Cosmo to use ex-Pluna CRJs for East European operation

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Spain's Cosmo Lineas Aereas, which has won the tender process to acquire seven ex-Pluna Bombardier CRJ900s from the Uruguayan state, plans to use the aircraft to grow its Central and Eastern European charter and wet-lease business.

Cosmo managing director Gabriel Zarza tells Flightglobal that the acquisition of the aircraft "opens a new growth opportunity for the airline".

"We will use them to expand our charter business in Central and Eastern Europe," he says. "They have the perfect capacity and range for operations of this type in this region."

Zarza adds that the company has "another project in another part of the world", about which it has yet to disclose details.

The Uruguayan government, which inherited the ownership of the aircraft from bankrupt Pluna as their financial guarantor, tried to sell the aircraft initially in a tender in early September.

But lack of interest from potential bidders forced the government to cancel the process and reschedule it, with improved conditions.

Cosmo is in the process of obtaining its own air operator's certificate. In the meantime, Lithuania's Avion Express is operating its two Airbus A320s.

Granada-based start-up airline Hispania Airways recently revealed that Cosmo and Avion Express will operate its initial network, which will connect the Andalusian city with London, Paris, Rome, Barcelona and Madrid from December.

Despite initial reports that Venezuela's Conviasa and Uruguay's BQB Air had shown interest in the tender process, Cosmo, was the only bidder to deposit the required $13.6 million bank loan to qualify.

While the government welcomed the sale, acknowledging that the tender did not require the winner to keep the aircraft operating in Uruguay, Pluna unions have expressed concern that transfer would hamper any possible relaunch of the carrier.

According to the tender conditions, Cosmo has the right to operate flights using route authorities abandoned by Pluna, a deal sweetener introduced by the Uruguayan government in a bid to keep the jets in the country.