Uruguay-based BQB Lineas Aereas has announced plans to take over several routes formerly operated by now bankrupt Pluna using an Airbus A320 aircraft, initially wet-leased from Spain's Vueling during the northern hemisphere's winter low season.
The first jet operated routes will be Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Santa Cruz de la Sierra (Bolivia) and Santiago de Chile, which will be launched in November and December, says BQB's commercial director Pablo Triunfo.
Sao Paulo and Santiago de Chile will be operated as daily flights, while the other destinations will receive, initially, a weekly frequency. The aircraft will also be used for occasional charters to destinations in the Caribbean.
While the Vueling wet lease is only a short-term solution to be able to start occupying available routes quickly, BQB is also negotiating longer-term A320 leases.
In September, BQB will also incorporate its fourth ATR 72-500 turboprop, which it will use to launch new routes from Montevideo to Curitiba (Brazil) and Ciudad del Este (Paraguay) as well as domestic flights to Rivera.
With the end of this month, those route authorities in which Pluna was the designated carrier in Uruguay's bilateral air traffic agreements will become available to competitors. BQB is the only other local airline to step in.
After Pluna's grounding, the Uruguayan government decided to reserve its traffic rights during 12 months for an eventual relaunch of the carrier, but the desired reactivation never happened.
BQB, which belongs to Buenos Aires-based Buquebus, one of South America's largest travel groups, is now openly pursuing the strategy of establishing itself as the successor to former flag carrier Pluna.
Originally it had opted for a more covert strategy, participating through Spain's Cosmo Airlines as an intermediary in the failed tender process of seven ex-Pluna, now government-owned Bombardier CRJ900 jets.