Aerolineas Argentinas will drop unprofitable destinations like Auckland and Mexico City from its international network as it plans to boost its flights to higher priority markets.

The carrier plans to increase frequencies to destinations where it can eventually offer at least one daily flight, the airline's chief commercial officer Juan Pablo Lafosse tells Flightglobal.

A first step in that direction will be converting the thrice weekly service to Sydney into a nonstop flight. "The long-haul fleet unification around the Airbus A340 gives us now the necessary flexibility to make our network more profitable and attractive for our customers," he says.

"We will make the route to Sydney more attractive by dropping the intermediate stop in New Zealand", he adds, saying that this will allow the airline to serve Sydney with five weekly frequencies by the end of the year.

Aerolineas' announcement comes shortly after Qantas Airways abandoned its Buenos Aires-Sydney route, creating an opportunity for Aerolineas to create a nonstop product for this market. Aerolineas Argentinas was the first airline to connect Latin America with Australia, where it maintains a market presence since its first flight in 1980.

Lafosse says the airline will continue serving the Mexican market with its partner Aeromexico, and that Aerolineas will continue to operate flights to Cancun

Other destinations that will benefit from Aerolineas' strategy are Barcelona and Bogota, which will be served daily in early 2013, up from four weekly flights currently.

Aerolineas' new route strategy also includes plans to introduce a second daily frequency to Miami, one of which will be operated as a daylight flight with an intermediate stop in Caracas.

The improved long haul network will be supported by creating a hub at Buenos Aires Ezeiza International airport, where immediate domestic and regional connections to Rosario, Cordoba, Mendoza, Bariloche, Iguazu, Rio Grande, Ushuaia, Trelew and Calafate as well as some regional international destinations, such as Santiago, will be provided. Previously, passengers to these destinations needed to go through a lengthy ground transfer to Buenos Aires' Aeroparque downtown airport, from where most domestic flights depart.

"Part of the hub is already in operation", explains Lafosse, adding that the new connection centre will be completed by 1 July.

Aerolineas Argentinas is scheduled to join the SkyTeam alliance in August and as part of its modernisation effort the airline has undergone a major fleet and product rationalisation. In May, Aerolineas and its regional subsidiary Austral will ground their last remaining Boeing 737-500 and MD-83 aircraft respectively. This will leave the airline with a modernised fleet of Embraer 190s, Boeing 737-700/800s and Airbus 340-200/300s covering its short, medium and long haul needs.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news