Aerolineas Argentinas will eliminate domestic business class on its Boeing 737-800 fleet in order to add 16 to 19 seats on each aircraft.

The reconfiguration will not affect its new Boeing 737 Max 8s, which will be deployed on longer-haul regional routes.

Aerolineas Argentinas’ current narrowbody configuration includes a business class cabin with 2-2 seating, but the airline says load factors are only 30% compared with around 86% in economy class.

During a press conference speaking about the longer term company strategy, Aerolineas Argentinas president Mario Dell’Acqua says that the airline is expecting strong growth despite competition from low-fare airlines such as Flybondi.

During the first quarter of 2018, Aerolineas Argentinas transported 6% more domestic passengers than in the same period of 2017, despite the market entry of Flybondi and Avianca Argentina.

According to Dell’Acqua, the seat reconfiguration of the domestic Boeing fleet will add in the short term 10% additional capacity. However, most of the airline's planned capacity growth will come from the replacement of 26 Embraer 190s operated by Aerolineas’ subsidiary Austral with aircraft in the 180-seat segment, starting in December.

The type of aircraft that will be used to substitute Austral's Embraers has not been officially announced, but operational commonality could give Boeing a strong advantage.

To close the capacity gap after Aerolineas removes the Embraer fleet, Dell’Acqua says without elaborating that the airline might "develop a domestic alliance" to serve thinner feeder routes.

In 2016, Aerolineas Argentinas had in place an operational partnership with Rosario-based Sol Lineas Aereas, which operated Bombardier CRJ200 aircraft for Austral. But the tie-up was abruptly terminated in early 2017, sending Sol into liquidation.

Currently the only candidates for operating regional flights on behalf of Aerolineas Argentinas are Flyest, a Bombardier CRJ200 operator.

While Avianca Argentina’s ATR72s might be the right aircraft to complement Aerolineas’ network, both airline groups are not only direct competitors but also belong to different global alliances, which makes an alliance between them less likely.

Dell’Acqua says Aerolineas' long-haul network will remain stable after it dropped Barcelona. It will continue to serve New York, Miami, Rome and Madrid, adding frequencies to the latter and offering two daily flights to the Spanish capital.

Aerolineas currently operates a fleet of 12 Airbus A330/340 widebodies, of which the remaining two A340s will leave the fleet by 2019. A strategic long-haul fleet renewal is being studied.

In 2013, Aerolineas Argentinas dropped its thrice-weekly Airbus A340-300 operated flight to Sydney, home to a sizable Argentine community.

Source: Cirium Dashboard