Aerolineas Argentinas is the largest domestic and international airline in Argentina and serves as Argentina's flag carrier. The airline, based in Buenos Aires, operates from hubs at Aeroparque Jorge Newbery for Domestic flights and Ministro Pistarini International Airport for International services.
The airline's history can be traced back to the year 1929, when carrier Aeroposta started operations. The Argentine government, recognizing Argentina's vast geographic size and the need for fast transportation links between the countryside and the larger cities, established an airline company to carry passengers and mail. The first two destinations served were Mendoza and Posadas. Frenchmen Jean Mermoz and Antoine de Saint-Exupery were among the company's first pilots.
By 1930, two more airlines, LASO and LANE, began flights and the number of cities served by air routes in Argentina tripled. In 1945, these two airlines merged, becoming LADE . This was a well-timed move, as World War II was entering its final stages and commercial aviation was set to start a stage of explosive growth. In 1946 the first Douglas DC-3s arrived in Argentina, and Argentina's first intercontinental airline, Flota Aerea Mercante Argentina (FAMA), was created. FAMA operated Avro Yorks on services to Europe.
In May 1949, all these carriers merged under the name Aerolineas Argentinas. Operations started on 7 December 1950. At this time, Argentina did not have suitable airport facilities, so the government of Juan Peron built Ministro Pistarini airport; General Juan Pistarini, after whom the facilities are named, designed and directed its construction. Key to the airline's growth were Alfonso Aliaga Garcia, and Dirk Wessel Van Layden, who had been a pilot with French carrier Aeropostale (not to be confused with Aeroposta) and was influential in raising flying standards.
The DC-3 proved to be an invaluable asset for Aerolineas Argentinas, as for many other airlines worldwide. It enabled them to fly to domestic destinations that had, until then, been unreachable and to keep flying FAMA's international routes. Soon afterwards, Douglas DC-4s joined the fleet and services were inaugurated to Santiago de Chile, Lima, Santa Cruz, and Sao Paulo.
The 1950s saw the arrival of the DC-6, allowing Aerolineas Argentinas to fly at night for the first time. Thanks to this plane, the name of Aerolineas Argentinas was seen at terminals in New York's Idlewild airport, as well as Havana, Lisbon, London Heathrow, Dakar, and Rio de Janeiro. By the end of that decade, the Comet IV jet had begun commercial jet services worldwide, and Aerolineas once again wanted to set the pace among South America's air companies. Airline President Juan Jose Guiraldes persuaded Argentina's President Arturo Frondizi to buy six of the new planes, on the understanding that Aerolineas would pay for the planes later. And so, on March 2, 1959, 'Tres Marias', which became the first jet airplane flown by Aerolineas, landed at Ministro Pistarini International Airport.
With these jets, Aerolineas Argentinas kept a steady growth during the 1960s, opening routes to London, Paris, Rome, and Madrid. The 1970s saw the arrival of the Boeing 727s, 737s and 747s, a stronger marketing strategy and the introduction of new routes to Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Zurich. Aerolineas Argentinas was featured on many Jorge Porcel movies at that time, and the began licensing toy companies to produce models of their aircraft, a practice it maintains today.
During and for some time after the 1982 Falklands War , Aerolineas Argentinas was banned from flying through British airspace. There used to be a flight from London Gatwick to Argentina's capital, however passengers for Argentina had to change planes at Madrid Barajas because of the ban.
On 16 November 2009, the last Boeing 737-200 flight operated by Aerolineas Argentinas took place on a flight from Buenos Aires-Catamarca-La Rioja-Buenos Aires.
Privatization and near-collapse
On 27 December 1989 the government authorized the privatization of the airline and on 21 November 1990 Iberia acquired a 30% stake, subsequently increasing it to 83.5%. Continuing poor financial performance led Iberia to reduce its stake to 20%, which was transferred to a Spanish state holding company, SEPI, and the company was reorganized as a subsidiary of Interinvest. In July 1998, American Airlines acquired a 10% stake in Interinvest, giving it an 8.5% stake in Aerolineas Argentinas. American has since disposed of the holding and Iberia then reduced its stake in Interinvest to 10%. Plans for employees to take an 85% share in 2000 never came to actualization.
Allegations of corruption were made on the basis of the price paid by Iberia and the Spanish firm's ulterior conduct (including some convoluted lease-back operations), with the airline paying the price for its own purchase with its assets. Subsequent management by American Airlines and Spanish state owned conglomerate SEPI drove Aerolineas Argentinas into an almost terminal crisis in 2001.
Aerolineas Argentinas when Iberia acquired it, and when it sold it .
Even though Austral formed part of a consortium along with Iberia to buy Aerolineas Argentinas, Austral's owner sold Cielos del Sur S.A. to Iberia. The two airlines remained separate and never merged. By the late 1990s the airline was near bankruptcy; losses in 1999 where around 240 million US dollars. The Spanish government tried to sell its controlling share to American Airlines but the offer was declined.
In 2001 the airline filed for protection from creditors and parts of the business were sold off. Grupo Marsans acquired 92% in 2001 and committed to inject $50m capital with the intention of resuming long-haul services. This was realized on 6 November 2001 with a transatlantic service to Madrid.
In June 2001 flights to seven international destinations were suspended and the airline went into administration. In October 2001, control of both Aerolineas Argentinas and Austral was handed to Air Comet, a consortium of the Spanish private carriers Spanair, Air Comet and travel operator Viajes Marsans, who acquired 92.1% of the shares.
After teetering on the brink of closure during most of 2001, combined with the adverse effects of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the industry and Argentina's financial meltdown of December 2001, Aerolineas was forced to close down international services for a few days during early 2002. However, fresh capital was provided ($50 million from the Marsans Group) and the airline resumed services almost immediately. In 2002, the airline came out of administration after a Buenos Aires judge accepted its debt restructuring agreement with creditors.
The airline endured a pilot's strike during November 2005. After nine days of negotiations, the airline and its pilots struck a deal.
On 21 July 2008, the Argentine government took the airline back into state control after acquiring 99.4% of the share capital for an undisclosed price. The remaining 0.6% continues to be owned by the company's employees.
On 3 September 2008, Argentina's Senate approved the nationalization of Aerolineas Argentinas and its subsidiary Austral Lineas Aereas on a 46-21 vote in favor of the takeover.
The Aerolineas Argentinas fleet consists of the following aircraft (at 14 January 2010):
Aerolineas Argentinas begun to modernize their fleet in 2009:
In early 2009, Aerolineas Argentinas agreed to purchase 2 Boeing 737-700's and to lease a further 10. The new aircraft will replace the ageing Boeing 737-200 aircraft.
On 17 October 2009, Aerolineas Argentinas announced that they are looking for 6 Boeing 737-800 aircraft to complement the 12 Boeing 737-700's and to replace 12 of the ageing Boeing 737-500 aircraft. On the same day it was also revealed that they are negotiating at retrieving 6 Airbus A330-200's and 7 Airbus A340-600 aircraft from an order placed by Grupo Marsans. With the planned long haul aircraft they want to relaunch services to Cape Town, Mexico City and New York City as well as further expansion. Aerolineas Argentinas plans to start adding the new aircraft to the fleet in February 2010 with a delivery span of 14 to 16 months.
In November 2009, an Airbus A330 was spotted at Toulouse in blank textures and a test registration, though it is to be the first of 6 Airbus A330 orders for Aerolineas Argentinas. The orders are part of and order that was placed by Air Comet.
Aerolineas Argentinas has also operated the following aircraft:
Avro/Hawker Siddeley HS 748
Boeing 707-320C - 1 used for Aerolineas Argentinas Cargo
Boeing 737-200 - last aircraft was retired on 16 November 2009
Boeing 737-300F - Aerolineas Argentinas Cargo
de Havilland Comet IV
McDonnell Douglas MD-82 - 1 still in fleet
McDonnell Douglas MD-83 - 1 still in fleet
Accidents and incidents
On 4 February 1970 Aerolineas Argentinas Flight 707 crashed into the ground after the pilots lost control of the Avro 748-105. The aircraft crashed at Loma Alta, Argentina and killed all 37 passengers and crew on board.
On 20 February 1992, shrimp contaminated with cholera was distributed on an Aerolineas Argentinas Flight 386, a Boeing 747 bound for Los Angeles from Buenos Aires via Lima, Peru. The contaminated shrimp entered the aircraft in Lima. 76 passengers became ill after landing in Los Angeles. One of the ill passengers, a 70-year-old man named Anibal Cufre " Cholera Kills One and Fells Many on Flight," The New York Times, died of the illness " Contaminated Food Causes Flight Fatality," FDA Consumer" Fatal Boeing 747 Events," Airsafe. Of the 336 passengers, the United States was the final destination for 297 of them. Two passengers selected Canada as their final destination, while 37 selected Japan as their final destination. The cholera on the contaminated food did not spread to other areas.
According to the Aviation Safety Network database, the last accident with one of the company's aircraft with fatalities was in 1970.
Aviation Safety Network reports 42 accidents or incidents for Aerolineas Argentinas since 1950.