After finally inaugurating its much delayed first commercial flight earlier this month, Uruguayan start-up BQB is now planning to shift its focus back to Montevideo.
The airline, which is currently operating twice weekly domestic flights between Montevideo and Salto as its sole commercial operation, will add on 11 June three weekly flights from Montevideo to Rivera in Northern Uruguay. BQB has also announced intentions to fly from the Uruguayan capital to Florianopolis in Southern Brazil once a week.
This is BQB's fourth launch scheme as it originally planned to start flying out of Colonia del Sacramento on the La Plata River, which runs between Uruguay and Argentina. Later the carrier opted to establish a Montevideo hub, but the lack of available international traffic rights forced the airline to select a base at Punta del Este.
BQB's attempt to launch in March was curbed by Argentinean authorities who refused to grant BQB traffic rights to serve Buenos Aires from Punta del Este. After it failed to receive those rights BQB was forced to cancel its inaugural flight at the last minute.
Now BQB has shifted its base back to Montevideo in order to resume domestic operations in a country that has not seen local flights for years.
A source consulted at BQB's corporate parent, the ferry company Buquebus, says that the company "still hopes to obtain international traffic rights soon" and confirms that previously announced flights between Punta del Este and Porto Alegre in Southern Brazil are "still on the table", although it may have to wait until "after the [southern hemisphere] winter".
Uruguay's aviation law currently allows flag carrier Pluna to veto any other domestic competitor's proposed international service as long as it can prove that the requested international route is "well served".
But the Buquebus source says that is "absurd", and the situation will change soon. He acknowledges that operating only five short haul flight rotations per week with its two ATR 72-500 turboprops at a fare of around US$30 is "still a far cry from what we had originally planned".
However, he says that this is positioning BQB as an airline which "genuinely cares about the transportation needs of the Uruguayans", in reference to public scrutiny of partly state-owned Pluna operating routes in Paraguay and Chile using aircraft financially guaranteed by the Uruguayan government.