After weeks of confrontation with the Argentinian government, low-cost carrier Flybondi agreed to move out of El Palomar International Airport in Buenos Aires. Now, it will transfer to Ezeiza International Airport, the main hub of Argentina. But why was Flybondi operating in El Palomar in the first place? And, why it didn’t want to leave?
Where’s El Palomar?
Buenos Aires has three main airports: Ezeiza International Airport, Jorge Newbery Airfield, and El Palomar International Airport. Historically, the first two served as commercial airports, while El Palomar was a military airbase. It was built in 1910.
Ezeiza is outside Buenos Aires; Jorge Newbery Airfield is next to the River Plate (but also next to the city). Meanwhile, El Palomar is surrounded by several Buenos Aires’ neighborhoods, as the city has had a sizeable urban growth in the last decades. This urbanization led many to believe that El Palomar shouldn’t have been a commercial airport.
Despite that, the former president Mauricio Macri allowed el Palomar to operate commercial flights in January 2018. The first flight, operated by none other than Flybondi, inaugurated the “low-cost” experience in Argentina.
The Jorge Newbery Airfield and El Palomar served mainly as domestic airports, while Ezeiza operated international flights. In 2019, the airfield received more than 11 million domestic passengers and was the most important domestic hub in Argentina. Meanwhile, El Palomar was the fourth most important, receiving nearly 1.5 million passengers.
Only four airlines operated from El Palomar: Flybondi, JetSMART Chile, JetSMART Argentina, and Sky Airline. All of them are low-cost. But now, that’s over.
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Why Argentina kicked everyone out of El Palomar
Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Argentinian government decided to shut down Jorge Newbery Airfield and El Palomar. Jorge Newbery is closed because it has infrastructure renovations going on. But El Palomar’s closing is more permanent.
A group of El Palomar neighbors launched a campaign called Stop Flybondi. This campaign was aimed to stop commercial operations from the airport. They claimed that the airplanes created a more than tolerable level of noise pollution.
Even though these neighbors seem to be a minority, the new Argentinian government agreed with them.
The COVID-19 pandemic presented the perfect opportunity to shut down El Palomar. The government first kicked out JetSMART, which decided to operate from Ezeiza going forward. Even though Flybondi shrunk from five to two airplanes, it decided to take a stand for a few months.
On October 25, Flybondi published a statement called El Palomar o nada. Here, the airline explained that it wouldn’t leave El Palomar Airport.
The low-cost carrier said that the government arguments were malicious and showed a lack of coordination. Flybondi added that the passengers and workers would be affected by Argentina’s decision.
Esteban Tossutti, Flybondi’s CEO, said,
“Flying from Ezeiza is not a commercially viable option for Flybondi or our passengers. The government authorities and regulatory organizations are aware of this reality. Their decision shows little respect towards the passengers that bought tickets to fly from El Palomar.”
Despite that, Flybondi’s stand didn’t last more than two months. Now the airline finally agreed to move to Ezeiza. It will start flying from this airport on December 12, according to local newspapers. Simple Flying reached Flybondi for comment. At the time of publication, we haven’t received an answer.
Did you ever travel from El Palomar? How was it? What do you think of this controversy? Let us know in the comments.