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

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