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Avianca Argentina suspends service

Avianca Argentina has suspended operations, becoming the second airline owned by Avianca majority shareholder German Efromovich to cease service in recent weeks.

The financially distressed airline requested to halt scheduled service for 90 days from 9 June, says Argentina's civil aviation authority ANAC. However, the airline's flights scheduled for today have been cancelled, according to Cirium flight tracking data.

"The request is based on the start of a process of restructuring the company with the re-engineering of the regular route plan and the company's business model," says ANAC of the airline's request. The 90-day extension may be extended for another 90 days upon expiration, adds the regulator.

The airline was not immediately contactable for comment, and its website appeared to be offline.

Avianca Argentina was operating two ATR 72-600s on just two routes before it suspended service, Cirium's Fleets Analyzer and schedules data show. The airline was offering service to Mar Del Plata and Santa Fe from Buenos Aires Aeroparque.

The suspension of Avianca Argentina's flights is the latest in a long string of woes for Efromovich, whose wholly-owned Avianca Brazil was grounded by Brazilian regulators in late-May after it whittled down its fleet and network following a filing for bankruptcy protection in December 2018.

Avianca Argentina, also known as Avian Lineas Aereas before it was acquired by Efromovich in 2016, launched flights in late 2017 with high hopes. But the airline's ambitious expansion plans, which had included international flights and operating narrowbody aircraft, never came to be. An Airbus A320 transferred to the Argentine airline from Avianca Brazil in October 2018 was subsequently parked later that year, Fleets Analyzer shows.

Efromovich's Synergy Aerospace had announced an order for up to 18 ATR 72-600s in November 2016 for Avianca Argentina, comprising 12 firm orders and six options. Only two of those aircraft have been delivered to the airline. The six options were cancelled in mid-2018, Fleets Analyzer shows.

Argentina's carriers have faced a difficult operating environment since last year, as soaring inflation in the country has depressed yields and currency depreciation discouraged Argentines from travelling abroad.

Avianca Argentina's troubles were further compounded by Efromovich's financial woes, with the Avianca Brazil bankruptcy. Efromovich remains the majority shareholder of Colombia's publicly-listed airline Avianca, but the carrier removed him as chairman late last month, replacing him with former TACA chief executive Roberto Kriete.

Story updated with ANAC comment

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