Although the horizon of the first day of September is not firm – the Government did not reconfirm that date – it still works as a countdown for the return of domestic flights in Argentina. But anxiety is not without uncertainty.
While the national government anticipated that the restart of operations will have Córdoba as the main platform, with Aerolineas Argentinas as the almost exclusive protagonist, companies like JetSmart are still waiting for definitions.
And it is that, a little more than 30 days from the course deadline As of September, the State has not defined what will happen to the El Palomar air station, where that firm has its base of operations.
“We need clarity. For an airline, it is essential to know which airport it will operate in, ”JetSmart CEO Estuardo Ortiz said from Chile in a virtual conference in which the general manager in Argentina, Gonzalo Pérez Corral, also participated.
The scheduled return, which is already crystallizing on the routes it is marketing, has El Palomar as its point of reference. And among the services from Buenos Aires, the connection to Córdoba appears on the first line.
But that route could have a starting point in Ezeiza, at least temporarily. “We have no confirmed information of a possible temporary operation there, but we will see and prepare. It is not something that is in line with our expectations to operate permanently from there, ”said Ortiz.
The executive noted that El Palomar implies “lower costs and lower shipping fees” and that Ezeiza is a station that “is not intended for cabotage.” Pérez Corral, meanwhile, acknowledged that they “are concerned that the time will be so short if Ezeiza is the point chosen for the domestic operation.”
The other side of this limbo is the “tranquility” of the official and judicial endorsement of the consolidation agreement for the purchase of Norwegian’s Argentine subsidiary, which will restart operations in December when the remodeling of the runways of the Jorge Newbery airport is completed.
Facing the return of domestic flights, JetSmart pondered the experience developed in the midst of the pandemic in Chile, which never completely cut off the commercial services within its borders.
In that country, the cabotage market is at 35 percent of the usual and, in the case of the airline low cost, operates at 15 to 20 percent of the pre-pandemic level (it flies on 18 of its 40 routes).
Ortiz highlighted the work with biosecurity protocols. “You can fly safely, the protocols have proven to be effective,” he said.
In Peru, where the company started the process to certify its subsidiary (it will start flying there in the second quarter of 2021), operations resumed on July 15, and Colombia would reactivate in line with Argentina.
Recovery will not be quick. We hope, at the end of the year, to be between 30 to 40 percent of the usual ”, added Ortiz. According to their projections, at the end of 2021 they will be around 80 to 85 percent and the full recovery will only appear in 2022.
“It is going to change the competitive environment in the region and it is an opportunity. We need to be proactive to look for markets where there are passengers and take the fleet there, “he added.
In addition to Peru, the firm began to probe Uruguay. But he clarified that he does not intend to affect the structure of Argentina. On the contrary, it confirmed that it began the procedures to add a fifth aircraft to its Airbus A320 fleet.
Regarding the departure from Latam, Ortiz considered that “it is not good news, because it helped connectivity”, but implies for JetSmart “a greater responsibility”, since it becomes the second operator in the country, although with a distance very large with Aerolineas Argentinas. In this framework, Pérez Corral contributed: “We believe that there is room for many more than one.”
The company announced that, under its JetSmart 2.0 Evolution program, it launched a new business unit: cargo services, which is why it works to certify them in Argentina and Chile.
On the commercial side, and within the framework of his fourth anniversary in the country, he applied an aggressive promotion. “From selling very little we go a long way, but they are low numbers in absolute terms,” Pérez Corral explained.
The tickets that are marketed between July 28 and August 31 have a wide flexibility, since customers can change their destination or date until December 31, 2021, without penalty or fare difference.
Among other details for the second phase of operations, the firm announced that in November it plans to incorporate new routes and that it plans to operate Bariloche-Córdoba from December 3, although it subjects this possibility to the evolution of the pandemic and the market.