The Battle Over Airlines in Argentina Isn’t Just About Planes
A LAN Argentinas plane at Buenos Aires' airport. Niquinho / Flickr
A state-owned airline can work, it just doesn’t when its service is terrible and its leadership is a gaggle of political cronies.
Last week Argentine aviation regulators issued orders that evicting LAN Argentina, part of the larger LATAM airline conglomerate, from its Aeroparque maintenance facility at Buenos Aires’ airport, effective August 30.
The actions were followed by accusations in Argentina, Chile, and Brazil that Argentina’s president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was acting at the bidding of troubled state-owned carrier Aerolineas Argentinas.
LATAM was formed by the merger of Chile’s LAN Airlines and Brazil’s TAM airlines in 2012 and is Latin America’s largest carrier. Aerolineas Argentinas competes with LAN in 14 cities in Argentina and has difficulty filling seats despite lower prices.
Since last week’s action, the Argentine government has failed to rally support for its actions outside a circle of President Kirchner supporters; labor unions have promised strikes for this week.
Earlier today, Argentina’s justice department ruled on an appeal by LAN and issued a stay that prevents Friday’s eviction.
Chilean and Brazilian news outlets have called attention to a video (below) from 2010 that captured Mariano Recalde, the president of Aerolineas Argentinas, revealing that he had asked President Kirchner to intervene in his struggling airline’s battle with LAN. “We asked Argentina’s President — which is something I’ll later deny,” Recalde said in Spanish, “to block some LAN domestic flights and to keep them out of AeroParque Airport.”
Presented with the video this week, Recalde changed course and did not deny he made the request of President Kirchner.
It has not helped matters that Recalde’s statements included a rant that referenced the lethal Latin American political battles of the 1970s and ’80s.