Aerolineas Argentinas soars once again
President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has many detractors and it’s fair to say her second term as president has been a rocky road with her ‘model’ beset by seemingly intractable travails across the board.
What with vulture funds, recalcitrant farmers, problematic vice-presidents; one disobedient the other under indictment, capital flight, bolshie unions, railway tragedies and now Nisman/AMIA not to mention her health issues its fair to say just about everything has turned to custard for CFK and I’m sure despite her truculent discourses on Cadena Nacional and at the opening of Congress, October can’t come quickly enough for her.
There’s one project which has succeeded despite CFK’s travails and that’s been her drive to resurrect Aerolineas Argentinas as a source of national pride, to improve domestic connectivity and to regain Aerolineas’ supremacy as Argentina’s principal in and out-bound carrier.
When CFK appointed La Cámpora leader Mariano Recalde as Aerolineas Argentinas’ & Austral Líneas Aéreas’ president & CEO I was one of many who were dubious because of his lack of aviation credentials.
Four years down the track and by any measure it’s fair to say CFK’s vision for Aerolineas has succeeded.
Mariano Recalde and his La Cámpora colleagues have transformed Aerolineas Argentinas and Austral with modern on-line booking systems, new branding, upgraded equipment (22 Embraer regional jets, 14 Boeing 737-800s with 25 more on order and lately a new long-range Airbus) and market-friendly schedules & fares notwithstanding again some say further efficiencies are needed (e.g. AR’s 11,000 employees vs LAN’s 5,000).
One tangible example of the transformation is Aerolineas Argentina’s recent code-share alliance with the highly-regarded Air New Zealand which even in the recent past would have been impossible due to a closed-shop mentality in Argentina which was endemic.
In a win/win deal Aerolineas returns to the transpolar Oceania route they pioneered 35 years ago and New Zealand’s award-winning Air New Zealand gains a lucrative new destination from December of this year.
There’ll soon be an influx of New Zealand tourists roaming Buenos Aires’ broad avenues, Patio Bullrich, Alto Palermo & Galerias Pacifico shoppings, tippling Malbec in Mendoza and eating Black Forest Gateau in Bariloche.
Conversely, there’ll be many Argentinos zooming down Queenstown’s Shotover River on jet boats, leaping into precipitous gorges on the end of rubber bungy cords and sailing in Americas Cup yachts on Auckland’s sparkling Waitemata Harbour.
Since the announcement of the Aerolineas / Air New Zealand’s Buenos Aires service, as a director of the Latin American New Zealand Business Council, I can report that there’s been a huge upsurge of interest across diverse commercial sectors in New Zealand which will thrive on the back of the new service.
From a New Zealand perspective, in-bound tourism, rugby, horse breeding and agro-technology aside, education services look the most promising.
With direct flights from Buenos Aires, Argentina and its Southern Cone neighbours will be able to easily access New Zealand ESL, Secondary College and University education services at around 60% of Northern Hemisphere costs.
Foreign students are allowed to work part-time while they study in New Zealand and this helps many students to further off-set their costs. New Zealand’s high living standards, low crime rates and temperate climate are added selling points not to mention the New Zealand dollar which is 30% lower that the US dollar or 50% of Sterling.
From the Argentine perspective, in-bound tourism aside again, the most important innovation will be the connection to Asia through New Zealand which is around half the travel time than via Europe or North America and this will increase efficiency and lower Argentine exporters’ costs in developing markets in China and the rest of Asia & Oceania
All their other travails to one side CFK and her La Cámpora protégés deserve praise for their success in rescuing Aerolineas Argentinas from oblivion and for their perspicacity in welcoming Air New Zealand to Argentina.
Thomas Manning Director
Latin American New Zealand Business Council
Recoleta, Buenos Aires