Ash clouds pressure Aerolineas traffic figures

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Argentina's national carrier and Skyteam membership candidate Aerolineas Argentinas and its domestic subsidiary Austral transported 6.02 million passengers during 2011, down from 6.4 million in 2010 mainly stemming from repeated groundings resulting from ash clouds produced from eruptions of Chile's Puyehue volcano.

Aerolineas' passenger figures have been growing constantly since 2008 when it transported 5.2 million passengers. Since then the carrier has embarked on a fleet renewal, transitioning to Embraer E-190s, Next Generation Boeing 737s and Airbus A340s. Its fleet revamp is continuing this year.

The carrier has not yet published its final 2011 results but its sales increased from US$ 1.175 billion to US$ 1.344 last year. In 2010 Aerolineas had halved its losses to US$ 486 million since 2008, the transition year when Aerolineas Argentinas was renationalised from Spain's now bankrupt Marsans travel group.

However, during 2011 Aerolineas received more state subsidies than originally budgeted after the eruption of the Puyehue volcano wreaked havoc on the Argentinean air transport system for several months. After receiving an extraordinary tranche in December, the full year subsidies added up to more than US$700 million.