Uruguayan start-up BQB Air has concluded a deal with ATR for the purchase of two new ATR 72-500s, which is expected to be formally announced at the Paris air show later this month.

A BQB Air source says the carrier has committed to taking delivery of its first ATR 72 in September and aims to launch services in October or November. He says ATR has already completed the aircraft and painted it in BQB colours ahead of the Paris air show, where there will be a ceremony involving ATR and some of the airline’s owners.

BQB Air is owned by the Lopez Mena family, which already owns Uruguayan ferry operator Buquebus and a local bus company. ATI first reported in January that the Lopez Mena family had unveiled plans to launch an airline with an initial fleet of two ATR 72s to complement its ferry and bus businesses. At the time Buquebus was considering launching services with wet-leased ATR 72s.

Enticed by early delivery slots from ATR, Buquebus has since decided to operate its own aircraft from the beginning. In anticipation of a September delivery, it has already lodged an application with Uruguayan authorities for an air operator’s certificate (AOC).

The BQB Air source says the company is now going through the process of meeting the various operational and safety requirements for certifying a new airline and ATR is now working on certifying the ATR 72 in Uruguay. He expects these processes will be completed by September.

ATR has not yet formally announced the order but is expected to do so at the Paris air show later this month. "The aircraft have been bought by us and we’re now finalising the details on the financing," says the BQB source.

BQB Air plans to initially serve the downtown Buenos Aires airport, Aeroparque, from three regional cities in Uruguay – Colonia, Ribera and Salta. The source says the airline will start with only one aircraft.

He adds BQB Air plans to wait until it has secured an AOC and all the necessary approvals from both the Argentinean and Uruguayan governments before setting a delivery date for its second ATR 72-500.

BQB Air plans to focus on the leisure portion of the Argentina-Uruguay market. It is already familiar with this market through its bus and ferry services.

"We’re a tourism operator. What we got are vessels and buses and now we got a couple of airplanes. The idea is to expand our market, not be a big airline in the region," says the BQB Air source.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news