BQB revealed as final buyer of ex-Pluna CRJs

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After several days of confusion about the intentions of Spain's Cosmo Lineas Aereas after buying seven ex-Pluna Bombardier CRJ900s from the Uruguayan state during the public tender process, BQB Air has now been revealed as the final destination of the aircraft.

Uruguay-based BQB Air, an ATR 72-500 operator, was created three years ago by Buquebus, the Argentinean travel group that dominates the ferry operations between Argentina and Uruguay and owns Uruguay's principal long-haul bus operators.

While no official declaration has been made yet, a Buquebus source admits that it is "negotiating" the assumption of Cosmo's commitment for the aircraft as well as a deal with the Uruguayan government to obtain most of Pluna's former international traffic rights.

Madrid-based Cosmo Lineas Aereas is a startup carrier still in the process of obtaining its operating certificate, which caused surprise with its previously unannounced participation in the tender process. It won the seven CRJs earlier this month.

According to sources familiar with the process, BQB owner Juan Carlos Lopez Mena preferred not to bid directly for the aircraft after the Uruguayan government rejected his proposals to transfer Pluna's route authorities to his company. However, after Cosmo announced plans to withdraw the aircraft from the country, the government appears to have made its position more flexible, allowing BQB formally to announce its interest in operating the aircraft.

In parallel with BQB's attempt to create a Pluna successor airline, the association of ex-Pluna employees says that they have teamed up with Spain's regional airline Air Nostrum, which operates under the Iberia Regional brand in Europe, to create a regional airline in Montevideo using the other six CRJ900 aircraft left grounded by Pluna, but which are on lease contracts. However, a local union source confirms that the eventual BQB deal to acquire the Cosmo CRJs "would not help our own project to get off the ground".