Argentina blocks BQB from operating former Pluna frequencies

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Uruguay's BQB Air has temporarily suspended ticket sales for its Montevideo-Buenos Aires route after Argentina declined to authorise the flights, even though the regional carrier had recently received Uruguayan rights for 14 weekly frequencies following the grounding of Pluna.

A BQB source confirms that the route has suffered "unexpected changes from the Argentinean authorities", which makes it "difficult for BQB to operate it normally". However, he could not confirm if and when BQB plans to resume operations.

After the grounding of Uruguay's former national airline Pluna, BQB Air received temporary authorisation to operate 14 of the 60 weekly frequencies that the bilateral agreement between Uruguay and Argentina allows Uruguayan carriers to operate on the route between Montevideo and Buenos Aires' Aeroparque downtown airport. Before its bankruptcy, Pluna had operated all 60 frequencies.

An Argentinean government official tells Flightglobal that "Argentina has no issue with Uruguay awarding 14 of its 60 frequencies to BQB Air", but he adds that "the temporary nature of the designation from the Uruguayan side" is "not covered [by the bilateral air agreement]".

Uruguay's authorisation for BQB is valid until 3 September, which is when the Uruguayan government will announce the result of the tender to sell seven of Pluna's Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft that it currently owns. The government hopes to bundle the aircraft with Pluna's route authorisations and the commitment to contract part of Pluna's former employees, thus creating the conditions for a Pluna successor to be set up.

BQB Air is said to be a potential candidate in the bidding process.

Former Pluna CEO Matias Campiani had blamed Argentina's extreme protectionism for the airline's bankruptcy. Pluna based its business model on connecting Buenos Aires and Argentina's interior with principal Brazilian cities via its Montevideo hub. However, after the nationalisation of Aerolineas Argentina, the Argentinean government denied Pluna and other airlines traffic rights.