LAN's Cueto meets with Argentina govt in hangar dispute

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LAN chief executive Ignacio Cueto held talks with Argentina's vice minister of economy Axel Kicillof today in Buenos Aires, in the latest development of an ongoing conflict between LAN Argentina and the Argentinian authorities.

Cueto's visit comes more than a week after Argentina's state-owned airport regulator ORSNA served a notice on LAN Argentina, requesting the carrier to vacate a hangar it leases at Buenos Aires' downtown Aeroparque airport within 10 calendar days.

LATAM Airlines Group, which LAN Argentina is part of, has vowed legal action to challenge the eviction. The carrier says it has a lease agreement on the hangar until July 2023.

An Argentinian judge granted an injunction yesterday to prevent ORSNA from evicting the airline on the deadline of 30 August and expects to make a final judgement on the case in weeks.

A senior LAN source, speaking under the condition of anonymity, says the talks between Cueto and Kicillof were "cordial". According to the source, the talks allowed LAN to explain to the Argentinian authorities why the hangar is essential for the carrier's operations.

The threat of eviction is the latest in a series of actions by the Argentinian government that observers view as protectionist measures to help loss-making state-owned carrier Aerolineas Argentinas.

However, Gustavo Lipovich, president of airport regulator ORSNA, denies any intention of hurting LAN.

"We are executing the approved master plan for improving the airport. Not getting access [to LAN's hangar] prevents us from improving the use of space at the airport," Lipovich says, adding that the master plan changes accordingly to traffic growth at the airport over recent years.

He adds that ORSNA will respect the injunction, even if this means delaying the airport modernisation process.

The country's vice minister of economy Kicillof is a former Aerolineas director and a former director of airport operator Aeroportos Argentina 2000. He is a proponent of a state-controlled economy and has executed several high profile renationalisations of Argentinian companies during his political career.