Uruguay's BQB gets first Airbus A319

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Uruguay's BQB Lineas Aereas has placed the first of three Airbus A319 aircraft that it plans to receive this year into service on new routes to Brazil and Chile.

The ex–TAM aircraft, which will operate alongside the airline's fleet of four ATR 72-500 turboprops, will operate as replacement aircraft for an A320 that has been wet leased from Spain's Vueling since late 2013.

BQB says that the aircraft will be used to operate routes "from Montevideo to Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Santiago de Chile". It also says that the A319 will not be immediately assigned to full scheduled utilisation "as the World Soccer Championship [in Brazil] will require a substantial amount of charter operations".

Earlier this year, BQB obtained an air operator certificate (AOC) in Chile, which allows it to take full advantage of local route authorities in the country.

In addition to the Montevideo based flights, BQB will also operate flights between Santiago de Chile and destinations in Brazil, "starting with a route to Sao Paulo", says a source. More routes from Chile are planned in the future.

"The merger between LAN and TAM has created new competitive opportunities in the region, and BQB knows the Southern Cone markets really well," says the source.

BQB is a subsidiary of the Argentina's Buquebus travel group, an integrated tour, ferry and long-distance bus operator with a strong presence in Argentina, Uruguay and southern Brazil.

Since the late 1990s, Buquebus founder and owner Juan Carlos Lopez Mena has tried repeatedly unsuccessfully to control Argentina's flag carrier Aerolineas Argentinas.

While Argentina's government is highly protectionist against potential "Buenos Aires hub-bypassers" wanting to operate international routes to and from the country's interior, the presence east and west of Argentina positions BQB well to play a larger role in its corporate home country in the future.