flown out of Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP). This led to the carrier having two operational bases in the Buenos Aires area with all of the extra costs that this implies plus a somewhat chaotic and confusing situation for passengers due to the uncertainty of which airport flights would depart from / arrive at.
Consolidation of Flights at El Palomar (EPA)
Immediately after the order lifting the injunction, Flybondi started the process of shifting its operations at Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) to El Palomar (EPA), consolidating all of its flights serving Buenos Aires at the low-cost facility west of the city. As of Saturday, April 14, the airline had five departures from EPA and seven on Sunday, April 15 serving all seven domestic destinations that it serves from EPA; Bariloche (BRC), Cordoba (COR), Corrientes (CNQ), Jujuy (JUJ), Mendoza (MDZ), Neuquen (NQN) and Tucuman (TUC).
The lifting of the injunction also allows other carriers to start service from El Palomar (EPA).
"Stop Flybondi", a group of residents from neighborhoods bordering El Palomar, such as the town of El Palomar to the south and Hurlingham to the north, opposes commercial service at the airport and denounced the lifting of the temporary injunction as arbitrary and having no legal merit, going on to criticize the lack of noise mitigation measures and alleging collusion by the court with the Argentine federal government to promote the growth of commercial air traffic in the country without regard to laws that might limit such expansion.
El Palomar (EPA) Airport Upgrade
The Argentine federal government has undertaken a 1,600 million (1.6 billion) peso project (approx. US$ 80 million) adapting El Palomar (EPA) for commercial operations in three stages:
1) 209 million pesos towards an upgrade of the existing small civil terminal for the start of commercial operations (already completed)
2) The renovation of hangars previously used by the military with two floors to be used for shops, automatic check-in kiosks, self-service baggage belts and customs and immigration facilities. Work on this conversion is planned to start in July.
3) Construction of an all-new purpose-built passenger terminal on the southwest side of the airport with capacity of up to 1 million passengers per annum.