Chilean low-cost carrier JetSMART will expand into Argentina in December, and plans to launch domestic service as soon as mid-2019.

The airline has embarked on the process of obtaining an air operator's certificate in Argentina, and expects to begin sales in early 2019 for flights beginning mid-2019, JetSMART chief executive Estuardo Ortiz tells FlightGlobal.

The domestic service in Argentina will follow the airline's launch of flights between Chile and Argentina from December, with five routes planned. JetSMART began flights in Chile in July 2017.

It will connect Santiago with Mendoza from 11 December, followed by Cordoba on 14 December. On 17 December, it will begin service between La Serena and Cordoba. Flights between La Serena and Mendoza will launch 18 December. On 2 January, service between Santiago and Buenos Aires El Palomar will begin.

Despite a deluge of airline interest in Argentina following the liberalisation of the aviation industry in the country, Ortiz says JetSMART is bullish about the market.

"It's a large market in terms of population and geography," he explains. "We believe that with the recent progress made by the government to remove the fare floor, it will allow us to offer low fares to stimulate the market."

Argentina removed a minimum fare rule in August, allowing airlines to price their fares freely, in a move that was welcomed by all carriers.

Ortiz believes there is enormous potential to stimulate air travel in Argentina, pointing to the lower number of trips per capita compared to other more mature Latin American aviation markets like Chile and Colombia.

"We see potential for the market to grow two to three-fold," he says.

JetSMART currently operates mostly within Chile, with a lone international route to Lima. It has a fleet of five Airbus A320s but will add another six by early 2019 for a total of 11. In the second half of 2019, it will add eight A320neos that will be leased.

The airline's owner Indigo Partners firmed up an order for A320neo family aircraft in late 2017, including 70 aircraft for JetSMART. Deliveries of these will begin in 2021, says Ortiz.

Source: Cirium Dashboard