Javier Milei said he is going to hand over the management of Aerolíneas Argentinas "to its employees" and said he wants the commercial aviation market to be based on an "open skies" policy.
Speaking to Radio Rivadavia, Milei said: "Our idea is to hand it over to the employees and let them do the cleaning themselves and start competing in an open skies policy."
He added: "Airlines personnel are highly qualified personnel, the problem lies in political contamination."
More than a reference to the market, in which Aerolineas has been ceding part of its share over the last eight years, Milei's reference is mainly a statement against the aeronautical unions, which manage the springs of the state airline from both outside and from within.
For the aeronautical unions, a government that speaks of "open skies" is formulating a declaration of war on them. And it transfers to them the responsibility of transforming Aerolíneas into a profitable company, which has practically never been possible in its entire history. In the last fifteen years alone, it has received subsidies of more than 8,000 million dollars.
What Milei is now promising is that the state will let go of their hand. It is a situation that the unions are directly unaware of: even during the almost 18 years (1990-2008) in which Aerolíneas was privatized, its owners (Iberia, American Airlines, the Spanish State and the private group Marsans) took charge of the financial debt that the company was accumulating from time to time.
Who is going to handle commercial aviation policy from December 10? So far, Milei has given only one reference, which is that of a super ministry of infrastructure, including aerocommercial policy, where he would place former KPMG Guillermo Ferraro.
Milei also spoke highly of Guillermo Dietrich, Mauricio Macri's former transport minister who opened the doors of the domestic market to airlines Flybondi and JetSmart.
Five years after that opening, the two low-cost airlines of U.S. capital already handle more than 30% of the cabotage market. Even during the four years of the current government, Aerolíneas ceded market share to Flybondi and JetSmart.
But in the world of commercial aviation they also refer to the fact that Dietrich played for Horacio Rodríguez Larreta within the PRO internal team. "We have to see what Macri thinks (about Dietrich) after he played for Larreta," said a source in the sector.
Aerolíneas Argentinas is a record company for the multimillion-dollar amount of subsidies it has received since its renationalization in 2008, equivalent to more than 8,000 million dollars that were destined almost exclusively to cover its operating losses.
Very little of that money was allocated to investments such as the fleet, of which Aerolineas owns only about 30 of its 80 aircraft, which in turn are the ones with the lowest valuation (the Embraer 190 and two Boeing 737-700s).
But currently, the subsidies received by Aerolíneas are smaller. This year its losses would be around $200 million, which is a significant figure but lower than the $700 million it asked the state for in 2020, or the average of more than $600 million a year in subsidies it received during the years after 2008.
Most of the management of Aerolíneas since its renationalization was in the hands of the La Cámpora group. He managed it during six of the eight years of Cristina Fernández's governments, with Mariano Recalde (2009-2015) and in the last four years he returned to hold the reins of the state airline with Pablo Ceriani as president and with Recalde himself, now a national senator, as de facto director of the commercial aviation policy as a whole.
But in addition to La Cámpora, in Aerolíneas the permanent power factor is the aeronautical unions. Aerolíneas has another record, which is the number of unions with which it must negotiate absolutely everything: from wage parity to its own policy as a company.
In Airlines, the Association of Airline Pilots (APLA), the Association of Aeronautical Technical Personnel (APTA), the Association of Aeronautical Personnel (APA, porters), the Association of Airmen (AAA, on-board crew) and the Union of Senior Personnel (UPSA) are in the category.
The unions manage complete management within Aerolíneas and at the same time condition the company from the outside, with measures of force that range from the strikes that they made to the Macri government (where there was a measure of force every 15 days) to the more disguised format of "assemblies" that they carried out, especially during the K governments.
The unions base a large part of this strength on the privileged position that Aerolíneas has as a "flag carrier", despite the fact that it is a public limited company in the hands of the State and, therefore, it is subject to the general provisions of the law: it must present balance sheets and is subject to the rules of the General Inspectorate of Justice (IGJ).
On the other hand, an "open skies" policy such as the one now proposed by Milei forces Aerolíneas to compete on an equal footing with other airlines. And mainly, it proposes a declaration of principles to the unions, which propose that Aerolíneas is part of the "sovereignty" of the country, in contrast to the "surrender" that an open skies policy would entail.