by Ken Parks
Delta Air Lines (DAL) and Argentina’s flagship carrier, state-run Aerolineas Argentinas, on Thursday signed code-sharing and frequent-flier agreements.
Code sharing is set to take effect in the fourth quarter and covers flights connecting Miami and Atlanta to Buenos Aires, as well as service to 14 U.S. destinations, eight domestic destinations in Argentina, three flights to Canada and flights to Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Codeshare flights allow passengers to buy tickets on one or more carriers from a single point of sale, offering greater access to another airline’s network, the companies said in a joint statement.
“This new agreement with Aerolineas Argentinas is key to our strategy, and will help us solidify and expand our network to, from and within Argentina and will allow us to provide service to all countries in the Southern Cone,” Delta President Ed Bastian said.
Starting in 2012, the airlines will also offer reciprocal benefits for their frequent fliers that include accrual and redemption of miles.
Aerolineas Argentinas is expected to join the SkyTeam global alliance in 2012, which will allow the carriers to provide additional customer benefits.
Aerolineas Argentinas flies to 19 international destinations and services 33 domestic destinations through its Austral Lineas Aereas subsidiary.
The SkyTeam alliance includes 14 carriers and more than 900 destinations in 169 countries, Bastian said at a press conference.
Returning to the alliance has been an important goal for Aerolineas, which under private ownership in previous decades earned a reputation for poor customer service, delayed or cancelled flights and failure to pay international organizations. Aerolineas was previously kicked out of the alliance for failing to pay a debt to it.
Argentina’s government expropriated Aerolineas about two-and-a-half years ago from Spain’s Grupo Marsans, saying Marsans had driven it into the ground while degrading its service.
Since then, the state has invested heavily in the company.
Aerolineas has added domestic and international routes and agreed to buy around 20 new Embraer SA (ERJ) planes and operate another 10 from Boeing Co. (BA), Bastian said.
The company still faces challenges, including powerful and influential labor unions, an excessively large workforce, adverse global economic circumstances and high fuel costs.
But Bastian praised the company and its executives, including Aerolineas President Mariano Recalde.
“We trust Aerolineas Argentinas and believe in the reorganization plan Mr. Recalde is carrying out. Aerolineas is meeting its objectives,” Bastian said. “Aerolineas is well underway with its plan and is fulfilling its commitments.”