Nine months after its ownership passed to the Marsans Group, Argentine flag carrier Aerolineas Argentinas is rebuilding its international network and recovering from the hardships that led to it filing for bankruptcy protection in June 2001.

The airline has slashed first quarter losses to half those in the same period last year. At its peak, the airline registered losses of $35 million over a month, trimming that to $8 million a month and setting its sights for 2002 gross revenues of around $960 million.

With much of its revenue generated in Argentine pesos and operational expenses pegged to the US dollar, it is restarting international flights to attract foreign currency.

Last month, Aerolineas restarted services to London and Paris, through a new hub in Madrid. Using a Boeing MD-88 and supported by Spanish airline Air Plus, the Argentine carrier now operates three flights a week each to London Gatwick and Paris Charles de Gaulle

The airline says that by October services will be expanded to Athens and Frankfurt or Munich and by the end of the year, the Madrid hub will also include connections to Istanbul and Vienna. By then, the airline will have three MD-88s based at Madrid. Airline sources say plans are in hand to establish a Miami hub next year to serve the Caribbean and Central America.

Enlarging its network will mean the airline expanding and renewing its 33-aircraft fleet. This is being hindered by its bankruptcy protection status, from which it is aiming to emerge in the first quarter of next year. It says it is already in preliminary discussions with Airbus and Boeing over its requirement for 23 medium and long-range aircraft over the next five years.

Source: Flight International