Boliviana de Aviacion challenges Aerosur with new routes to Madrid, US

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Bolivia's state owned airline Boliviana de Aviacion (BoA) has confirmed plans to launch long haul routes to Madrid and the US as early as July while the future of Santa Cruz-based archival Aerosur remains challenged.

A BoA source says the company has "sped up plans" to expand to "two key markets, with which Bolivia has strong ties, Spain and the US".

According to the source, Spain might see BoA flights to Madrid starting in July, although he could not confirm which aircraft would be used for the route. "Obviously it will be a new type for our fleet", he says, leaving the door open to start with a wet-lease operation. BoA currently operates a unified fleet of Boeing 737-300 aircraft.

"We are exploring a number of options and the company will make an announcement when we are ready", he says, adding however that the company "would like" to have a market presence "before the European summer travel high season".

He is less concrete about BoA's market entry to the USA, saying that the market will be entered "soon", too.

Cochabamba-based BoA, which was launched by the Bolivian state three years ago as the successor to defunct Lloyd Aero Boliviano, has yet to prove its ability to operate profitably in international markets. Earlier this year, it was forced to close its route to Lima after only two months of operations.

The flight to Madrid would be a direct attack on Aerosur's recovery efforts. Aerosur was forced to drop this market in late March after Virgin Atlantic Airways did not agree to renew the lease of a Boeing 747-400 aircraft that Aerosur was using.

A former Aerosur president, Humberto Roca, had once called the route "the company's cash cow". It plans to restart flights later this month with another 747-400.