Most of its fleet has been on the ground for six months and to a large extent, many of those planes would no longer fly in their colors. “The people from Labor Relations with whom we met began to tell us that because of Austral’s outlook, at an economic level, it was better to get rid of the company. Why? Because today, with the amount of staff available in Airlines and the little that will be flown in the near future, which is also uncertain, they could easily do without Austral’s 471 cabin crew. It was very hard, straight to the bone. “Says a Whatapp audio that circulates among the cabin crew of Austral, the airline that is in the process of being absorbed by its controlling company, Aerolineas Argentinas.
nullAerolineas Argentinas, like Austral, have most of their planes on the ground six months ago, as well as two thirds of its staff working from home, or directly suspended. The company cannot even firm schedule the return of their regular flights, as the Government the date has run forward, so far twice, without giving a concrete signal.
With virtually no income, the expense account of this conglomerate of five state-owned companies with 12,000 employees It is an enigma: its managers assure that they still do not have a concrete dimension of how much their losses will be during this year, although they assume that they will be “more than 700 million dollars”, which was the estimate at the beginning of this year, before the pandemic, when most of the 86 Aerolineas and Austral planes took off every day, in some cases several times a day.
But even without knowing how much the company’s red will be during 2020, the head of Airlines, Pablo Ceriani, It has already sent Congress the income and expenditure account that it foresees for next year: the deficit of the state airline, which by December could have completely absorbed Austral, will be equivalent to 564 million dollars. Once again, it will be the State that must come to the aid of the airline, as it has been doing since July 2008.
According to the sheets of the project Budget 2021, Aerolineas Argentinas and its controlled companies plan to invoice next year 127,318 million pesos, while the expenses would amount to little more than $ 172,315 million. That will yield a deficit of $ 44.997 million that, if the conversion to dollars were made with the exchange rate of Friday, it gives $ 564 million.
And for this year? In February, before the pandemic, Ceriani had claimed from the Executive Power a game of $ 700 million to meet both this year’s operating costs and what the official called the “hidden liabilities” of the four years of macrismo.
Aerolineas was nationalized in July 2008. It was when the Spanish group Marsans informed the Executive Power that they did not have enough money to pay the salaries of that month to those who by then there were 8,500 employees. The then Secretary of Transportation of Cristina Kirchner, Ricardo Jaime, and the Minister of Planning, Julio De VidoThey were installed on the ninth floor of the 400 Bouchard building where the Aerolineas management offices worked. A year later, in July 2009, Mariano Recalde was appointed president, who remained in that position until December 2015. Today, although he is a national senator for the Capital, Recalde continues to be Ceriani’s political benchmark, who had seconded him in Aerolineas between 2013 and 2015.
During the administration of Cristina Kirchner, the State gave the two airlines the equivalent of $ 4.756 million, according to the 2018 Airline Balance. Contributions from the Treasury were attenuated in the first three years of macrismo (They fell from an average of US $ 600 million per year to less than US $ 300 million), but they jumped last year, when the succession of devaluations impacted on the company’s income and the red was US $ 580 million . In total, the subsidies to Aerolineas in the four years of Macri’s administration were US$ 1.302 millones.
Earlier this year, Ceriani said that they were going to need 700 million dollars to face current expenses and to renegotiate “hidden liabilities” that, he said, had remained in the company after four years of the Macri government, during which there were three presidents: Isela Costantini, Mario Dell’Acqua and Luis Malvido.
But with the pandemic, the flights were grounded as of March 20, with the exception of those that the company did to repatriate Argentines abroad and some 35 cargo flights to China to bring medical supplies. Ceriani began to apply a series of adjustment measures, such as suspensions of a third of the staff and early retirements. But the expense account did not drop substantially: the most important adjustment so far is the merger between Aerolineas and Austral, a process that is giving rise to a tough negotiation on the part of the pilots and crew on board of this last airline: Airlines He proposed that they keep their sources of work and wages, but he will not respect them neither seniority nor ranks. Since the end of 2015, the workforce of Aerolíneas and its controlled companies (Austral, JetPaq, Optar and Aerohandling) has been just over 12,000 employees.
“The loss is likely is bigger than $ 700 million that we had estimated at the beginning of the year, “said company sources.” But there are a series of expenses that we had planned to make this year that were refinanced for later: the quotas of the aircraft rentals, YPF negotiated, with the Banco Nación, with the Development Bank (of Brazil, creditor for the purchase of Embraer aircraft from Austral) and with most of the suppliers. They are a lot of payments that were rolled over, and some of those renegotiations are ongoing. So this year’s red is going to be higher than the $ 700 million forecast at the beginning of the year, but we still don’t know how we’re going to close the year. ”