Buenos Aires Times

argentina AMID TENSION

Low-cost FlyBondi granted unlimited flights from disputed El Palomar airport

The court's decision is a blow to El Palomar residents, who claim the airport is not fit for high-volume commercial air travel.

Thursday 12 April, 2018
FlyBondi passengers queue to board a flight departing El Palomar Airport in Greater Buenos Aires.
FlyBondi passengers queue to board a flight departing El Palomar Airport in Greater Buenos Aires. Foto:FlyBondi

A court in the city of Morón has lifted an injunction prohibiting the low-cost carrier FlyBondi from operating more than three flights per day from the disputed El Palomar airport in Great Buenos Aires.

The decision to clear FlyBondi to operate an unlimited number of daily flights is a blow to El Palomar residents, who claim the airport is unfit for high-volume commercial air travel. 

“At this moment, there is no signficant acoustic impact”, judge Néstor Barral said in his ruling, adding that in regard to “gas emissions… no results were produced that exceed normal limits”.

The injunction had caused headaches for the low-cost carrier, which shares the airstrip with Argentina's Air Force. The restrictions had meant that if an Air Force plane landed at El Palomar, FlyBondi's third and final flight for the day would have to be diverted to another airport or delayed until past midnight.

DISPUTE

However, the troubled arrival of FlyBondi to the local economy is set to continue causing tensions among residents, political groups and the national government, which has big expectations for the low-cost tourism sector. 

Residents argue that FlyBondi’s operations from the airport are illegitimate because an environmental impact study remains incomplete. They also express fears about the safety of residents given that on at least three occasion the low-cost carrier’s flights have been diverted because the airport was deemed unsafe due to weather conditions.

“Barral’s decision is of the upmost illegality… given that, despite the injunction, to this day the Environmental Impact Assessment procedure remains incomplete”, a lawyer representing residents, Lucas Marisi, told Página 12. He confirmed the community would appeal the decision.

Supporters of the airport, meanwhile, claim that opposition political groups in the community are intent on stymieing the project in order to embarrass the government and local authorities.

BIG EXPECTATIONS

According to a 2015 report by the national Tourism Ministry, low-cost tourism represents 3.8 percent of Argentina’s GDP. This reaches around seven percent when factoring in indirectly derived economic activity.

The InverTur consultancy firm told the Times last month that ongoing changes in the air travel market could create 300,000 new jobs by 2020 and increase the total number of domestic tourists from the current 6.6 million to nine million.

“For the first time in 12 years, Argentina has incorporated two new airlines, which are Fly Bondi and Avian, both low-cost. By the end of the year, Norwegian will also be operating (domestically),” Transport Minister Guillermo Dietrich has said. He emphasised that under Macri’s leadership Argentina has authorised 129 new air routes.

Ramiro Alem from InverTur agrees, saying low-cost companies will play a key role in increasing the number of domestic tourists. “A trip to Ushuaia costs 10,000 pesos while in Europe a similar journey costs 100 euros,” he noted.

Consultant Santiago García Rúa explained that a country like Argentina, which is far from most of the world’s major cities, “must be attractive in terms of prices.”

Read also: The sectors behind Macri’s economic hopes

-TIMES

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