Bolivia's new state-owned carrier Boliviana de Aviacion (BoA) launched its commercial operations yesterday, days after receiving final authorisation for scheduled flights.
The launch ceremony in Cochabamba was attended by Bolivian president Evo Morales, who told BoA's employees to build a company which was "better than the private airlines".
In a thinly-veiled reference to Aerosur, the private airline which has been the sole operator on major Bolivian routes since the grounding of former flag-carrier Lloyd Aereo Boliviano, Morales said: "There must be no monopolies."
Public works minister Walter Delgadillo added: "BoA is here to democratise air travel in Bolivia.
"Currently it is easier to travel from Bolivia to Europe than to many other Latin American countries. BoA will change that."
BoA started operations with two Boeing 737-300 aircraft linking Cochabamba, La Paz and Santa Cruz but it plans to reach a fleet of five aircraft by the end of the year.
The airline represents a new step in the tendency in certain countries to recover state control over air transport following immature privatisation processes.
Venezuela has recently announced the nationalisation of Aeropostal, while Argentina has renationalised Aerolineas Argentinas and Austral, while there are calls in Uruguay for the renationalisation of Pluna.
Other countries, such as Ecuador with TAME, and even economically-liberal Colombia, with Satena, have modernised and reinforced in recent years the presence of their military-owned carriers on 'social service' as well as commercial routes.