Uruguayan start-up carrier BQB plans to launch its first commercial flight later this month, after it emerged that the airline's planned first flight in March was unable to carry any passengers due to a failure to obtain the necessary permits in time.
BQB had intended its first flight to operate from its Punta del Este base to Buenos Aires Aeroparque, and the carrier had already sold tickets on the route for its late March launch. However, Argentinean authorities had not provided it with the mandatory permits on time, forcing BQB to rebook passengers on to other means of transport. At that point, the airline decided to operate an empty "training flight" to Buenos Aires as a "face saving" exercise to avoid having to cancel the inaugural ceremony in Punta del Este.
The carrier has now set 14 May as the date for its first flight, which will operate between Montevideo and Salto in the north-west Uruguay.
BQB, which recently received its second ATR 72-500 turboprop, also plans to start flights to Rivera, on the country's northern border with Brazil, in June. Additionally, on 27 May, BQB plans to launch its previously announced route to Porto Alegre.
BQB's web site shows two weekly frequencies for the Montevideo-Salto route and also two weekly rotations for the flight between Punta del Este and Porto Alegre.
The routes to Salto and Rivera mark a return to domestic aviation in Uruguay after many years without local commercial routes. They also represent a new business model for BQB, which had initially planned to launch from Colonia del Sacramento, then from Montevideo and more recently from Punta del Este.
The airline, which belongs to the Argentinean ferry entrepreneur Lopez Mena, faced several setbacks when it failed to secure international route authorities from Montevideo, as well as from Punta del Este to Buenos Aires.
According to a source familiar with the plans of BQB, the airline has now reshuffled its strategic plan as it now sees the domestic routes as a way of being allowed to operate flights out of Montevideo and build up a local presence in the country's capital.
Uruguayan aviation law gives the country's principal airline, Pluna, the right to veto any international route authority proposed by domestic competitors, as long as it can prove that it already serves the route "adequately". Senior officials at BQB have expressed in previous occasions their confidence that the recently elected new government will "change this archaic legislation to allow more competition".