Chilean start-up Sky Service Airlines has launched charter services with the first of two ex-Grupo TACA Boeing 737-200s, and plans to start scheduled services next month. The carrier will compete with LanChile and Peruvian-backed AeroContinente Chile, helping to fill the void left by the demise of the country's only other independent, Avant Airlines.

Santiago-based Sky Service is initially flying weekly charter services to Florianopolis in Brazil. Next month, Chilean domestic services will start to Antofagasta, Arica, Concepción, Iquique, Puerto Montt Balmaceda and Punta Arenas. International scheduled services will also be operated to Argentina, Brazil and Peru.

Ownership is split between local retail businessman Jürgen Paulman (55%) and Fernando Uauy (45%), the latter being the son of the founder of National Airlines, which was later absorbed into Avant. The airline's objective is to replace AeroContinente as Chile's second carrier after LanChile and take around a quarter of the Chilean market.

Avant folded 10 months ago after accusing then-newcomer AeroContinente Chile of unfair ticket discounting. AeroContinente's services have since been disrupted by allegations of drug money laundering, and a subsequent court-ordered grounding. The carrier has resumed flying, while LanChile has relaunched its Ladeco domestic services as LanChile Express.

The airline plans to take delivery of a second 737-200 shortly, and aims to double the fleet later this year. It is also looking at acquiring 727-200s for freighter operations.

Washington DC-based Air Exchange has placed many of the 17 ex-TACA 737-200s being phased out of service, but confirms the lease of three to Venezuela's Aserca Airlines.

Source: Flight International