I had the pleasure of flying Aerolineas Argentinas for the first time last week.
The state-owned flag carrier has made big strides in recent years. It completed a three-year restructuring, exited a decade-long bankruptcy, modernised its fleet and - symbolically completing the cycle - joined the SkyTeam alliance to much fanfare on 29 August.
"The investments we have made in the name of Argentina and to join SkyTeam are large," said Mariano Recalde, president of Aerolineas, to a packed hanger of more than one thousand employees as well as executives of SkyTeam and other member airlines at Buenos Aires' Jorge Newbery airport.
The airline still has a ways to go to compete with the other large airlines of South America, despite the numerous investments that have been made. On the fleet side, the airline has replaced all of its ageing aircraft with new or newish ones - new Boeing 737-700s and 737-800s, and Embraer 190s to replace 737 classics and MD-80s, and used Airbus A340s to replace Boeing 747s.
My flight down to Buenos Aires could have been on any major airline, except maybe the leading Asian and Middle Eastern carriers. Fully lie-flat seats and personal TVs were available at every seat in business class.
The flight back was a bit more interesting. The seats reminded me of VH1's hit show I Love the 80s - nostalgic and comfortable but from a different era, and lacked personal entertainment systems.
Recalde said that the airline is focused on investing in its existing fleet and customer service currently, in an interview. I would hope that this includes standardising their inflight product.
Investments are not only being made in the fleet. I visited the Aerolineas' partially completed $25 million Argentine Pilots Training Centre (CEFEPRA) at Buenos Aires main international airport Ezeiza. The facility will allow the airline to bring its pilot training back to Buenos Aires from Miami once the facility is completed in the second quarter of 2013.
Aerolineas still has an image problem, at least outside Argentina. Based on the numerous unsolicited Facebook and Twitter messages that I received, the carrier has a lot of dissatisfied customers around the world. The airline will have to continue to work hard to win back their (and others) business.