Sol del Paraguay ready for launch

Sol del Paraguay ready for launch

Paraguay-based startup carrier Sol del Paraguay is "ready to launch flights", and is now waiting for authorities to issue an aircraft operating certificate for the Fokker 100.

Paraguay-based startup carrier Sol del Paraguay is "ready to launch flights", and is now waiting for authorities to issue an aircraft operating certificate.

In a conversation with ATI, Sol del Paraguay's Director General Flavio Nicolino says: "The first aircraft of five Fokker 100s is here and crews and employees have been hired and trained. We can start flying as soon as the DINAC [Paraguay's civil aviation authority] allows us to do so and confirms the [international] routes on which we can operate as a designated carrier".

However, he is careful about giving a formal launch date. "Until the government authorizes us to do so, I cannot make promises about when we will start flights and to which destinations we will be operating", he says.

Nicolino does not expect the wait to be long as the second aircraft will arrive "in about two weeks from now", while the three remaining aircraft will join the fleet "during the first months of 2011".

In its original business plan Sol had planned to operate Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft, but the airline finally opted for the Fokker 100 as it "has the right size for our markets and offers a fair balance between lower capital costs on the one hand, and maintenance and fuel burdens on the other hand".

He says that another factor has been the local availability of experienced Fokker 100 maintenance personnel, as TAM's local subsidiary TAM Mercosur has been operating until recently this aircraft out of its Asuncion base.

According to Nicolino, the first two F100s are ex-Mexicana aircraft while the remaining three will be "probably" ex-Air France ones. "We are actually a little bit delayed in our launch process because the Mexicana bankruptcy added some unexpected difficulties to get the authorisation from the bankruptcy judge to fly the aircraft out of Mexico."

Despite declining to make formal route announcements, he confirms that "it makes perfect sense to start with the two most important markets [from Asuncion], Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo".

But once Sol's initial fleet has been completed in 2011, the carrier plans to run "a regional hub, benefitting from Asuncion's very central location in the middle of the Mercosur's most important business centres". This could include routes to a number of major and medium sized cities in Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay and Chile.

In the long term, Sol sees itself as providing "high quality regional connectivity" in the Mercosur region, a vision it shares with Uruguay's Pluna, which also requires a large proportion of connecting traffic to sustain a successful growth strategy because of its limited local traffic potential.

Asked about Pluna's plans unveiled in April of this year to establish its own subsidiary in Paraguay to operate Bombardier CRJ200s, Nicolino says that "he is unaware of any new airline certification process in Paraguay related with Pluna".

"I really don't see that 50-seat jets could be operated successfully in the Paraguayan market", he adds.

He insists that Sol del Paraguay is "the only really Paraguayan airline" and while he shows respect for TAM's "excellent operation", he believes that they are fully focussed on Brazil, leaving many local opportunities. "They are very professional. We are happy competing with them", he says.

Sol is owned by the Koropenski family, which has interests in a number of ground transport, hotel, tour operator and financial service businesses both in Paraguay and in Argentina.

"We are already very experienced in the long distance bus business where we have successfully introduced new international premium services over the last years", Nicolino concludes. "We are prepared both financially and operationally to become a leading regional carrier in South America."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news