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

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