Aerolineas Argentinas Aims to be Worst Airline Ever

Have you seen what’s been going on with Aerolineas Argentinas lately? I hadn’t, actually, until a reader brought it to my attention. Aerolineas Argentinas Worst Airline In TrainingThough Alitalia is still the worst airline ever, it appears that Aerolineas Argentinas is jockeying to be next in line.

Let’s start with a brief timeline.

2001: Aerolineas Argentinas is bankrupt; Spanish firm Grupo Marsans picks them up
2002-2007: All hell breaks loose
2008: The government decides to take the airline back into its own hands

That explains it all, right? Ok, maybe not. All sorts of charges have been thrown against Grupo Marsans (read reply #6). On one hand, there have been some very questionable decisions. How about the brilliant move to order A380s for the airline? Yeah, not so brilliant, right? Like there’s any need for an airplane that big on any route out of Buenos Aires . . . .

But that’s likely just the tip of the iceberg here. The allegations that Marsans was effectively manipulating Aerolineas Argentinas to benefit its Air Comet subsidiary sounds like shades of Frank Lorenzo’s Texas Air’s handling of Eastern Airlines.

Of course, to truly compete for worst airline ever, you have to have some serious labor strife. Don’t worry about that one, because these guys have been striking on a regular basis. (I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising, especially with the news that the company is falling behind on salaries.)

So far, we have all the ingredients for a strong candidate for worst airline ever except for one . . . government interference. But wait, we have that as well! Since it’s not illegal like it is in the EU, it’s not nearly as much fun as watching the Italian government, but hey, it’s still pretty good.

Earlier this year, the government struck a deal with Marsans to reduce its stake from 95% to 35%. The government will take 20%. Um, ok. But apparently that’s not enough. They’ve also forced state-regulated fare levels. At least they also subsidize oil, I guess. But somehow they’ve still lost $100m this year.

Where is this leading? A full nationalization, of course. The government has now asked the courts for an administrator to take over the airline, and a takeover is being negotiated

So let me get this straight. The airline already has fixed fares, subsidized fuel, and they can’t make money? I’m sure the government will be able to straighten this one out. Yikes. Marsans really isn’t happy, but maybe they should be. This sounds like a no-win situation.

For the people of Argentina, the best they can hope for here is that their country follows in the footsteps of Ecuador and Peru . . . let LAN expand significantly and run a real airline that serves the country well.


16 Responses to Aerolineas Argentinas Aims to be Worst Airline Ever

  1. Jackson McQuigg says:

    I’m with you, Cranky. Argentina and its airline passengers certainly deserve better.

    Things may actually be improving, though. It couldn’t get any worse than it was in January, when Aerolineas Argentinas passengers rioted at Ezeiza airport, smashing ticket counters and computers.

    The cause? A strike grounded flights and stranded passengers.

    Here is the video from EuroNews (at YouTube):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXPPG2zR-dQ

    In January, I traveled on Aerolineas Argentinas and checked in at these very ticket counters. I missed the riot by 10 days.

    Let’s hope that Aerolineas Argentinas mends its ways or that someone else takes over!

  2. bryan in san francisco says:

    I liked the abridged timeline, CF, good summary.

    I saw on Slate today a reaction to that United Airlines spam email we got over the weekend: http://www.slate.com/id/2195178/

  3. Diego says:

    Being from Argentina, and a frequent flyer, what you have said is nothing really compared to what people suffer here EVERY DAY. Aerolíneas is the only airline to fly to some cities, whereas LAN only flies the best routes. Rescheduled flights, cancelled flights, fly to Europe or USA without IFE (at all). United economy is like Virgin Atlantic´s upper class when compared to Aerolíneas!!
    I am sure that transferring the airline to the Argentine government will make things…well they can´t be worse really…the government in my modest opinion can not handle AR at all. In any case, you will find more info in the local English newspaper http://www.buenosairesherald.com/

  4. Dan says:

    Heh, I did some flying in Argentina last fall (from El Calafate to Buenos Aires). After hearing horror stories from other travelers on Aerolineas was so glad I took LAN Argentina even with only one daily flight from FTE to AEP.

  5. Luis Babicek says:

    Like there’s any need for an airplane that big on any route out of Buenos Aires . . . .

    Actually Brett, the Buenos Aires- Madrid. With up to 7 flights a day, (AR, IB, Air Comet and Spanair). And Iberia “plan director” (master plan) calls for 5 daily flights – on their metal alone – by 2012. Argentina and Spain have open skies, btw.

    Now, whether or not AR can digest a bunch of 380s right now… But of course, that so-called Marsans order never really materialized – part of their delusions of grandeur. Now Marsans and AR – can blame each other. This one will get very interesting!

  6. dan powers says:

    Well…its not that simple..you must first look at the history of argentina…and the airlines there too. Basically the medeling the gov’t has over the business. AR flies to cities where at 100% load factor the flight looses money..why? because the gov’t imposes fare structure. Argentina needs re-regulation for airlines, but NOT gov’t owned airlines…look at the days back when AUSTRAL was it’s own company and competed with AR, it was a great airline.

  7. Ernesto says:

    Unfortunately, your timeline is too short. The story of AR is much longer, and has even been worse.
    In a nutshell:
    AR was state owned until the 90’s (since 1929, then called Aeroposta).
    During the 80’s proposal to sell 49% to SAS was rejected by peronist oposition (privatizing AR was like selling your mother!).
    During the 90’s (1990), the now governing peronists would give away AR to Iberia (at that time, also state owned, just a different country, with more bribing power). Iberia would pay for AR by selling the AR fleet and leasing it back (!!!).
    Still during the 90’s (1998), American Airlines buys a controlling stake. Imposes it’s reservation system (SABRE), which AR buys extremely expensively. After this, AA retires from AR and IB gets back in control. AR buys IB’s reservation system (Amadeus). This process costs the company millions!!!
    AR collapses under IB’s management.
    It goes briefly back to the state before it is bought by Marsans (2001).
    You already told the rest of the story…

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  9. Axel Sarkissian says:

    I just met a friend from Aregentina, and he said that Aerolineas is terrible. I hav personally never flown Aerolineas(AND I HOPE THAT I NEVER WILL!!!!!)

  10. Ernesto says:

    According to the local press (www.clarin.com.ar) the Argentinian government has just announced the re-nationalization of AR. My personal amateur translation:
    The Secretary of Transport has announced in a joint press conference with the 5 trade unions involved and representatives of the Marsans group, that a document will be signed agreeing on the buyout of the airline from the Spanish group. There will be a 60 day transition period to define details of the operation.

  11. jonatan says:

    as a former AR employee
    i have to say that AR has a grate potential
    inspite all the porblem with the spanish and argentinian goverment
    we as agentinians have a lot to be proud of our national carrier
    though there is much to imporve,
    AR maneged some how to keep flying in verry dificult times

  12. Alexis says:

    Years ago, the only option to fly to CRD was Aerolineas. Last year they cancelled me the flight and lost my luggage in only 2 hours in AEP!!!!
    Thank god, Lan now has daily flights to CRD and I hope I’ll never have to flight in AR.

  13. PJ says:

    They can’t make a profit because I have seen nothing that they do that shows they actually want to take people’s money!!! I have been trying to pay for a ticket for 3 days and nobody seems to want my money!!! The online payment system doesn’t work, and now I can’t get through to their call center!!

  14. KretinaKK says:

    I was an employee of Aerolineas Argentinas for nearly 10 years. I no longer work for them anymore. I can tell you that this airline is one of the most poorly run and dangerous companies to work for in the world. Everything gets stolen, the mechanics tools, the equipment, the passengers luggage, every piece of luggage gets opened and anything of value will be stolen. The government has their political group “La Cámpora” running the airline of Aerolineas Argentinas. They have made this airline run at a defecit for millions of dollars and they take anything that can be stolen, computers, office supplies, safety equipment, someone was even stealing the fire extinguishers from the aireplanes and selling them for $30 dollars each! Any employee who complains about corruption they get threatened and fired, they go to your house and break the windows and scratch your car from one end to the other for speaking up about the corruption. There are no safety standards you are risking your life flying this airline, there are some countries that will not allow Aerolineas Argentinas to fly their planes in to their airports because the airplanes have no safety and maintenance records. The international community must get involved. The government of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, have stolen everything and corrupted this company and people in the air and people’s on the ground life is at risk. AVOID AEROLINEAS ARGENTINAS YOU CAN BE KILLED BY THEIR OLD UNSAFE UNMAINTAINED AIRPLANES!!

  15. Raymond says:

    I returned home from Brazil 12 months ago in a 30-year-old Aerolineas plane. 3 hour delay at Sao Paulo, 8-hour delay at Buenos Aires. No notifications, stranded, planeload of people trying to sleep in their backs at airport, staff ignoring requests for information or departure times or reasons for delay. The arrogance and disinterest of pilots and flight staff departing the airport was unbelievable! They have no pride in their national carrier – only in their national soccer team! Finally rapidly-spoken requests in Spanish for people to get a coffee and bun in canteen. 3-hour delay in Auckland because navigation system found faulty and needing rebooting. I complained that someone was clearly smoking, only to discover that the hostess herself stunk with tobacco and it was HER who had been smoking! I had to fetch water for passengers at Auckland because the flight attendants had disappeared for 2 hours and some older passengers were dehydrating. They never delivered special meals as requested. The flight attendant angrily told one girl that it was ‘her fault’ that her meal was not on the plane. I will always pay a little extra and fly Lan Chile because they have lifted their game in recent years and are trying hard to impress with service. I will NEVER NEVER NEVER fly AA again to South America. I have also spoken to Flight Centre staff here in Australia and suggested they disassociate themselves from AA to highlight the poor service they may exposing their customers to if they book them flights with AA.

  16. kim says:

    Last month, my brother and I had to fly from Buenos-Aires to Ushuaia with Aerolineas to board a cruise to Antarctica. We bought our ticket a couple of months prior to the flight. At B-Aires checkin desk the staff told us they do not see our seat (although we had tickets in our hands) and that we should complain to our agency in Europe. I told them we had to have a seat on a plane as we had our cruise ship living at 5pm and we paid 20’000 USD for this Antartica cruise but the guy just told us that there was nothing he could do. Finally i did give 2’000 USD to a random passenger to buy his ticket so i could board that plane in last minute. The airline at no point helped me for whatsoever. I am very disappointed about the airline and the people in general. Never i will go back to Argentina. But i recommend to everyone for Antarctica!

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