The Argentinean Civil Aviation Authority ANAC has finally enforced this week its decision from December to withdraw LAN Argentina's permit to operate regional international flights from Buenos Aires Aeroparque downtown airport.
Effective immediately, LAN Argentina is operating its flights to Sao Paulo and Santiago de Chile from Buenos Aires Ezeiza International airport, located more 30km (18.6 miles) from the city centre and accessible only through a frequently jammed urban motorway. All domestic destinations will still be served from Aeroparque.
To make things more confusing, flights operated to Santiago and Sao Paulo by LAN Argentina's Chilean corporate parent LAN Airlines can still be operated from the downtown airport. LAN Argentina will now be operating two Sao Paulo frequencies and one Santiago flight from Ezeiza while LAN Airlines will be operating one Sao Paulo and all the remaining Santiago frequencies from Aeroparque.
On 23 December, ANAC informed LAN Argentina that its international traffic rights at Aeroparque would not be renewed, effective 1 January 2012. The airline filed a judicial protest against the measure and initially it appeared that ANAC would tolerate LAN Argentina's continued operation at Aeroparque. However, on 11 January ANAC enforced the resolution.
In early 2010, the Argentinean government authorised state-owned Aerolineas Argentinas to transfer international flights to neighbouring countries to Aeroparque, which previously only served domestic and Uruguayan destinations. After protests from LAN and other foreign carriers, in mid 2010, they were also allowed to operate these routes from Aeroparque.
Last November, the Argentinean authorities authorised Aerolineas Argentina's domestic subsidiary Austral to become an international carrier and the airline immediately announced plans to begin international operations from its Aeroparque base in January.
Although the government denied any connection between the two decisions, it justified the non-renewal of LAN Argentina's permits with "lack of [physical] space" at heavily slot controlled Aeroparque.
LAN Argentina's judicial protest is based on discriminatory treatment against "other national airlines".