BT: Aerolineas Argentinas is spending extensively on aircraft, inflight service, lounges, technology and more. Why all this investment now?
GARCIA: Our main objective is to become even stronger in our regional market. We have increased capacity to South America destinations outside Argentina and added many new destinations. Also, we have become a customer-centric company with new service training in our lounges and for flight attendants. It is all about what the customer wants and we are investing in what the customer wants.
BT: Your focus is on Latin America, but what about North America and other international routes?
GARCIA: We have seven weekly flights from New York to Buenos Aires and 15 from Miami. All have immediate connections to elsewhere in the country. We fly to 10 destinations in eight countries internationally, all nonstop. In Latin America, we have 12 destinations in five countries. We have the majority market share in all our domestic markets. We fly to 37 domestic destinations – the largest network in Argentina and we are the only airline to fly to all 23 provinces in Argentina. We have three hubs in Argentina – Buenos Aires, Aeroparque Ezeiza and Cordoba, which was launched last year. We carry 29 million passengers a year and have 10 codeshare agreements. We are a leader in punctuality with an 84 percent on-time performance.
BT: Besides the new Boeing 737 Max, what else is happening with your fleet?
GARCIA: We have 82 aircraft with an average age of seven years, one of the youngest fleets in the region. We have 10 Airbus 330 and six Airbus 340 planes. And yes, we are adding our first Boeing 737 Max, the first airline in Latin America with that plane.
BT: What does your membership in the SkyTeam Alliance mean for travelers?
GARCIA: We are part of SkyTeam and we are also partners with GOL, the Brazilian airline, and Air New Zealand. Those relationships mean seamless luggage transfers, shared use of lounges and exchangeable loyalty program benefits. We also have a very strong partnership with Delta that involves codesharing on many flights between the US and Argentina.
BT: Tell us about the rebranding and other changes to your inflight product.
GARCIA: Bravo is our new brand for inflight service. It includes having Global Eagle, the inflight entertainment company as a partner. We will have 45 channels of movies on international flights and will offer streaming shows on domestic routes. For flights of six hours or more on A330 and A340 aircraft we have individual touch screens and mood lighting. We will have new menus and new wines in consultation with local chefs. It is all part of growing the customer experience. We are also undertaking extensive upgrades to Salon Condor airport lounges beginning in 2018.
BT: With FlyBondi starting service in 2018, you’ll have a domestic competitor for the first time. What will that mean for Aerolineas?
GARCIA: We are confident about our product. We have been in Argentina for a long time and we have many advantages. For instance, we have a number of domestic routes that do not involve going through Buenos Aires.
BT: You have stepped up your efforts in the corporate market. What does that involve?
GARCIA: We take a multi-pronged approach to that market, which is key for us. We use technology to manage all the benefits of our corporate agreements. We offer flexible corporate fares and are flexible in accommodating the needs of each business. We have highly qualified professionals to assist travel managers and help our clients from more than 70 offices in Argentina and globally. Finally, we connect new markets along with our local partners and the SkyTeam network.