Argentina forces LAN to return hangar

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In the latest of a series of attempts to reduce LAN Argentina's ability to compete against loss-making state-owned flag carrier Aerolineas Argentinas, the Argentinean government is forcing LAN to return the hangar housing its maintenance facility at Buenos Aires' Aeroparque downtown airport.

Argentina's vice minister of economy and former Aerolineas Argentinas director, Axel Kicillof, confirmed on 30 July the decision that LAN must return the hangar by 1 August or face eviction.

While LAN remained silent about the threat, labour representatives of the airline voiced fears about potential "massive layoffs" should the government force LAN to close down its local maintenance facility. In a meeting with LAN Argentina employees, Noemi Rial, vice minister of labour, guaranteed that the government would "energetically defend all jobs", without clarifying if that included some kind of negotiated deal with LAN.

The Argentinean government did not explain the reasons for expelling LAN from the hangar, which it occupies with a long term contract, simply stating that it responded to the "general interest", and is freeing it up for a "joint project with [airport operator] Aeropuertos Argentina 2000".

The Argentinean government has in recent months rolled out a number of measures against Chile-based LAN, including the denial of ground handling services by state owned handling monopoly Intercargo, the refusal to allow LAN to substitute aircraft withdrawn for scheduled heavy maintenance with temporarily registered aircraft, and the refusal of LAN's request to add new aircraft to the fleet.

These decisions have been interpreted as an attempt to shield heavy loss-maker Aerolineas Argentinas from a highly efficient local competitor.