Bolivia's Aerosur plans international push

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Bolivia's largest airline Aerosur has confirmed plans to launch flights from its Santa Cruz hub to Barcelona, Washington DC, Panama and Rio Branco in Brazil as it adds a Boeing 767-200ER and replaces two 737-200s with newer 737 Classics.

An Aerosur source confirms plans to launch in December Barcelona and Washington as new long-haul destinations. Both flights will be operated "two or three times per week" using the Boeing 767. He says that both cities are home to important Bolivian ethnic communities which are "guaranteeing a good traffic potential".

Currently, Aerosur is already serving Madrid using a Boeing 747-400 temporarily subleased from Virgin Atlantic, as well as Miami via Panama with Boeing 737s and 727s.

"We are not planning any domestic expansion because of the competition of [state owned] Boliviana de Aviacion (BoA), but we will continue to add international flights", says Aerosur's source, pointing at Panama and Rio Branco in Brazil as the newest destinations.

"Currently, Panama is basically a technical stop on our Miami route", he says, highlighting the need for adding a dedicated flight in the market.

The arrival of a Boeing 737-300 and a -400 this week is part of Aerosur's replacement of its Boeing 727 and 737-200 dominated fleet to somewhat newer aircraft. From 2011, Bolivia no longer allows the scheduled operation of passenger aircraft older than 25 years.

A source at the Bolivian Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC) confirms that the law was made "in response to a number of serious incidents of Aerosur's oldest aircraft" that occurred several months ago. "Despite protests from the airline [Aerosur], the decision was right. Only last week an Aerosur 737-200 had another landing incident in La Paz. We are exercising now a tight supervision over Aerosur's maintenance and operations", he says.

Aersour has always contended that it is "maintaining all aircraft according to the best international standards", accusing the government of putting it under pressure "to protect BoA".