Argentina's civil aviation authority ANAC has withdrawn LAN Argentina's rights to operate regional international flights from Buenos Aires Aeroparque airport weeks after authorising Austral, the regional subsidiary of state-owned Aerolineas Argentinas, to launch international operations from Aeroparque.
From 1 January 2012, LAN Argentina will no longer be allowed to operate its flights to Sao Paulo in Brazil and Santiago in Chile, stated the ruling. It does not affect the flights operated by its Chilean parent company LAN between Santiago and Aeroparque. ANAC said the decision was driven by the need to relief the "congestion of Aeroparque".
LAN Argentina said it would challenge the decision legally and Chilean media reports said that Chile's president Sebastian Piñera will raise the issue at a bilateral summit scheduled for January.
Austral, which is increasingly being seen by the Argentinean government as a regional alternative to labour conflict-ridden Aerolineas Argentinas, received in late November the authorisation to launch operations from Aeroparque to Brazil, Paraguay and Chile. The flights are expected to start in early 2012.
Since Argentina re-nationalised its loss-making flag carrier Aerolineas Argentinas, the government has ramped up protectionist aviation policies. For example, Uruguay's Pluna was repeatedly denied on its request to start new routes into Argentina.
Buenos Aires' dual airport system, in which domestic flights arrive at Aeroparque and medium and long haul flights depart from Ezeiza International airport, have prevented Aerolineas Argentinas from setting up an efficient hub connecting its own home market with international destinations.
As a result, alternative hubs like Lima, Santiago and Sao Paulo have become more attractive to travellers from Argentina.