Thursday, August 31, 2017

NEW AIRLINE PLANS: Grupo LASA to request 5 routes at 06Sep17 Route Hearings

The Grupo LASA that is planning to participate in the 06Sep17 Argentine route hearings is presumably the same company as the bus operator based in Azul, Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina.  

The proposed carrier plans to present an exceedingly modest list of only five route requests compared to the much larger requests of airlines such, as Buenos Aires International Airlines, which plans to ask for authorization of up to 178 routes !     

Grupo LASA plans to operate ATR-42-300's on "Corridor" style routes linking multiple cities on linear or circular-shaped routes in the southern Patagonia region of Argentina focused mainly on Comodoro Rivadavia (CRD) and Neuquen (NQN).

The routes that will be requested are:

Comodoro Rivadavia (CRD) - Rio Gallegos (RGL) - El Calafate (FTE) - Rio Grande (RGA) - Ushuaia (USH) round-trip

Comodoro Rivadavia (CRD) - Esquel (EQS) - Bariloche (BRC) - Neuquen (NQN) - Viedma (VDM) - Trelew (REL) - Comodoro Rivadavia (CRD)

Comodoro Rivadavia (CRD) - Trelew (REL) - Mar del Plata (MDQ) round-trip

Neuquen (NQN) - Temuco, Chile (ZCO) - Neuquen (NQN) - Bahia Blanca (BHI) - Mar del Plata (MDQ) round-trip

Neuquen (NQN) - Bariloche (BRC) - Puerto Montt, Chile (PMC) - Bariloche (BRC) - Neuquen (NQN) - Santa Rosa (RSA) - Mar del Plata (MDQ) round-trip


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

NEW AIRLINE PLANS: Buenos Aires International Airlines to request 178 routes at 06Sep17 Route Hearings !

One of Southern Winds 747's, the airline that was started by Juan Maggio in the 1990's, the same individual behind proposed start-up Buenos Aires International Airlines. (Phil Perry Collection)

Buenos Aires International Airlines is a new carrier proposed by Juan Maggio, the former owner of the now-defunct Southern Winds of the 1990's and early 2000's. Its long list of 178 route requests seems excessively ambitious and gives rise to doubts about the seriousness of the project.  Of course, a lot of this is about asking for as much as possible, see what gets approved and then choose which routes they will actually operate.  If they end up operating as many as three dozen routes, that would probably be a surprisingly large number. 

The airline's route requests all originate from Argentina's three largest cities, Buenos Aires, Cordoba (COR) and Rosario (ROS) to be served by a planned fleet of A320/737 for shorter flights and A330/350 or 747/767/777/787 aircraft for longer-range routes.

Southern Winds operated a fleet of CRJ-200, Dash 8, 737-200 and 747 aircraft on Argentine domestic routes and at least to Madrid (MAD) internationally.

* Buenos Aires - Originating Routes - Already Served

Most of the routes originating from Buenos Aires that BAIA will request are already well-served by other carriers, especially Aerolineas Argentinas / Austral. 
Destination cities include:


Bahia Blanca (BHI), Bariloche (BRC), Corrientes (CNQ), Cordoba (COR), Comodoro Rivadavia (CRD), El Calafate (FTE), Iguazu Falls (IGR), Mar del Plata (MDQ), Mendoza (MDZ), Neuquen (NQN), Puerto Madryn (PMY), Resistencia (RES), Rio Gallegos (RGL), Rosario (ROS), Salta (SLA), San Luis (LUQ), San Martin de los Andes (CPC), Santa Fe (SFN), Trelew (REL), Tucuman (TUC) and Ushuaia (USH)   

International - the Americas:

Asuncion (ASU), Lima (LIM), Montevideo (MVD), Porto Alegre (POA), Punta del Este (PDP), Rio de Janeiro Galeao (GIG), Santiago (SCL), Sao Paulo Guarulhos (GRU) plus Miami (MIA) and New York City

International - Europe:

Amsterdam (AMS), Barcelona (BCN), Frankfurt (FRA), London, Madrid (MAD), Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Rome Fiumicino (FCO)

Buenos Aires - Originating Routes - No Current Service

Destination cities with no current service from Buenos Aires include (not all listed):

International - North America:

Boston (BOS), Chicago O'Hare (ORD), Ft. Lauderdale (FLL), Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles (LAX), New Orleans (MSY), Orlando (MCO), Portland (PDX), San Diego (SAN), San Francisco (SFO), Seattle (SEA) in the USA plus Montreal (YUL), Toronto (YYZ) and Vancouver (YVR) in Canada

One proposed route that sounds very interesting is Buenos Aires - Los Angeles (LAX) - Honolulu (HNL)  

International - Europe:

Brussels (BRU), Copenhagen (CPH), Dublin (DUB), Geneva (GVA), Lisbon (LIS), Malaga (AGP), Milan Malpensa (MXP), Munich (MUC), Venice (VCE) and Zurich (ZRH) 

International - Exotic:

Buenos Aires - Auckland (ACK) 
Buenos Aires - Auckland (ACK) - Tokyo
Buenos Aires - Cape Town (CPT) - Singapore (SIN)
Buenos Aires - London - Beijing (BJS)
Buenos Aires - Prague (PRG) - Hong Kong (HKG)
Buenos Aires - Sydney (SYD)
Buenos Aires - Zurich (ZRH) - Shanghai 

* Cordoba (COR) & Rosario (ROS) - Originating Routes

Interestingly, all of the routes that BAIA has requested out of these two cities are international. The carrier has requested authority from both COR and ROS to:

Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA) and Orlando (MCO) in the USA.

London, Madrid (MAD), Milan (MXP), Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Rome Fiumicino (FCO) in Europe

Additionally, it will request many routes on the basis of:

Cordoba (COR) - Buenos Aires - regional South American destination
Cordoba (COR) - Buenos Aires - Madrid (MAD) - beyond European points

* Other Routes     

Buenos Aires, Cordoba (COR) and Rosario (ROS) - All to multiple Caribbean points

Buenos Aires, Cordoba (COR) and Rosario (ROS) - All to Isla de Sal Cape Verde, presumably in combination with vacation packages to these islands off the coast of Africa. 


Sunday, August 27, 2017

NEW AIRLINE PLANS: Avianca Argentina to request 38 more routes at 06Sep17 Route Hearings

Avianca Argentina is the only airline that participated in the 27Dec16 Argentine route hearings that will also be requesting route authorities at the second hearings scheduled for 06Sep17.

The airline was awarded 16 routes at the first hearing, mostly from Buenos Aires to smaller secondary cities in Buenos Aires, Cordoba and Santa Fe provinces that are within range of its ATR-72-600 fleet plus the much coveted and highly-profitable Buenos Aires - Montevideo "Air Bridge".   
For more details, see this previous posting:

The carrier will request 38 new scheduled routes on 06Sep17, both domestic and international, mostly from Buenos Aires (airport not designated), Cordoba (COR) and Tucuman (TUC) in northern Argentina from where it plans to start a regional hub.  Aircraft to be used are the previously announced ATR-72-600's plus A320's.

* "Triangle Routes"

Many of the routes will be flown on a "triangle" basis from Buenos Aires and Cordoba (COR) to two smaller cities that are usually close to each other and then back to the airport of origin.  Many of these small cities currently lack air service.  These flights would presumably be operated with ATR-72-600's. 

Examples include:

Buenos Aires-Originating

Buenos Aires - General Pico (GPO) - Santa Rosa (RSA) - Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires - Bolivar - Olavarria (OVR) - Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires - Necochea (NEC) - Tandil (TDL) - Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires - San Luis (LUQ) - Villa Mercedes (VME) - Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires - Saenz Pena - Reconquista (RCQ) - Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires - Tandil (TDL) - Tres Arroyos (OYO) - Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires - Marcos Juarez - Villa de Maria del Rio Seco - Buenos Aires  


Cordoba (COR) - Rio Hondo (RHD) - Santiago del Estero (SDE) - Cordoba (COR)
Cordoba (COR) - Mendoza (MDZ) - San Juan (UAQ) - Cordoba (COR)
Cordoba (COR) - Corrientes (CNQ) - Formosa (FMA) - Cordoba (COR) 
Cordoba (COR) - Posadas (PSS) - Iguazu Falls (IGR) - Cordoba (COR)
Cordoba (COR) - Villa Mercedes (VME) - San Luis (LUQ) - Cordoba (COR)

* Tucuman Hub Routes

Seven routes, both domestic and international, will be requested out of the planned hub from this city in northern Argentina.


Tucuman (TUC) - Rosario (ROS)
Tucuman (TUC) - Buenos Aires
Tucuman (TUC) - Cordoba (COR)

International & Domestic / International Combinations

Most of these flights would probably be operated with Avianca Argentina's A320's fleet due to the long distances.

Tucuman (TUC) - Lima (LIM)
Tucuman (TUC) - Salta (SLA) - Santa Cruz (VVI) 
Tucuman (TUC) - Resistencia (RES) - Iguazu Falls (IGR) - Florianopolis (FLN) 
Tucuman (TUC) - Iguique (IQQ) - Lima (LIM) - Iquique (IQQ) - Tucuman (TUC) 

Buenos Aires Point-to-Point Routes - Domestic & International

All of the routes below (with the exception of Cuzco) are already flown by Aerolineas Argentinas / Austral so it will be interesting to see if the ANAC will allow much competition.  Presumably all of these routes would be flown with A320's. 


Buenos Aires - Bariloche (BRC)
Buenos Aires - Comodoro Rivadavia (CRD)
Buenos Aires - Iguazu Falls (IGR) 
Buenos Aires - Tucuman (TUC)


Buenos Aires - Bogota (BOG)

Buenos Aires - Cuzco (CUZ)
Buenos Aires - Florianopolis (FLN)
Buenos Aires - Lima (LIM)
Buenos Aires - Rio de Janeiro (GIG)
Buenos Aires - Santiago (SCL)
Buenos Aires - Sao Paulo Guarulhos (GRU)

* Cordoba (COR) Point-to-Point Routes - Domestic & International


All of these are currently served by Aerolineas Argentinas / Austral but infrequently:

Cordoba (COR) - Mendoza (MDZ)
Cordoba (COR) - Rosario (ROS)

Cordoba (COR) - Salta (SLA)


Both services below would connect with Avianca's hubs at these airports and will presumably be approved given the present Argentine government's record of approving almost every route request connecting the Argentine "Interior" directly with foreign destinations. 

Cordoba (COR) - Bogota (BOG)
Cordoba (COR) - Lima (LIM)

All of the above flights would presumably be flown with A320's.


Friday, August 25, 2017

NEW AIRLINE PLANS: Nine Airlines to request Argentina Routes at 06Sep17 Route Hearings

The ANAC Argentine aviation authority announced that the second route hearing initiated by the current Argentine presidential administration will take place on 06Sep17 in Buenos Aires.

Nine airlines that currently exist or plan/hope to start up in the coming year will participate; Argenjet Aviacion, Avianca Argentina, Buenos Aires International Airlines, Grupo LASA, Just Flight (Royal Class), Norwegian Air Argentina, Polar Lineas Aereas, Servicios Aereos Patagonicos (SAPSA), and Servicios y Emprendimientos Aeronauticos (SEA). The only one of these companies that participated in the first hearing on 27Dec16 is Avianca Argentina. 

Four airlines were caught by surprise by the announcement and were left out of the next hearing; LATAM, Baires Fly, Flyest, and Andes, the latter which was present at the first hearing. The ANAC was reportedly pressured by Norwegian Air Argentina to schedule the hearing after it had been delayed several times since March, threatening to move their operation to Chile if the haring did not go ahead soon.    

The nine airlines that are scheduled to appear have varying levels of seriousness and chances of becoming established in a significant way with Norwegian Air Argentina and Avianca Argentina leading the way.  

SAPSA is a modest operation that has been flying for several years in Patagonia and is now looking to expand ambitiously both domestically in Argentina and with the addition of international flights.  

Buenos Aires International Airlines is the comeback attempt of Juan Maggio of Southern Winds, which operated with varying levels of success in the late 1990's and early 2000's, succumbing to problems related to 60kg of cocaine discovered on one of its aircraft in Madrid in September 2004. PROPOSED - NEVER STARTED - AS OF 30May20

Two airlines, Argenjet Aviacion PROPOSED - NEVER STARTED - AS OF 30May20 and Servicios y Emprendimientos Aeronauticos (SEA) PROPOSED - NEVER STARTED - AS OF 30May20 did not request any specific routes, only permission to fly 727-200F's in cargo service and passenger ERJ-135's, respectively. 

Grupo LASA would like to fly ATR-42-300's in the southern Patagonia region and Just Flight (Royal Class) PROPOSED - NEVER STARTED - AS OF 30May20 is a long-established jet charter operation that plans to fly Fairchild Metros from Buenos Aires to smaller cities, mostly in the provinces of Buenos Aires, Rosario and Santa Fe.   

Polar Lineas Aereas is looking to fly both passenger and cargo services from the three main cities of San Luis province; San Luis (LUQ), Villa Mercedes (VME) and Merlo (RLO) plus Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP), Cordoba (COR), and La Plata (LPG) on both domestic and international routes. PROPOSED - NEVER STARTED - AS OF 30May20

The next posts in the coming days will further detail the plans of most of these airlines.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

NEW AIRLINE PLANS & ROUTE UPDATES - Update on Five Carriers that participated in Argentine Route Hearings on 27Dec16

Five proposed or existing carriers participated in the route hearings held on 27Dec16, the first in Argentina in over ten years; Alas del Sur, American Jet, Andes Lineas Aereas, Avianca Argentina, and Flybondi.  Here is an update on the status of the service plans of these five airlines:

* Alas del Sur - PROPOSED - NEVER STARTED - AS OF 30May20
Not too many details ever surfaced regarding this carrier that was proposed to start with Argentine and Chinese investors flying domestically in Argentina but also with ambitious international routes, such as Cordoba (COR) - Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Los Angeles (LAX) - Shanghai Pudong (PVG).  As of this writing, this carrier appears to be on hold.

* American Jet

This company is over 30 years old with its headquarters at San Fernando (FDO) north of Buenos Aires, known as Argentina's primary "biz jet" airport, but with its main operational bases in Mendoza (MDZ) and Neuquen (NQN) serving the oil industry with charter and support aircraft and helicopters, including one ATR-42, several Fairchild Metros and one Dornier 228.

The carrier was approved for several routes emanating from Neuquen (NQN) to other parts of Argentina and even extending into Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay but not many specific plans have emerged with the only information coming from the Sir Chandler blog that American Jet has scaled back its plans to only fly the following routes with a single CRJ-200:   

Malargüe (LGS) – Neuquén (NQN) – Mendoza (MDZ)
Neuquén (NQN) – Temuco, Chile (ZCO)
Neuquén (NQN) – Comodoro Rivadavia (CRD)

* Andes Lineas Aereas

Andes is the only carrier to add new service so far as a result of the 27Dec16 route hearings.  

The airline, which at the beginning of 2017 was operating four MD-83's, has since added a fifth to its fleet plus the first two of several 737-800's that are eventually planned to replace all of its MD-80's.    

The Salta (SLA) based carrier had a modest scheduled route network that consisted of only four cities prior to 2017; Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP), Jujuy (JUJ), Puerto Madryn (PMY) and Salta (SLA) but has since expanded at a brisk rate adding seven more; Bariloche (BRC), Cordoba (COR), Iguazu (IGR), Mar del Plata (MDQ) (seasonal), Mendoza (MDZ), Rio Hondo (RHD) (to be replaced by Tucuman (TUC) when it reopens) and Samana (AZS) in the Dominican Republic. 

In addition to its scheduled business, Andes has an extensive operation flying student and sports team charters.
* Avianca Argentina

This affiliate of the well-known Colombian airline plans to fly to smaller cities using ATR-72-600 aircraft with many of its proposed routes connecting Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) with two smaller cities flying a "triangle" pattern.

Avianca Argentina has already taken delivery of two ATR-72-600's with a third and fourth expected soon.  The carrier has flown sub-services for Andes Lineas Aereas, which experienced a capacity shortage in July, plus several charters to Malargue, serving the ski resort of Las Lenas, and the occasional ad hoc charter too.     

Flybondi's planned dedicated terminal at El Palomar (EPA) (via

* Flybondi

The founders of this carrier have strong airline credentials having worked extensively in the industry in Europe, with solid experience in the Low-Cost Carrier (LCC) sector too.  

Julian Cook, ex-CEO of Swiss carrier FlyBaboo; Michael Cawley, ex-COO of Ryanair; and Michael Powell, ex-CFO of WizzAir have put together a business plan based primarily on flying out of alternative airport El Palomar (EPA) located fifteen miles west of the city of Buenos Aires to several domestic points and some regional international South American destinations too.    

Flybondi reportedly recently closed an important funding round of US$ 75 million with investments from Cartesian Capital Group and Yamasa Limited.  

It plans to build its own facilities at El Palomar (EPA), including a terminal with a typically simple LCC design featuring no jetways plus a new ramp and taxiways, with the entire project budgeted at US$ 30 million.  

The carrier planned to start operations with six 737-800's in late 2017 / early 2018, eventually growing to a fleet of 25 aircraft, but has only signed a lease on a single 737-800 so far. 

Flybondi also recently signed an agreement with Cordoba (COR) to base a hub operation there. The airline would start by overnighting its first two 737-800's in Cordoba (COR), operating 21 weekly flights from the "Mediterranean City", as it is known, in 2017, increasing to 35 weekly flights in 2018, 61 in 2019, 68 in 2020 and 71 in 2021.

Joining Aerolineas Argentinas, Avianca Argentina, and Norwegian Air Argentina in establishing hubs in Cordoba (COR), the four carriers would collectively grow service out of the central Argentina airport several times over if all of their plans come to fruition. 


Monday, August 21, 2017

Aerolineas Argentinas to reduce or dispose of Austral's E190 fleet ? - Part 2 - Bad Idea ?

Blog Editor's Opinion

The answer to the question posed in the title of this posting largely depends on the mission of Aerolineas Argentinas / Austral.    

National Connectivity

As the state-owned national flag carrier of Argentina, Aerolineas Argentinas / Austral's main mission is presumably to contribute to the well-being of the national economy in the most effective way possible. 

As an airline, this would be accomplished by facilitating the movement of people and goods; whether they be business people traveling to close business deals, tourists traveling to enjoy a vacation or individuals visiting friends and relatives; all of these activities generate economic activity and create employment.


Aerolineas Argentinas / Austral could be run like a commercial enterprise to generate a return on investment for shareholders that provide its operating capital.  This would mean operating in a way that would not always be in the greater national interest as the connectivity described in the above paragraph would not be profitable in the case of smaller cities with light passenger traffic volumes that would not allow for sufficient economies of scale to achieve profitable operations at market-level airfares.  

Blog Editor's Perspective

It is the view of this blog's editor that a state-owned carrier should not operate with the primary objective of being a profit-making entity, although if it makes profits while providing a beneficial level of national connectivity, all the better !
With this in mind, the editor suspects that many routes currently operated with Australs' 96-seat E190's would be heavy loss makers if operated with 737-800's as has been proposed.  The choice would then be for the carrier to absorb these losses or abandon these routes with the consequential loss of connectivity and damage to local economies.   

Austral E190 Route Analysis

The editor analyzed Austral's route system based on a snapshot of the carrier's flights on Friday, 04Aug17 to identify sectors flown exclusively by its E190's with no service by Aerolineas 737-800's, which would suggest that these routes are too "thin" (lightly traveled) to justify the operation of the larger aircraft. 

The results can be divided into routes based on five criteria:

* Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) to 7 domestic and 3 international points

The following smaller Argentine cities had service on 04Aug17 from Aeroparque exclusively with E190's, typically on a 2x/daily roundtrip basis:

AEP - Corrientes (CNQ)      
AEP - Formosa (FMA)            
AEP - Rio Cuarto (RCU) 
AEP - San Luis (LUQ) 
AEP - San Rafael (AFA)  
AEP - Santa Rosa (RSA)
AEP - Santiago del Estero (SDE) 

The following international routes from Aeroparque are apparently not able to support operations by larger aircraft profitably and are served only with E190's: 

AEP - Asuncion (ASU)
AEP - Curitiba (CWB)
AEP - Punta del Este (PDP) at least in the low season (non-summer) 

Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) to 4 domestic and 2 international points

These routes from Ezeiza are presumably for feed to/from international flights with special emphasis on longer-range South American regional routes and intercontinental routes to Italy, Spain, and the United States.


EZE - Cordoba (COR)
EZE - Iguazu
EZE - Mendoza (MDZ)
EZE - Rosario (ROS)


EZE - Asuncion (ASU)
EZE - Montevideo

* Cordoba (COR) Hub-and-Spoke System

8 out of 10 flights departing from the Cordoba (COR) hub on 04Aug17 were operated with E190's, which is not surprising since connecting different points of the Argentine "Interior" without going through Buenos Aires is probably not a high-volume proposition.  

The following cities were served by Austral's E190's: 

COR - Bariloche (BRC)
COR - Neuquen (NQN)
COR - Comodoro Rivadavia (CRD)
COR - Mendoza (MDZ) - 2x/daily
COR - Jujuy (JUJ)
COR - Resistencia (RES)
COR - Rio Hondo (RHD) - temporarily replacing Tucuman (TUC) which is currently closed undergoing upgrades

Only two cities were served by Aerolineas 737-800's - Salta (SLA) and Ushuaia (USH) - with the latter not necessarily being a higher traffic destination as it is in the extreme south of Tierra del Fuego and probably beyond the range of the E190 from Cordoba (COR) with a full payload so the 737-800 is the only type that can be deployed on the route.  

* "Corredor" Routes connecting Argentine "Interior" Cities directly with each other

Aerolineas Argentinas / Austral's operates four 
"Corredor" routes with each one flown in a linear or circuitous path stopping in several cities and generally also flying the same route in reverse, without ever connecting via Buenos Aires, saving passengers a lot of time.  

The "Corredor Federal - Norte" and the "Corredor Federal - Sur" are both used to connect points of touristic interest directly to each other in northern and southern Argentina. 

The "Corredor Atlantico" runs from Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) south along Argentina's Atlantic seaboard to Mar del Plata (MDQ) - Bahia Blanca (BHI) - Trelew (REL) - Comodoro Rivadavia (CRD) with the last stop being Rio Gallegos (RGL) or Ushuaia (USH).

The "Corredor Petrolero" connects points important to Argentina's oil industry; Rosario (ROS) - Cordoba (COR) - Mendoza (MDZ) - Neuquen (NQN) - Comodoro Rivadavia (CRD) - Rio Gallegos (RGL). 

The "Correder Atlantico" is operated by Austral E190's and the "Corredor Petrolero" appears to be also.  The other two might also be operated with this aircraft type.  With the amount of traffic flying between these smaller cities being somewhat limited, it would appear to make sense that they would be connected with a smaller aircraft like the E190 instead of the larger 737-800.   

* Lightly-Traveled Individual Route Segments

There are many route segments that do not fall into the above categories that are operated by Austral E190's, such as:

Rosario (ROS) - Mendoza (MDZ) - 4x/weekly connecting Argentina's third and fourth largest cities, respectively.    

Other point-to-point flights that allow passengers to avoid connecting through Buenos Aires that appear to have too little traffic to support 737-800 service include:

Rosario (ROS) - Salta (SLA)
Rosario (ROS) - Bariloche (BRC)
Bariloche (BRC) - Bahia Blanca (BHI)
Bariloche (BRC) - Viedma (VDM)  

* Airports not equipped to handle 737-800 Operations

In addition to light traffic levels, some airports currently served with Austral
E190's are not equipped to handle 737-800 class aircraft in terms of runway length, maximum allowable aircraft weight, and other flight operations criteria.

For example, the blog Aeropuerto Formosa (unofficial) notes that Formosa's Aeropuerto El Pucu's 1800m (5900 ft) runway is not long enough for the 737-800 and it cannot support the weight of such an aircraft either. 

* Conclusion

If Aerolineas Argentinas disposes of Austral's E190's and replaces them with larger aircraft, many routes connecting smaller cities with flights to Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) and through the airline group's hub in Cordoba (COR) will likely become economically unviable.


Friday, August 18, 2017

Aerolineas Argentinas to reduce or dispose of Austral's E190 fleet ? - Part 1 - Rationales

Austral E190, LV-CPK (c/n 474), taxis at Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) on 21Jun16. (Phil Perry Photo)

After many rumors circulating during the past few months, Aerolineas Argentinas officials have indicated that the carrier is considering reducing or replacing the fleet of 26-strong E190's operated by its Austral Lineas Aereas division with another aircraft type, most likely the 737-800, which is already operated by Aerolineas, or the 737-MAX 8, which Aerolineas will start taking delivery of before year's end. 

Some of the reasons given for this possible move:

* 737-800 / 737-MAX 8 Economies of Scale advantage over the Embraer 190

Austral's E190's are equipped with 96 seats while Aerolineas Argentinas 737-800's have 170 seats, 77% more capacity but reportedly only cost 20% more to operate.  As the airline grows, the average number of passengers per flight is also expected to grow, which the 737-800's would be better equipped to accommodate than the E190's, enhancing profitability for the airline.

* E190 Limited Cargo Capacity

The E190's cargo hold capacity is reportedly relatively small, so much so that there have reportedly been times when it has not been able to accommodate passenger luggage, with many pieces being forwarded to their destination on later flights. It is not clear to the editor of this blog if the cargo volume was not large enough in these cases or if the aircraft would have gone over its maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) due to a full payload and fuel load.     

Fleet Commonality - Cost Savings

Standardizing its short to medium range routes around the 737 series would save the airline on training, crew type rating, spares, and maintenance costs.   

* Many Early-Delivery Austral E190's will soon need Expensive Maintenance Work

Some of the first E190's delivered to Austral starting in 2010 are nearing the 17,000 hour mark and will require mandatory maintenance work including engine overhauls and the replacement of major landing gear components due to reaching their maximum number of cycles, which will add up to a considerable expense. 

* New Argentine Carriers to operate 170+ seat Aircraft 

The new airlines that are expected to start operations in Argentina during the next year are generally expected to fly larger aircraft, especially the Low-Cost Carriers (LCC) Flybondi and Norwegian Air Argentina, both of which plan to fly 170+ seat 737-800's and/or 737 MAX 8's, with the economies of scale that they offer and which the E190 cannot match (on higher density routes anyway).  

Even one existing carrier, Andes Lineas Aereas, which flies the 150-seat MD-80, has already started the process of converting to a more efficient 737-800 fleet having taken delivery of two examples in recent months.     

* Aerolineas Argentinas' Management is analyzing its Route Network needs for a Comprehensive Fleet-Mix Solution that will best accommodate its overall requirements, not just route-specific needs

The E190 is a good aircraft for "thin" routes with low demand but the 737-800 and 737 MAX 8 with its extra long range will better accommodate the current Argentine government administration's goal of doubling domestic air traffic in the next 2-3 years.  Both of these aircraft will also fly more efficiently on some longer route sectors currently flown by Austral E190's, such as Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) to Rio de Janeiro Galeao (GIG) and Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) to Sao Paulo Guarulhos (GRU).  The 737 MAX 8 will also make possible nonstop flights with a medium-sized aircraft on long routes that currently require widebodies for nonstop operations, such as Cordoba (COR) to Punta Cana (PUJ).

The decision on the future of Austral's E190's is expected to be taken no later than the first quarter of 2018.