Argentina court orders Intercargo to resume air bridge services for LAN

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An Argentinean judge has ordered government-owned ground handling operator Intercargo to re-establish air bridge services for the airlines of LAN group which were suspended on 27 March, forcing the carriers to use remote boarding procedures.

While Intercargo wants LAN to pay an additional fee of $18 million for using all of its handling services, LAN says that the current contract, which stipulates a yearly payment of $32.4 million, is valid until March 2014.

Judge Francisco Soto of the Federal Civil and Commercial Court in Buenos Aires has ruled Intercargo must resume the air bridge services for LAN, until the dispute over the contract is resolved through mediation.

Intercargo, which enjoys a virtual ground handling monopoly at Argentina's airports, was ordered by the country's Ministry of Economy and Finance to stop LAN's access to air bridges from 27 March, affecting LAN group carriers from Chile, Argentina, Peru and Ecuador.

The move has been generally interpreted by local observers as a protectionist move from the government, which is seeking to reduce the heavy losses of state-owned Aerolineas Argentinas by reducing competitive pressure.