Uruguay's Pluna gets new chief as fleet expands

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Uruguay's Pluna has appointed a new general manager to lead the carrier through its current expansion phase.

Pluna says Jorge Lepra will take over on 1 November for Matias Campiani as the top executive of the carrier. Campiani, who also leads the Leadgate investment firm which acquired 75% of Pluna in 2007, will stay on at Pluna as president.

Lepra was previously Uruguay's minister of industry, energy and mining and was also Uruguay's ambassador to France. Campiani says Lepra, using his management experience, will help the company manage recent changes and continue growing.

Pluna one month ago took delivery of two additional CRJ900s and plans to take one more aircraft in November, giving it a fleet of 10 CRJ900s. The additional aircraft are being used to increase frequencies on existing routes, primarily routes between its Montevideo hub and Brazil.

New routes are also envisioned as part of its current expansion phase. But Pluna has said it is waiting on new routes authorisations and extensions of bilaterals before deciding which destinations are to be added to its network.

Using its two recently delivered CRJ900s, Pluna earlier this month began operating a second daily flight to Rio and upgraded to daily its flights to Curitiba and Porto Alegre in Brazil. Flights to Foz de Iguazu on the Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay border have been upgraded from two to three flights while flights to Cordoba in Argentina were upgraded to daily.

On 21 November, using its third additional CRJ900, Pluna plans to increase its Santiago service from two to three daily flights. It will also resume seasonal service to the Brazilian resort Florianopolis in November.

The additional aircraft will also help Pluna maintain schedules as its original fleet of seven CRJ900s come up for heavy maintenance. Pluna announced earlier this year that it had decided to invest in increasing its in-house MRO capability to perform CRJ c-checks.

Pluna says it completed its first CRJ900 c-check earlier this week and immediately began a c-check on a second aircraft. Pluna says it plans to complete c-checks on five CRJ900s by year-end. The remaining two aircraft from its original fleet will go through heavy maintenance next year.

One of Pluna's original seven CRJ900s is currently leased to Argentina's AeroVIP, which is majority owned by Leadgate. Pluna earlier this month announced it had decided against acquiring a direct stake in AeroVIP. While AeroVIP will remain under Leadgate rather than fall directly under Pluna, the two carriers will continue their current cooperation.

AeroVIP, having been unable so far to secure authorisations to launch scheduled flights, now operates charters. AeroVIP codeshares with Pluna and the two carriers both operate the key Montevideo-Buenos Aires route.

Pluna also has been working this year to forge partnerships with other carriers. It now codeshares with Iberia and Brazil's TAM and has added several interline relationships in recent months, including with British Airways, Chile's Sky Airline and Qatar Airways.

Pluna's current expansion is being funded partly by Canadian regional carrier Jazz, which acquired one-third of Leadgate's 75% stake in Pluna earlier this year.