Aerolineas Argentinas plans to phase out its fuel-guzzling Airbus A340s by end-2018 as the airline continues to work towards financial profitability under the ownership of a new government.

The SkyTeam carrier still operates four A340s, and is evaluating a replacement for the aircraft type, Aerolineas chief executive Isela Costantini tells FlightGlobal on the sidelines of the ALTA Airline Leaders Forum in Mexico City.

Aerolineas also plans to replace its Boeing 737-700s with newer 737-800s by around mid-2018, she adds. The carrier operates 15 737-700s and 24 737-800s, Flight Fleets Analyzer shows. Aerolineas' 737-700s range from seven to 15 years old. It has an additional eight 737-800s on order.

In recent months, Aerolineas has also been adding new leased Airbus A330s but Costantini says the airline will evaluate an order of large aircraft to replace the A340 on long-haul routes to Europe.

"We have to decide where to go after the A340s," she says. However, the airline remains challenged in its finances as it continues a restructuring effort. Costantini came on board after President Mauricio Macri swept to victory in Argentina in late 2015, ushering in an era of change. Following years of protectionist aviation policy that had favoured Aerolineas, the airline is seeking to reduce its reliance on state funding and compete with foreign carriers.

Costantini says the airline expects to post a $300 million operating loss this year. "Financing of [aircraft] is the challenge," she says. As a result, Aerolineas is not likely to make aircraft orders until 2018 or 2019, she says.

On the network front, Aerolineas plans to focus on improving its domestic connectivity in the new year. "We are consolidating the routes that we have," says Costantini. Less of a priority is international growth. "We plan to take advantage of SkyTeam and the connectivity it offers."

Source: Cirium Dashboard