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Old October 24th, 2005, 08:00 AM   #121
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Varig rescue plan to be presented today
By JONATHAN WHEATLEY
24 October 2005
Financial Times

A last-minute rescue package for Varig, the indebted Brazilian airline, is expected to be presented to a New York bankruptcy court today by Brazil's government-owned development bank, Portuguese airline TAP and Matlin-Patterson, a US distressed equity fund.

Varig, under bankruptcy protection in Brazil from creditors owed about Dollars 3.3bn, is fighting to retain 20 aircraft that leasing companies have threatened to sequester after the airline failed to make payments of about Dollars 62m. Fifteen of its 76 aircraft are grounded for lack of maintenance. The court has given Varig until November 11 to present plans to meet its short-term debts with leasing groups.

The development bank, known as the BNDES stepped in last week, reportedly after President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva insisted to ministers that Varig should not be allowed to collapse. The BNDES offered to provide the Dollars 62m needed in the short term in finance for a special purpose company that would be established by private investors to buy Varig's cargo company,VarigLog, and its aircraft maintenance company, VEM.

Under the BNDES plan, the SPC would buy two-thirds of the shares in Varig-Log and VEM. Following due diligence, the BNDES may provide additional finance to meet the full purchase price, should it exceed Dollars 62m. Both TAP and Matlin-Patterson, separately, have expressed interest in taking part and will join the BNDES at the bankruptcy court today.

Mr Lula da Silva's decision that the BNDES should intervene reportedly overruled the finance ministry and senior executives at the BNDES, who were willing to leave Varig's future in the hands of the market.

Those who opposed the plan reportedly argued there was little guarantee that the BNDES would be repaid, and that the plan would set a precedent. Vasp and Transbrasil, long-time competitors of Varig's, have stopped flying after failing to reach agreement with creditors.

Varig has announced that 1,500 of its 12,000 staff would be cut as part of a plan to reduce expenditure by Dollars 168m a year and increase revenues by Dollars 307m from the current Dollars 2.2bn. The plan involves creating a "new" Varig to operate Varig's airline services, leaving an "old" Varig with the company's assets and liabilities. The new Varig would pay the old company for use of the Varig name and for use of aircraft and other assets.
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Old October 25th, 2005, 05:47 AM   #122
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Chile Lan Airlines Seen Posting Sharp Fall In 3Q Net Pft
By Patricia San Juan
24 October 2005

SANTIAGO (Dow Jones)--Surging fuel costs are expected to have driven third-quarter net profit sharply lower on the year at Chilean airline Lan SA (LFL).

According to a Dow Jones Newswires survey of six analysts, the country's top carrier likely earned a third-quarter net profit of $21.2 million, down 41.8% from $36.4 million in the same period last year, despite higher sales.

Net profit estimates ranged from $20.0 million to $21.8 million.

"The rise in fuel costs basically explains the fall in profit," said Rodrigo Martin, an analyst at Santander Investment.

Last week, Chief Executive Enrique Cueto said the surge in international oil prices will raise Lan's fuel costs by some $150 million this year.

According to the carrier, fuel costs represented 22% of its total costs in 2004. In the first half of this year, that rose to 25%, or $279 million.

The company said it spent $84 million more for fuel in the first half of 2005 compared with the same period in 2004.

It has begun charging $10-$50 distance-based surcharges on flights to mitigate the blow, but the price of fuel will continue to pose the principal risk to the company's earnings, said analysts. Cueto himself has said the measure won't offset the cost increase.

The airline is one of the largest in the region, with units in Chile, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. It also is the largest cargo carrier in Latin America.

On June 8, it launched its Argentine unit, whose operations will begin to contribute to company earnings in the coming quarters, analysts said.

Still, the jump in fuel costs outpaced improved sales, they said.

Lan's sales likely rose 15.4% to $610.0 million from $528.8 million in the third quarter of 2004, boosted largely by the rise in international passenger and cargo traffic, the analysts said. Their estimates for sales ranged between $596.0 million and $620 million.

Healthier regional economies led to rising numbers of passengers and freight, along with the depreciation of the dollar against local currencies that spurred cross-border travel, according to analysts.

Lan's passenger traffic rose 32.3% on the year in the first nine months on the back of a 36.9% increase in international travel, it reported early this month.

Cargo traffic rose 21.0% overall, also outpaced by cross-border traffic, which increased 21.1% on the year in the January-September period.

The company must report its third-quarter and nine-month results by Oct. 30.
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Old October 25th, 2005, 03:24 PM   #123
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Portugal Airline TAP Eyes Help For Brazil's Varig -Report
25 October 2005

SAO PAULO (Dow Jones)--Portugal's state-owned TAP Air Portugal (TPA.YY) airline made a proposal to invest up to $500 million to restructure Brazilian flagship carrier Varig (VAGV4.BR), financial daily Valor Economico reported in its Tuesday edition.

TAP's proposal was made through a bankruptcy court in New York, the newspaper said.

Varig, which filed for bankruptcy in June, has struggled under the weight of a 7.7 billion Brazilian reals ($3.4 billion) debt load. The company has said BRL4.5 billion of the total is owed to the government as tax and social-security arrears.

TAP said that it wants to participate in a recovery plan launched recently by Brazil's National Development Bank, or BNDES.

Under the plan, BNDES told potential investors it was willing to provide credit to buyers of certain Varig assets. BNDES said it would provide a special credit line to buyers of Varig subsidiaries VarigLog and VEM.

According to BNDES, Varig needs the equivalent of $62 million in the short term to maintain operations through 90 days of due-diligence by accountants. The BNDES said the sale of Varig's cargo and maintenance assets would help in meeting such financial needs.

Along with TAP and BNDES, other groups have made proposals designed to save the airline, including Varig's current management, the airline's pilots union and local investor Nelson Tanure.

In addition to the heavy debt load, Varig also is suffering from a lack of maintenance on its jet fleet. The maintenance woes could result in almost half of Varig's aircraft being grounded soon, according to local press reports.

Furthermore, Varig in September lost its grip on second place in Brazilian market share to low-cost rival Gol Linhas Aereas SA (GOL), according to official figures.
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Old October 29th, 2005, 06:00 AM   #124
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Brazil's TAM Air Seeks Authorization For London Flights
28 October 2005

SAO PAULO (Dow Jones)--Brazilian airline TAM (TAMM4.BR), the country's largest domestic airline, has asked for authorization to operate flights to London, the company said Friday in a statement.

TAM said the company has asked permission from both domestic and international agencies. The company did not offer a timetable for obtaining authorization.

The company recently announced the start of flights to New York.

In September, according to Brazil's Civil Aviation Department, TAM maintained its leadership in the Brazilian market with a market share of 43.2%, while traditional flag carrier Varig lost its second-rank position to no-frills operator Gol Linhas Aereas (GOL).
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Old October 30th, 2005, 03:34 AM   #125
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Airplane carrying the remains of 145 jet crash victims arrives in Martinique
By HERVE BRIVAL
29 October 2005

FORT-DE-FRANCE, Martinique (AP) - An Air France cargo airplane returned the remains of 145 plane crash victims to Martinique on Saturday, more than two months after their jet crashed in a remote part of Venezuela.

The victims had been on vacation in Panama and were returning home to Martinique on Aug. 16 when their jet crashed. All 152 passengers and the eight-member Colombian crew were killed. The victims' remains had been kept in Venezuela, while authorities tried to confirm their identities.

A crowd of about 100 relatives and dignitaries waited on the tarmac at the Lamentin Airport in the capital, Fort-de-France, as the plane taxied to a stop.

All 145 coffins were unloaded and then grouped and arranged by family and by village. Four sets of remains were still in Venezuela because they have not yet been identified.

The ceremony consisted of a brief moment of silence, there were no speeches, and the victims awaiting identification in Venezuela, were represented by their photos.

After the ceremony, France's Minister of Overseas Departments, Francois Baroin, spoke with family members as they stood near the coffins of their loved ones. He declined comment to the press.

One of the relatives, Christian Cabrera, 45, lost his brother and sister-in-law in the accident.

"I thought I was strong but when I saw the coffins, I burst into tears," he said. "I think of my parents who are waiting for the remains."

As the funeral procession made its way out of the airport, a line of 145 hearses and several cars carrying family members, people on the side of the road bowed their heads in respect as they drove by.

Maurice Antiste, mayor of the village of Francois where many of the victims were from, lost his brother, a sister, his niece and his sister in law in the crash.

"This is not easy for me, but I must be strong for the rest of my family and for the people of Francois who lost so many relatives in this crash," he said.

France's ambassador to Venezuela, Pierre-Jean Vandoorne, called the crash the "most painful" tragedy in the history of Martinique.

Shortly before the plane went down, the pilot had radioed authorities to report that both engines on the McDonnell Douglas MD-82 had failed.

The jet plunged to the ground in a remote area south of Maracaibo, shattering much of the fuselage and making the identification of victims particularly difficult, officials said.

Martinique is a department of France, and French and Venezuelan experts were continuing to investigate what caused the crash. The results of examinations of the plane's flight date and voice recorders could be made public in one month.
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Old October 31st, 2005, 11:16 PM   #126
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Peru Air Traffic Controllers Threaten Partial Strike
31 October 2005

LIMA (AP)--Commercial air traffic controllers threatened Monday to begin a partial strike over equipment maintenance, owed back wages and other grievances, as aviation authorities said air force controllers would step in to prevent any disruption of flights.

Dante Samaniego, secretary general of the Unified Air Traffic Controllers of Peru, told The Associated Press that by law his 170-member union was prevented from staging a total walkout.

But he said if demands were not met by 11 p.m. local time (0400 GMT), controllers would indefinitely reduce their numbers in control towers and flight centers from 36 per eight-hour shift to a mandated minimum of 22 at Peru's 17 airports.

Betty Maldonado, a spokeswoman for Peru's aviation authority, CORPAC, told AP that "all precautions had been taken to ensure that service will not be affected."

A contingency plan was in place for Peruvian Air Force controllers to "reinforce" air traffic controls, she said.

The air traffic controllers said in a statement that revenue from the concession of Lima's Jorge Chavez international airport had not been used to adequately "maintain, upgrade, change and install new equipment" on a national level.

The statement cited a "gradual deterioration of aviation infrastructure and airports."

"I wouldn't say it is dangerous, but there is a need for immediate attention because the problem is mounting and it can become dangerous," Samaniego said.

The controllers also are demanding back pay they say is owed them from 1997 through 2003 and the rehiring of a union employee they claim was unfairly fired more than a year ago.

"We have exhausted all means to resolve these problems," Samaniego said. "We are still waiting for any information, any invitation from (CORPAC) to sit down for talks and find a solution."
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Old November 2nd, 2005, 12:53 AM   #127
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Brazil's Varig Accepts TAP Partnership Proposal
1 November 2005

SAO PAULO (Dow Jones)--Brazil's embattled flagship airline, Viacao Aerea Rio-Grandense, or Varig, (VAGV4.BR) chose to accept a proposal by TAP Air Portugal (TPA.YY) to be its partner in the first stage of the restructuring of the debt-ridden company, Varig said in a press statement issued late Tuesday.

Varig will now send the proposal to the Brazilian National Development Bank for approval.

TAP will deposit $62 million into the accounts of leasing firms to avoid the repossession of 20 to 40 Varig airplanes, thus giving Varig time to restructure the rest of the company's debt, according to the statement.

Varig filed for bankruptcy in July under the weight of approximately 7.7 billion Brazilian reals ($3.4 billion) in debts. The company said TAP undertook to make the deposit before the Nov.9 deadline set by a New York bankruptcy court to conclude negotiations.

Last week, Varig invited investment proposals from six firms that showed interest in the debt-saddled airline: TAP Air Portugal (TPA.YY), Brazil's Docas Investimentos S/A, U.S. investment fund Matlin Patterson, Brazil's Ocean Air, a consortium of Varig employees and French maintenance group ATS. According to local media reports, Docas and the Varig employee consortium have dropped out.

Under a restructuring plan proposed by the BNDES last week, the new partner would take over Varig's profitable logistics and maintenance subsidiaries, VarigLog and Varig Engenharia e Manutencao, in return for making the $62 million deposit. The government bank would then fund the purchase. However, Varig did not say if the TAP proposal involved buying the subsidies.

According to the Varig statement, the Rubem Berta foundation, which owns 56% of the company, chose to accept the Portuguese offer during a meeting on Tuesday afternoon, making the decision unanimous among Varig's board of directors.

TAP also reiterated its interest in taking part in the rest of the restructuring of Varig, and is willing to invest up to $500 million to put the company back on its feet, Varig said.
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Old November 2nd, 2005, 12:54 AM   #128
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Brazil Airline Gol Seeks Expansion Amid Record Profits
1 November 2005

SAO PAULO (Dow Jones)--Positive third-quarter results have emboldened Brazil's low-cost airline, Gol Linhas Intelligentes SA (GOL), to pursue aggressive expansion plans over the next couple of years, company officials said Tuesday.

The new focus for the no-frills airline will be international routes in Latin America, with new flights scheduled from Sao Paulo to Santa Cruz, Bolivia in November, and to Assuncion and Montevideo over the next year.

"Our plan is to offer the same quality, low cost service abroad, while continuing to expand at home," said Constantino de Oliveira Jr., Gol's president, during a conference call Tuesday.

To attend the new markets, the airline plans to add 12 new Boeing 737 airplanes to the fleet in 2006, taking the total number of aircraft to 54 from a forecast 42 at the end of this year. This will lead to a 45% increase in available seat-kilometers.

Not only will there be more planes, they will be of greater capacity. The company will take four Boeing 737-300s, with a maximum capacity of about 149 seats, out of commission and bring in 12 Boeing 737-800s, with a capacity of about 189 seats.

The larger planes will afford major cost savings, not only because of economies of scale but also because they will be able fly longer routes, said Richard Lark, Gol's financial vice president.

Meanwhile, a reduction in the average age of the company's fleet, which is projected to fall to 4.8 years by 2007 from the current level of 8.5 years, will cause a dip in maintenance costs, he added. Maintenance costs will also be cut with the opening of Gol's own maintenance plant in the Minas Gerais state next year.

As a result, Gol forecasts it will be able to lower costs per available seat-kilometer by 4% next year.

"These cost cuts will allow us to continue our policy of cutting prices and generating demand for flights from people who aren't accustomed to flying," said Oliveira.

He forecasts that net revenues for 2006 will rise to about 4 billion Brazilian reals ($1.78 billion) from an estimated BRL2.8 billion to BRL3 billion this year.

Late Monday, Gol reported record net profits of BRL138.2 million, up 42.6% on the same quarter last year and well above market expectations. Investors reacted quickly to the news, with Gol preferred shares up 6.0% on the day at BRL41.57 on the local Bovespa market at 1700 GMT, outperforming the 1.3% gain on the Ibovespa index.

Oliveira boasted that the company is the world's most profitable low-cost airline, registering an EBITDA margin of 35.9% this year, compared with Ryanair's (RYAAY) margin of 34.3% and Southwest's margin of 19.3%.

High oil prices are expected to continue to weigh on the company's costs but Brazil's continued economic growth should stimulate new demand for local flights, said Lark.

Gol was forced to raise fares by 18% in October due to increased fuel costs, said Oliveira. However, the government-controlled fuel company, Petrobras, is expected to reduce aviation fuel prices by 10% to 14% in November, which will mean the company won't need to raise fares again and will allow it to reduce prices on certain routes, he added.

Despite expressing its aim to grab a larger share of Brazil's international market, Gol is working on the assumption that Brazil's embattled flagship airline, Viacao Aerea Rio-Grandense, or Varig, (VAGV4.BR) will maintain its position as leader in this market.

"International growth will be achieved based on existing bilateral agreements. We do not need to take over Varig's routes," said Oliveira.

Over the next couple of years, Oliveira predicted the competition will not be able compete with Gol's low fares indefinitely and there will be opportunities for the company to increase yields in the next couple of years.

Beyond 2006, Gol forecasts it will increase its fleet to 86 planes by 2010, while maintaining the rate of seat occupation at around 74% - the highest in the industry in Brazil.

Oliveira said Gol does not fear newcomers, such as Ocean Air, who are trying to repeat the success of the company's low-cost, no-frills model.

"They need to bring new attributes to the market. Otherwise it will be very tough to compete with a company that is already established," he said.
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Old November 4th, 2005, 02:29 AM   #129
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Peru Authorities Warn Striking Air-Traffic Controllers
3 November 2005

LIMA (AP)--Aviation authorities on Thursday threatened to fire commercial air traffic controllers three days into a partial strike over equipment maintenance and other grievances, saying the strike was illegal and posed safety threats.

Carlos Albuquerque, president of Peru's aviation authority, Corpac, told reporters that the Labor Ministry had declared the strike illegal and said controllers would be fired if they didn't return to their normal work schedules.

"They are threatening safety," Albuquerque said of the 170-member controller's union, which on Tuesday morning reduced its numbers in control towers and flight centers from 36 per eight-hour shift to 22 in Peru's 17 airports.

Dante Samaniego, Secretary General of the Unified Air Traffic Controllers of Peru, told The Associated Press his union didn't stage a total walkout in order to stay within the boundaries of Peruvian law, which he said stipulates a minimum of 22 controllers nationwide. The controllers have three days to challenge the Labor Ministry's conclusion, he said.

Samaniego said that despite the threatened firings, his union would continue its action "until Corpac decided to put something tangible forward, a working proposal." He warned that the replacement personnel that Corpac had put in the control towers weren't adequately trained.

Corpac officials said ahead of the strike that a contingency plan was in place to use controllers from Peru's Air Force to ensure that commercial flights wouldn't be affected.

"We are putting in place all resources so that security is guaranteed," Albuquerque said. "As a result of the professionalism of the people who are taking care of air traffic in the country we have had no cancelations of national or international flights."

Albuquerque denied the controllers contention that a lack of funding and maintenance was causing a "gradual deterioration of aviation infrastructure and airports."

"You can go to any airport in the country and perhaps there might be a delay, but operations are being properly handled," he said. "Our equipment is functioning at 100%."

The air traffic controllers said in a statement that revenue from the concession of Lima's Jorge Chavez international airport hadn't been used to adequately "maintain, upgrade, change and install new equipment" on a national level.

The controllers also are demanding back pay they say is owed them from 1997 through 2003 and the rehiring of a union employee they claim was unfairly fired more than a year ago.
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Old November 7th, 2005, 07:55 PM   #130
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Portugal's TAP to buy subsidiaries of Brazil's struggling Varig airline
7 November 2005

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) - Portugal's TAP airline plans to take over two subsidiaries of Brazil's struggling Varig airline and help the Brazilian carrier pay off its multibillion-dollar debt, a lawyer for TAP said Monday.

TAP Air Portugal plans to pay US$62 million Tuesday for VarigLog and VEM, the profitable cargo and maintenance subsidiaries of Brazil's flagship airline, Jose Roberto Opice said.

The money will be used to pay off Varig debts with leasing firms that have threatened to repossess 20 to 40 aircraft, he said.

"We have made the offer to help recuperate the company, and we expect the creditors (will) accept it," Opice told Dow Jones newswire by telephone from Rio de Janeiro.

The sale is part of a plan to allow Viacao Aerea Rio-Grandese, or Varig, to keep flying while it restructures its debts. Varig's debts total some 7.7 billion Brazilian reals (US$3.4 billion), and forced the company to file for bankruptcy in July.

Meanwhile, the leasing firms separately filed bankruptcy proceedings against Varig in a New York court, which gave the company until Wednesday to pay the US$62 million debt.

TAP has set up a Brazilian firm, Aero-LB Investimentos S.A., to receive financing from Brazil's government-run development bank, or BNDES. The bank reportedly will finance US$42 million of the US$62 million TAP would pay for VarigLog and VEM.
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Old November 8th, 2005, 04:25 PM   #131
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Creditors In Brazil's Varig Approve TAP Bailout Deal
8 November 2005

SAO PAULO (Dow Jones)--Creditors in embattled Brazilian airline Viacao Aerea Rio-Grandese (VAGV4.BR), or Varig, voted overwhelmingly in favor of accepting a proposal by TAP Air Portugal (TAP.YY) to take over Varig's profitable cargo and maintenance subsidiaries for $62 million, a Varig press spokeswoman said Tuesday.

However, an assembly of creditors in Rio only voted after twelve hours of discussions and the intervention of the Brazilian National Development Bank, or BNDES, to convince wavering voters, she added.

The sale of the subsidiaries is designed to allow the company to continue operating while it forms a plan to restructure its debts. Varig filed for bankruptcy in July under the weight of BRL7.7 billion ($3.4 billion) in unpaid commitments.

The company needs $62 million pay off leasing firms that have threatened to repossess 20 to 40 aircraft. A New York bankruptcy court had set a deadline of Nov. 9 for Varig to stump up the cash.

TAP will deposit the funds Tuesday, said Jose Roberto Opice, a TAP lawyer.

BNDES will finance $42 million of the purchase, according to a proposal submitted to the assembly. TAP has already set up a Brazilian firm, Aero-LB Investimentos S.A., to receive the BNDES money.

Aero-LB was set up with a Macau-based investment fund GeoCapital and an unnamed Brazilian investor.

"But the guarantor of this operation is TAP," Fernando Pinto, TAP president, told the creditors.

The airline sector unions and the Varig workers' group abstained on the vote, complaining at a lack of information about the investment company and other aspects of the proposal.

For years, Varig has been the leading Brazilian airline, but increased competition from low-cost rival Gol Linhas Aereas SA (GOL) meant it lost second place in the Brazilian domestic market in September.
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Old November 8th, 2005, 11:40 PM   #132
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Peru Air Traffic Controller Strike Continues
8 November 2005

LIMA (Dow Jones)--Commercial air traffic controllers remained on strike Tuesday, a spokeswoman from Peru's Corpac civil aviation authority said.

Air traffic controllers walked off the job Oct. 31 demanding, among other things, that revenue from the Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima be used to upgrade and install new equipment and runways. Also among their grievances, they claim they are owed back pay.

Only emergency crews were left in place.

"The strike is still on. They have stepped up their measures. But, Corpac is always open to dialogue and talks continue," said spokeswoman Betty Maldonado.

In a statement late Monday, the Air Traffic Controllers of Peru union said it would hold two marches Tuesday to lobby the government to meet its demands.

Meanwhile, according to Maldonado, all precautions have been taken to ensure that the service isn't affected in airports across the nation.

On Tuesday, Corpac said in a statement that it "guarantees safety" in all of Peru's airports and that to date no flights have been canceled

It stated that, among other things, it has implemented a contingency plan to ensure a round-the-clock service at Lima's airport with licensed air traffic controllers. "Air operations are completely normal," it said.
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Old November 21st, 2005, 07:44 PM   #133
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Brazil Airline Varig Names New Chairman, Board Pres
21 November 2005

SAO PAULO (Dow Jones)--Debt-laden Brazilian airline Viacao Aerea Riograndense SA (VAGV4.BR), or Varig, on Monday appointed a new chairman and two new directors to its board, including the board's president.

Marcelo Bottini, who has worked at Varig since 1979, will assume the post of chairman, replacing David Zylberstajn.

Humberto Rodrigues Filho, a retired Varig worker, will assume the presidency of the company's board of directors, replacing Omar Carneiro da Cunha. Sergio Bruni will replace Eleazar de Carvalho on Varig's board.

Varig said late Friday that Fundacao Rubem Berta, which owns a majority of the airline's shares, decided to replace the three executives after Varig workers demanded changes in the wake of the company's decision to fire more than 100 pilots.

Varig has suffered severe financial difficulties since the airline industry went into a worldwide recession in 2001. Varig's net debt is estimated at about 7.7 billion reals ($3.47 billion).

In the first nine months of 2005, Varig posted a net loss of BRL778.1 million against a net loss of BRL305 million in the same period a year earlier.

The company also has seen a continued drop in its market share, resulting in the loss of the No. 2 position in the domestic market to Gol Linhas Aereas SA (GOL).
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Old November 26th, 2005, 06:35 AM   #134
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Aerolineas Argentinas flights hit by strike

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Argentina's flagship airline, Aerolineas Argentinas, canceled some international flights on Friday due to a strike by pilots and technicians, a company official said.

Employees walked off the job on Thursday to demand wage increases, causing delays and cancellations of domestic and international routes.

"All Aerolineas' flights were canceled up until 4 p.m. (1900 GMT)," an official at the airline said.

The airline flies to Miami, New York, Madrid and Rome as well as to 33 domestic destinations, according to its Web site. It was not immediately clear which flights had been affected.

Daniel Guiro, a leader of the pilots' union, said the pilots were asking for a 45 percent raise. "There is no date set for it (the strike) to end. This is going to continue until we find a solution," he told local radio.

Aerolineas Argentinas is 98 percent owned by Spanish group Interinvest and competes in the domestic market against Chile's LAN Airlines , which began operations in Argentina in mid-2005.
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Old November 27th, 2005, 07:41 AM   #135
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Govt Orders Partial Halt To Aerolineas Argentinas Strike
25 November 2005

BUENOS AIRES (Dow Jones)--The Argentine Labor Ministry ordered striking pilots of flagship carrier Aerolineas Argentinas (AR.YY) to return to work Friday, committing both sides to operating a minimum of 50% of domestic passenger flights.

The airline's pilots and mechanics unions launched a surprise strike Thursday afternoon, indefinitely grounding all flights and leaving thousands of passengers stranded.

After a Friday morning meeting at the Labor Ministry with Aerolineas Argentinas, the government imposed a "minimum service" requirement on the pilots and the company. Both sides must now guarantee 50% of scheduled domestic flights and 75% of international flights.

The pilots union says it is seeking a 45% increase in the base salary from its current 1,884 pesos ($634.34) a month, and that Aerolineas Argentinas has offered only a 4% raise.

When asked in a Friday television interview what the company was proposing, Aerolineas Argentinas spokesman Julio Scaramella said that the offer was far from what the unions are requesting. He also said the striking workers were jeopardizing the rest of the company with their actions.

"Eight thousand, five hundred people work here," Scaramella said. "We're not going to put everyone's jobs at risk for the demands of two unions."

The Labor Ministry issued a separate statement Friday saying the two striking unions failed to show up at the morning meeting. This showed "disinterest in attending to and taking up social dialogue with the responsibility and maturity demanded by the circumstances," the national director of labor relations, Jorge Schuster, said in the note.

According to government data, the two striking unions represent 2,000 employees, and there are 950 workers involved in the current conflict.

The Labor Ministry also intervened to order minimum service in early July, when Aerolineas Argentinas pilots went on strike on the eve of one of the busiest travel weekends of the year.
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Old November 28th, 2005, 03:32 PM   #136
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Aerolineas Argentinas Fires 168 Striking Pilots, Mechanics
28 November 2005

BUENOS AIRES (Dow Jones)--Flagship carrier Aerolineas Argentinas (AR.YY) has dismissed 168 pilots and mechanics that defied an Argentine Labor Ministry order to return to work, setting up a key test for the rule of law and balance of power between unions and the government.

The pilots and mechanics unions began a surprise strike Thursday afternoon, grounding Aerolineas Argentinas' passenger flights and stranding thousands of customers. The Labor Ministry ordered a "minimum service" requirement on Friday morning, committing both sides to guarantee 50% of scheduled domestic flights and 75% of international flights.

Aerolineas Argentinas said in a statement issued Sunday that it has sent pink slips to 168 employees that refused to comply with the minimum service order.

"The company will make the same decision for pilots and mechanics who, in the next shifts, persist in an attitude of not showing up at their posts, falling again into non-compliance with government orders," Aerolineas Argentinas said.

The heightened level of conflict in the airline strike hasn't been seen in other recent labor disputes, including those by hospital employees to truckers. The striking Aerolineas workers responded to the dismissals Monday morning by blockading the only highway that leads to the Ezeiza international airport.

It remains to be seen whether the unions will comply with the labor law, which also imposes a fine of 10 million pesos ($3.4 million) for failure to meet the minimum service requirement. In July, when Aerolineas Argentinas pilots also went on strike, the workers obeyed the government's minimum service order and returned to their posts.

Aerolineas Argentinas said it would be in constant contact with the Labor Ministry and senior administration officials on Monday morning, though the company acknowledged that finding a solution would be difficult. Union representatives had failed to attend a Friday meeting convened by the government.

Meanwhile, Aerolineas Argentinas said it is planning to shut down a maintenance center in Bahia Blanca because the absence of mechanics has made normal operations impossible. Austral, which is Aerolineas Argentinas' cargo carrier, hasn't been affected by the strike.

According to government data, 950 workers - nearly half of the membership of the two unions - are involved in the current conflict. The pilots are seeking a 45% increase in the base salary from the current 1,884 pesos a month.
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Old November 28th, 2005, 05:35 PM   #137
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Grounded Brazil Airline Vasp Registers Plan To Fly Again
28 November 2005

SAO PAULO (Dow Jones)--Brazil's grounded airline Viacao Aerea de Sao Paulo (VASP3.BR) registered its intentions to restructure its debt and restart operations at a Sao Paulo bankruptcy court last week.

The company has been prohibited from flying since January due to its heavy debts with suppliers, airports and the passenger aviation authority.

But in October, the Sao Paulo court granted bankruptcy protection to the company and it is expected to deliver its recovery plan to that court by Dec. 12, according to local business daily Valor Economico.

The provisional plan, set up by Sao Paulo-based Tendencias consultants, involves the company returning to operations with 27 planes, using a low-cost, no-frills model similar to that used by Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes SA (GOL).

The key question remains how the company will operate day-to-day without a major cash injection. The company will look to recuperate some of its debts by selling some of its property, said the press report.

The decline of Vasp has allowed Gol to expand rapidly in the domestic market. Over the past four years since its inception, it has raised its market share from nothing to 29%.

Vasp has approximately 3.5 billion reals ($1.58 billion) in debts.
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Old November 28th, 2005, 05:36 PM   #138
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Brazil's Airline Gol To Give Customers 3 Years To Pay
28 November 2005

SAO PAULO (Dow Jones)--Brazil's no frills airline Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes SA (GOL) will give passengers up to three years to pay for tickets in an effort to attract customers from lower income brackets, a company press release said.

An application for the tickets 15 days in advance will allow Brazilians to pay in 36 installments, subject to credit checks, it said.

"We always look to stimulate the market and create opportunities for more Brazilians to benefit from air transport," said Tarciso Gargoni, Gol's marketing vice president.

Gol became the country's first low-cost airline in 2001 and since then has registered breakneck growth. As of October, the airline had grabbed 28.7% of the domestic market, and the company claims to have attracted 3.5 million first-time flyers with its cheap prices.

Gol is looking to continue its high growth rate in the next five years, with plans to double its fleet to 86 planes by 2010 and increase the number of routes in Latin America. The company already flies to Buenos Aires and Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia, and plans to start flights to Asuncion, Paraguay, soon.

In addition, in the second quarter it expects to launch a low-cost airlines in Mexico with local partner Inversiones y Tecnicas Aeroportuarias SA, or IT.
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Old November 28th, 2005, 05:37 PM   #139
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French investigators say West Caribbean crash conclusion is 'hasty'

PARIS, Nov 28 (AFP) - A conclusion by the airline West Caribbean that ice on the wings of one of its planes was responsible for the August 16 crash in Venezuela that killed all 160 people on board was "hasty," French air accident investigators probing the crash said Friday.

The French Bureau of Inquiry and Analyses (BEA) said it "regrets that the operator is drawing hasty conclusions from this accident on the basis of just one of the elements plucked from the initial evaluations of the inquiry."

It added: "None of the elements from the inquiry allow this conclusion to be reached."

The BEA was reacting to a report in the Colombian newspaper El Colombiano on Sunday in which the director of West Caribbean, Jorge Perez, claimed that "the accident was caused by weather conditions, the loss of control due to an excess of ice on the wings."

Perez said that conclusions showed the plane "was not in bad repair as the media has insistently reported."

The newspaper also said that a report by the US National Transportation Safety Board noted that the pilots had discussed the bad weather and possibility of icing before the aircraft went down.

The crash of the twin-engine McDonnell Douglas MD-82 aircraft on a flight from Panama to Martinique killed 152 French passengers from Martinique and eight crew from Colombia.

The BEA said that, at this stage of the investigation, it was impossible to concentrate on one factor to the exclusion of all others.

A final report on the crash is not expected before several months.
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Old November 29th, 2005, 03:39 PM   #140
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TAP Vows To Deposit $40 Mln Loan To Varig - Report
29 November 2005

SAO PAULO (Dow Jones)--Portuguese airline TAP Air Portugal (TAP.YY) will deposit $40 million pledged to the debt-laden Brazilian airline Viacao Aerea Rio-Grandese (VAGV4.BR), or Varig, in the next two weeks, signalling the company's continued commitment to the restructuring of the local firm, TAP's president said late Monday, according to the local business daily Valor Economico

The loan was a rider on a deal, closed earlier this month, to buy control of Varig's profitable cargo and maintenance subsidiaries for $62 million. However, the deposit was put on hold last week after Fundacao Rubem Berta, which owns the majority of the airline's shares, decided to replace three top executives at the request of workers' representatives.

The problems with the controller have been resolved, said TAP President Fernando Pinto.

TAP is still the front runner to partner Varig in restructuring its debts, which are estimated at approximately 7 billion Brazilian reals ($3.18 billion).

Pinto reaffirmed TAP's offer to pump $500 million into the flagship Brazilian airline.

In July, a Brazilian court extended bankruptcy protection to Varig.
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