Home Classic Airliners Airlines from Past – South America

Airlines from Past – South America

by Matt Falcus

Diogo Montteiro takes a look at some of South America’s airlines from the past which are no longer with us.

How many do you remember? Which did you fly on? Leave a comment below.


Nuevo Continente – Peru

OB-1544-P Boeing B.732 Nuevo Continente

Nuevo Continente was an airline based in Lima, capital of Peru. During its operation, Nuevo Continente operated regular domestic and international flights from Jorge Chávez International Airport in Lima.

The airline was founded by Fernando Zevallos in 1992 under the name “Aero Continente”. Flight operations began on May 25 of that year, initially on regional routes chartered on behalf of Occidental Petroleum, (a US-based oil and gas company.) Regular domestic passenger services began nearly a year later on July 20, 1993, using a fleet of just two aircraft: a Boeing 727-100 and a Boeing 737-200. At that time, the Peruvian aviation market was dominated by Faucett and Aeroperú. Aero Continente competed with these airlines by offering extremely low fares.

When Faucett and Aeroperú went bankrupt in 1999 due to financial difficulties, Aero Continente acquired a monopoly position as the only airline to operate on domestic routes in the country. At that time, the size of the fleet had increased to approximately 30 aircraft, mainly of the Boeing 737 type, although the airline also operated larger aircraft such as the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar. With these aircraft during this period, international routes were launched, first connecting Lima to Panama City and Santiago de Chile.

During the 1990s, the safety reputation of the Peruvian airline industry became a public concern and came under great public scrutiny after a series of high-profile accidents especially the Faucett and Aeroperú accidents both in 1996. This year, the US Embassy in Lima banned its employees from flying Aero Continente due to reported problems with its aircraft engines, and cautioned US citizens to fly on Peruvian airlines.

At the turn of the millennium, in 2004, Aero Continente saw its operating license in the United States expired by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the United States Treasury, as its founder had been included in a list of the ten most wanted heads of the crime of the illegal drug trade. Thus, Aero Continente lost its insurance protection, as Global Aerospace, (the company that was responsible for this matter), was forced to cease its involvement with the airline. With these sanctions against the founder of Aero Continente, it was also not possible to buy spare parts for its fleet. Consequently, all flight operations were stopped on July 12, 2004.

In an effort to return to the civil aviation market, the airline re-emerged, changing its corporate structure and adopting a new name: “Nuevo Continente”, but was unable to get rid of the allegations of being involved in criminal activities.

After in 1996, two teenagers entered the cockpit, instructed by the cabin crew due to flight overbooking and in 2003 after a belly landing due to pilot error, after having forgotten to lower the landing gear, the Peruvian authorities revoked from Nuevo Continente its air operator license in 2005.

Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Throughout its turbulent operational life, Aero Continente/Nuevo Continente operated with 10 types of aircraft:

  • British Aerospace Jetstream 31
  • Boeing 727 (1992-2005)
  • Boeing 737-100
  • Boeing 737-200 (1992-2005)
  • Boeing 737-300
  • Boeing 757-200 (1999-2000/2003-2004)
  • Boeing 767-200 (2000-2005)
  • Fokker F27 Friendship
  • Fokker F28 Fellowship
  • Lockheed L-1011 TriStar (1996-1999)

The airline operated with codes N6 and ACQ with the callsign “Aero Continente”.


Aeroperú – Peru

Torsten Maiwald (GFDL 1.2 <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html> or GFDL 1.2 <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html>), via Wikimedia Commons

The Empresa de Transporte Aéreo del Perú, better known as Aeroperú, was a Peruvian airline that served as Peru’s flag carrier from 1973 to 1999. The airline was headquartered in Lima, with Jorge Chávez International Airport as its hub and in the late 1990s it started using El Dourado International Airport as its secondary hub. In addition to an extensive network of domestic routes, Aeroperú offered international flights to locations in Latin America and the United States of America. The airline had around 1,500 employees.

Aeroperú was formally formed on May 22, 1973 after the reorganization of SATCO, a former airline founded in 1960 and controlled by the Peruvian Army. Initially being a fully stateowned airline with a fleet of three Fokker F28 Fellowships inherited from SATCO, Aeroperú began commercial flights in October 1973 on the Lima-Cusco route. After a short time, a Boeing 727 joined the fleet, and the airline placed an order for two new Fokker F27 Friendships.

In 1974, two Douglas DC-8s were acquired from Viasa, which allowed the launch of international routes, making the first destination Buenos Aires. Route that started on the 29th of July of that year, followed by a regular flight to Miami. By 1978, Aeroperú’s network had grown to include a multitude of destinations in Latin America, as well as the American cities of New York and Los Angeles due to their large Latino populations.

In July 1981, Aeroperú began to be gradually privatized with the Peruvian government maintaining a 20% minority stake. In 1982, plans were made for a possible merger with Faucett Perú, (the other major passenger airline in the country at the time.) As a preparatory measure, redundancies in the route networks of the two airlines were eliminated, so that the Aeroperú had to suspend flights to several destinations, including Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, New York and Los Angeles. However, no further steps were taken to merge the two airlines, and so, in 1983, flights to various destinations were resumed.

Due to the fact that a bilateral air traffic agreement between Peru and the United States expired on November 11, 1983 and also due to differences over the granting of fifth freedom air rights, all flights between the two countries were suspended in May 1984 until mid 1985, which affected Aeroperú flights on the Lima-Miami route.

Torsten Maiwald (GFDL 1.2 <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html> or GFDL 1.2 <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html>), via Wikimedia Commons

In 1993, Aeroméxico acquired 70% of the shares of Aeroperú, making it its subsidiary. Later, two Boeing 757-200 were transferred, allowing Aeroperú to replace its old DC-8. In 1996, 47% of Aeroperú was transferred to Cintra, the parent company of Aeroméxico and Mexicana de Aviación. The three airlines have entered into mutual sharing agreements under the name “Alas de Americas”, with Aeroperú joining Club Permier, Aeroméxico’s frequent flyer program. Between 1996 and 1997, Aeroperú maintained a second base at El Dorado International in Bogotá (Colombia), from which regional flights were offered. In 1998, Delta Air Lines became one of Aeroperú’s main shareholders when it acquired a 35% stake in the airline. The agreement saw Cintra reduce its stake to an equal 35%.

Due to financial difficulties that plagued the airline for most of its existence, Aeroperú was forced to suspend all flight operations on March 10, 1999. Several plans for a relaunch were made, including a possible purchase of Continental Airlines or an acquisition by a group of foreign investors. However, none of this materialized and Aeroperú was liquidated on August 18, 1999. Most of its route network, as well as the role of Peruvian flag carrier, was later taken over by the newly founded LAN Perú.

Aeroperú flew with PL and PLI codes with the callsign Aeroperu to 34 destinations with a fleet of 22 aircraft.


AeroSur – Bolivia

Eddie Heisterkamp (GFDL 1.2 <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html> or GFDL 1.2 <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html>), via Wikimedia Commons

Compañía Boliviana de Transporte Aéreo Privado Aerosur (abbreviated and commercially referred to as AeroSur) was a Bolivian private airline founded in April 1992, which has served as Bolivia’s flag carrier since 1998 alongside the state-owned Boliviana de Aviación.

AeroSur was headquartered in Santa Cruz de la Sierra and operated a network of scheduled domestic and international passenger flights from its hub at Viru Viru International Airport.

In 2010, the airline had a staff of 1,200 employees. AeroSur was founded after the deregulation of the Bolivian civil aviation market, which was previously controlled by the state airline Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano. Flights on regional routes began on August 24, 1998 using an initial fleet of Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner and British Aerospace 146 aircraft. In the following years, Boeing 727-200 were acquired, which allowed an increase in the size of the network and the number of passengers.

During the 2000s, AeroSur renewed and expanded its fleet, introducing larger aircraft, such as the Boeing 747 and Boeing 757, which enabled the inauguration of long-haul flights. In 2004, AeroSur began operating retro flights with a Douglas C-117 to tourist destinations such as Salar de Uyuni and Rurrenabaque, both internationally recognized. When Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano went bankrupt in 2007, AeroSur became the largest airline in Bolivia and the only one with intercontinental flights (to Central and North America as well as Europe).

Since 2009, the domestic fleet of older Boeing 727s has been replaced by more modern aircraft, although AeroSur has acquired Boeing 737 aircraft from the Classic family.

In 2010, AeroSur continued its expansion plan and added five new aircraft to its fleet: three Boeing 737-300s, one Boeing 737-400 and one Boeing 767-200ER.

aeroprints.com, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

On March 31, 2012, the airline suspended operations due to unpaid taxes, but resumed all flights on April 6, except for the Madrid route, which at the time was operated by a Boeing 747-400 leased from Virgin Atlantic which was returned to the lessor. In the last few moments, AeroSur struggled to keep its flights in operation without any problems and for that end it returned its Boeing 767s to the lessor.

On May 17, 2012, AeroSur suspended all its flights again, and other airlines, such as state-owned Boliviana de Aviación, began to fill the void left by AeroSur. The airline was in talks with potential US investor William Petty, who signed a memorandum of understanding to invest up to 15 million dollars in the Bolivian carrier. AeroSur’s air operator certificate was revoked on July 20, 2012. A group of former employees, in addition to William Petty, planned to create a new airline called TU Aerolínea, but until 2018, nothing had happened until that risk.

AeroSur was known in the aeronautical community for the colorful life it gave to its aircraft. The airline painted animals on the fuselages of its planes, including snakes, sharks, dolphins and bulls. It was an extremely popular marketing ploy that attracted attention at any airport it landed.

Practically at the end of its useful life, AeroSur operated with a fleet of:

  • Boeing 727-200
  • Boeing 737-200
  • Boeing 737-300
  • Boeing 737-400
  • Boeing 747-400
  • Boeing 767-200 ER

This fleet allowed it to operate flights from its Viru Viru Airport hub to Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Peru, United States and Spain.

It operated with IATA code 5L and ICAO RSU with callsign Aerosur.


Avensa – Venezuela

Christian Volpati (GFDL 1.2 <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html> or GFDL 1.2 <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html>), via Wikimedia Commons

Avensa (Aerovías Venezolanas Sociedad Anonima) was a Venezuelan airline based in Caracas, operating from its hub at Simon Bolivar International Airport in Maiquetía.

Avensa was created on May 13, 1943, initially as a cargo airline by Venezuelan businessman Andres Boulton Pietri and by Pan Am. Its initial flights took place in December 1943, carrying cargo to the Carteru region, in Venezuela. In 1944, Avensa had started operating passenger flights with Lockheed 10A.

After World War II, Douglas DC-3 Dakota were added to the fleet. These were the backbone of the fleet until 1955, when the Convair 340 was introduced for a new service in Miami.

Avensa had created an extensive network of domestic routes in the early 1960s and in parallel, also flew internationally to Miami, Aruba, Jamaica and New Orleans.

Avensa merged its international routes with the international routes of LAV (Aeropostal) and the resulting route network was the basis for the launch of a new international Venezuelan airline called Viasa, in which Avensa had a 45% interest. Avensa acquired the Caravelle in 1964. And then in 1966, the Convair 580s were acquired. Subsequently, Douglas DC-9s were introduced to give the airline a more competitive advantage. Pan Am sold its 30% stake in Avensa to the Venezuelan government in 1976, thus making it completely stateowned.

After the collapse of parent company Viasa in 1997, Avensa took over many of the international routes previously operated by Viasa.

During the late 1990s, Avensa operated flights with the Douglas DC-10-30 to Europe, including regular services to Madrid, Tenerife, London, Lisbon, Rome and Paris.

At the end of its operational life, Avensa operated only a three-city domestic flight network as it tried to re-establish services during a period of continuing financial difficulties. With this weak financial situation, the airline was in the process of financial restructuring, after it went bankrupt for bad management in 2002. Santa Bárbara Airlines subsequently took over its routes.

During its entire operational life, Avensa had 8 accidents and incidents, had a fleet of 37 aircraft operating to 41 destinations. It officially closed operations on December 31, 2004.

It had the codes VE and AVE and its callsign was “Avensa”.


Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano – Bolivia

Montague Smith (GFDL 1.2 <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html> or GFDL 1.2 <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html>), via Wikimedia Commons

Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano S.A.M. (commonly abbreviated to LAB and internationally known as LAB Airlines), was the flagship airline and the main airline in Bolivia from 1925 to 2010 and was still the second oldest airline in South America after Avianca, and one of the oldest airlines in the world still in operation. It had its main operational hubs at Jorge Wilstermann International Airport and Viru Viru International Airport.

LAB was initially founded by German immigrants in August 1925. A month later, on September 24, 1925, the airline inaugurated its services between Cochabamba and Santa Cruz using a single Junkers F13 aircraft.

In July 1930, Lloyd Aéreo began operating on international routes, with regular flights between La Paz, where it had its base, and Corumbá, in Brazil. In the following years, more destinations were added to the operating network in Brazil, so that Lloyd Aéreo became the second largest airline in South America at the time, surpassed only by the Colombian airline, Avianca.

In May 1941, LAB was taken over by the Government of Bolivia as the country’s national airline and Panagra was awarded a contract to manage it.

In March 1960, Panagra held a 20% stake in LAB and the Government of Bolivia was the majority shareholder. At this time, Edmundo Gonzalez was the president of the airline and the fleet consisted of seven DC-3s, one DC-4 and six Boeing B-17s. With the Lockheed L-188 Electra joining the fleet in September 1968, LAB was in a position to offer nonstop international flights.

In 1970, with the acquisition of the first Boeing 727, a further improvement in comfort and travel times was felt, thus allowing the inauguration of flights to Central America and the United States.

In March 1990, the airline employed 1,700 employees and was 99.98% owned by the Government of Bolivia. At that time the LAB operations network, which consisted of 21 domestic and 15 international destinations (Arica, Asunción, Belo Horizonte, Buenos Aires, Caracas, Cuzco, Lima, Manaus, Miami, Montevideo, Panama, Rio de Janeiro, Salta, Santiago and São Paulo) was operated with two Boeing 707-320Cs, three Boeing 727-200s, two Boeing 727-100s, one Fokker F27-600 and one Fokker F27-200.


As of 1994, Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano began to experience increasing financial difficulties. As a result, the Bolivian Government began the privatization process of the airline and began negotiating with potential investors.

In October 1995, VASP acquired 50% of the shares of LAB. In an effort to try to cut costs, VASP proposed a full merger of the two airlines, with a similar paint job and a joint frequent flyer program. However, in 2001, VASP sold its shares of LAB back to Bolivian investors due to ongoing currency restrictions. On the other hand, in 2004, LAB received shares in Ecuatoriana de Aviación, then Ecuador’s national airline, as compensation for outstanding debts, which resulted in a codeshare agreement between the two airlines.

As of 2006, the LAB had to cancel flights because it was in poor financial condition: longhaul leased aircraft (a random mix of Airbus A310, Boeing 757, Boeing 767 or even Lockheed L-1011 TriStar at the time) could not more be paid. The Bolivian government decided on March 30, 2007 to close Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano, which meant that as of April 1, all flight operations would be suspended. In October of the same year, Boliviana de Aviación was established as the new national airline of Bolivia after the LAB collapse.

LAB operated a limited number of charter flights during late 2007 and early 2008 on behalf of AeroSur, but has since ceased activities entirely, with its airline license officially revoked in 2010.

LAB operated with codes LB, LLB and its callsign was “Lloydaereo”


Cruzeiro – Brazil

Serviços Aéreos Cruzeiro do Sul, which was better known as Cruzeiro do Sul or Cruzeiro, was a former Brazilian airline. In its first years of activity, it was called “Condor Syndikat”.

Cruzeiro was officially founded on December 1, 1927 in Rio de Janeiro (at that time still the federal capital of Brazil), inheriting the operation of Condor Syndikat, which was an airline created by pioneers of German aviation that was later incorporated by Lufthansa. The airline was born, carrying out its first operations between Rio de Janeiro and Porto Alegre, but soon after began the expansion of its flights to the city of Natal, which were operated by Dorniers Val and Junkers G24.

With the beginning of World War II, spare parts for German aircraft become difficult to acquire and the Government of President Gertúlio Vargas, which was initially sympathetic to the Axis, changes its position in the middle of the conflict and switches to the side of the Allies. Condor Syndikat realizes that the name change is fundamental, moving away from its German origins.

With this, on January 16, 1943, the designation ” Serviços Aéreos Cruzeiro do Sul” appears.

The following month, the airline buys 4 Douglas DC-3s and begins to change its fleet to North American equipment. In 1948, the Focke Wulf FW 200, used on the Rio de Janeiro-Buenos Aires route, were finally retired. The fleet standardized on DC-3 and C-47 now faces competition from approximately 30 domestic airlines, created in the post-war period.

The 70’s started badly for the airline, as it found it increasingly difficult to compete with VARIG, VASP and with the growth of Sadia/Transbrasil. When it finally got the chance to renew its fleet with the acquisition of 6 Boeing 737-200, Cruzeiro was involved in negotiations where VASP and VARIG disputed its shareholding control, and on May 22, 1975 Cruzeiro was acquired by the Rubem Berta Foundation, until then the owner of VARIG.

The brand and name were maintained and VARIG used Cruzeiro to have rights to more routes and to obtain income from two airlines.

Although VARIG and Cruzeiro do Sul were kept as separate airlines that operated as a consortium, in reality the frequencies and fleets were integrated and rationalized, in order to avoid duplication of services. In 1975, when there were only four national airlines operating in Brazil (VARIG, Cruzeiro, VASP and Transbrasil) and the market was strictly regulated and the Government allocated a maximum of 45% of the market share to the VARIG/Cruzeiro consortium, being the rest split between the other two airlines. The consortium, however, had a monopoly on international routes and operated in all major Brazilian cities.

Cruzeiro B737-2C3 PP-CJN

In 1979, Cruzeiro purchased two Airbus A300B4s and in 1983, the airline opened new international services to Port of Spain and Bridgetown and maintained existing ones to Montevideo, Buenos Aires, La Paz, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Iquitos, Paramaribo and Cayenne. In 1986, Cruzeiro’s fleet consisted of two Airbus A300B4, 6 Boeing 727-100 and 6 737-200.

In the economic area, however, the deficit since the purchase of VARIG has never stopped growing. Finally, on January 1, 1993, Cruzeiro do Sul ceased to exist when it was totally absorbed by VARIG. In 1997, the last 737-200 still painted with the Cruzeiro color scheme and with the Cruzeiro registration received the colors of VARIG.

As an independent airline, Cruzeiro do Sul operated with the SC and CRZ codes and had the callsign “Cruzeiro”.


Ecuatoriana de Aviación – Ecuador

Ecuatoriana was the national airline of Ecuador. Founded in May 1957 initially as Compañia Ecuatoriana de Aviación (CEA), after a group of American and Ecuadorian investors decided to open an airline. Air operations began in August 1957 and despite meeting the needs of a small country like Ecuador, the airline had a varied fleet consisting of Curtiss C-46, Douglas DC-4, Douglas DC-6 and one aircraft. Junkers K 16.

Ecuatoriana began operating in domestic and international destinations immediately after the beginning of their flights. The international routes turned out to be quite long journeys, (taking into account there were already jets in operation when Ecuatoriana started flying).

Ecuatoriana’s equipment needed a stopover in Panama City for its first international route, from Quito to Miami.

In 1970, American investors abandoned the airline, which led to the creation of a new airline.

Thus, Empresa Ecuatoriana de Aviación, a state-owned airline, took over the routes, liabilities and assets of the former CEA. It was established in July 1974, becoming the new flag carrier of Ecuador. By this time, the airline had modernized its fleet to include the Boeing 707, and a colorful new “rainbow” paint job that has drawn huge aircraft enthusiasts to new destinations such as New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Buenos Aires Ezeiza International Airport. With this, some of Ecuatoriana’s aircraft have become authentic flying canvases for abstract art. These distinctively painted aircraft were seen as a response to the aircraft painted by Alexander Calder of Braniff.

In the 1970s, most South American flag carriers were operated by national air forces.

Through the Ministry of Defense, the Ecuadorian Air Force purchased two refurbished Boeing 707s for the Israeli Aircraft Industries airline in a deal worth $4 million, 700,000.

Torsten Maiwald (GFDL 1.2 <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html> or GFDL 1.2 <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html>), via Wikimedia Commons

Ecuatoriana also acquired a Douglas DC-10 from Swissair and opened direct routes to Canada. With jet aircraft, stopovers on long-haul flights were abolished and direct routes were opened throughout South America and to other North American cities.

Through these new acquisitions for its fleet, Ecuatoriana also opened flights to destinations such as Mexico City and Madrid. The routes from Quito and Guayaquil to Madrid, in particular, proved extremely competitive, as the Iberian Peninsula was popular with travelers who flew these two routes. During the 1980s, Ecuatoriana de Aviación began negotiating with Airbus, eventually acquiring the Airbus A310 in the early 1990s.

In the late 1980s, Ecuatoriana acquired a reputation for not being viable: long delays and flight cancellations were common along with alleged rumors that government officials and their families traveled for free to and from Ecuador. Ecuatoriana faced these problems, as well as competition from other carriers, such as Ecuador’s private carrier SAETA, American Airlines (which took over Eastern Air Lines routes in Latin America in 1990) and Continental Airlines, which began operating in Ecuador from its Houston hub.

Affected by the widespread economic crisis in South America during the 1990s, Ecuatoriana faced deep financial problems. The airline stopped flying in late September 1993 and some of its planes, two A310s and the only DC-10, were returned. Ecuatoriana was forced to coexist with its competitors, namely TAME and SAETA on its routes in North and South America. In late 1994, SAETA made an offer of 31 million dollars in an attempt to acquire Ecuatoriana, but without a positive outcome.

After a long privatization process, with the participation of nine consortia including ACES, Air France, British Aerospace, Carnival Airlines, Challenge Air Cargo, Continental Airlines, Aerogal and TACA, the consortium led by VASP won the bid through the exchanges Guayaquil and Quito stocks, buying 50.1% of the shares in August 1995 (at $1500 per share), with a five-year business plan and an effective injection of 10 million dollars during the tender. The Ecuadorian government took the remaining 49.9% and announced that it would take 25% of the remaining shares (administered by TAME), with 24.9% to be sold in six months.

In 1996, medium-haul domestic and international flights were restarted, thanks to the Boeing 727 that the airline received when the privatization process was finalized. Due to a DC-10, (borrowed by VASP), flights to Madrid were re-established.

In March 2000, the airline was flying to Buenos Aires, Cancun, Guayaquil, Manaus, Mexico City, Panama City and Santiago, operating one Airbus A310-300, three Boeing 727-200 and one Douglas DC-10-30. That same year, Ecuatoriana suffered a general collapse of Ecuador’s economy and once again saw its financial situation weaken. With this negative scenario, VASP decided to sell its stake in Ecuatoriana, with Aero Continente and Lan Chile being bidders at the time.

After the rejection of Aero Continente’s offer and the suspension of Ecuatoriana’s air operator certificate, Ecuador’s civil aviation authority authorized Lan Chile to start a subsidiary dubbed “Lan Ecuador” to fly on many international routes previously operated by Ecuatoriana.

Lan Chile owned 50% of the airline, through the leasing it made of two Boeing 767s to the airline. However, in 2004 its share was sold to Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano. In early 2005, LAN had taken control of Ecuatoriana’s routes and fleet.

Throughout its history, only one accident was reported in 1972. Since its foundation, Ecuatoriana has operated with the A310, Boeing 720B, Boeing 707, Boeing 727-200, Douglas DC-4, DC-6, Lockheed L-188 Electra and with the Douglas DC-10-30. Their codes were EU and EEA and their callsign was “Ecuatoriana”.


PLUNA – Uruguay

RuthAS, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

PLUNA Líneas Aéreas Uruguayas was an airline based in Montevideo that operated flights in South America, as well as cargo and leasing flights from its hub at Carrasco International Airport. It was the flag airline of Uruguay.

The airline was founded in September 1936 and began operations the following month, November 19, 1936. It was founded by Jorge and Alberto Márquez Vaesa, two brothers who obtained the necessary financial and technical support through the then ambassador of the United Kingdom in Uruguay, Sir Eugen Millington-Drake. Millington-Drake later wrote in her memoirs that she suggested that the airline be named using a memorable acronym, taking SABENA as an example. Then, it was decided “PLUNA”, an acronym for Primeras Líneas Uruguayas de Navegación Aérea. The airline operated two de Havilland Dragonflys from Montevideo to Salto and Paysandú.

The carrier saw the incorporation of the Potez 62 and Douglas DC-2 into its fleet in the early 1940s. However, after the outbreak of World War II, PLUNA was forced to suspend its operations between 1942 and 1944 due to shortages of spare parts. The delicate position in which PLUNA found itself led the Uruguayan government to help the airline by increasing its stake to 85% on October 16 1944. The first Douglas DC-3 joined PLUNA’s fleet in February 1946.

The airline became a fully government-controlled airline on November 12, 1951. After World War II, the PLUNA fleet included two Douglas DC-2s. In the same year, a Douglas DC-3 and four de Havilland Herons were added to the fleet. The DC-3s remained in operation until 1971, the last four of which were sold to the Uruguayan Air Force.

On June 24, 1958, PLUNA entered the turbine era with the delivery of its first of three Vickers Viscounts turboprops with four engines purchased from Vickers. He later acquired two Viscount 700s from Alitalia and three Viscount 800s from VASP.

PLUNA’s growth slowed considerably over the next three decades, but it entered the jet age soon after jets were introduced to the world, and added John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York and Miami to its destinations using the Boeing 707 and Boeing 737.

In the 1980s, PLUNA began flying to Madrid, Asunción, Rio de Janeiro and Santiago de Chile, but services to JFK and Miami were suspended.

The 1990s saw the emergence of financial problems for PLUNA. In 1995, the airline was transformed into a public-private partnership and the government sold 51% of the shares to a holding formed by the Argentine consortium Tevycom and Uruguayan businessmen. The holding later sold half of its stake in PLUNA to VARIG.

In April 2000, the fleet consisted of six Boeing 737-200 and a Douglas DC-10-30 to serve a network that included Asunción, Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Florianópolis, Madrid, Montevideo, Punta del Este, Rio de Janeiro, Rosario, Salvador, Santiago and São Paulo.


At the end of June 2005, the main shareholders of the airline were the Government of Uruguay (49%) and VARIG (49%), and private investors maintained the balance. When VARIG filed bankruptcy protection in June 2005, it sought a bidder for its 49% stake in PLUNA. For nearly a year, it looked like the stake would go to Conviasa but the deal was officially canceled in July 2006.

On January 4, 2007, the Government of Uruguay began negotiations to sell 75% of its shares to a private consortium of investors from Germany, United States, Uruguay and Argentina that pledged to inject 177 million dollars into the airline. In July of the same year, the government granted 75% of PLUNA’s shares to LARAH, and the acquisition of seven Bombardier CRJ-900s was announced in a deal worth 261 million dollars. The first of the seven new CRJ900s that would be added to the fleet in 2008 arrived in March of that year, which allowed increasing frequencies for existing routes, as well as expanding services to new destinations.

In April 2010, Canadian airline Jazz Air Income Fund invested 15 million dollars in LARAH. The change gave it 25% indirect control of the Uruguayan airline, as LARAH had a 75% stake in PLUNA.

In early June 2012, PLUNA CEO Matías Campiani revealed that the airline could collapse amidst a financial crisis that led to a loss of 18 million dollars in the eight months ending February of the same year. Subsequently, with losses of 300 million dollars, Leadgate sold its 75% stake in the airline, transferring it back to the Uruguayan government. At that time, this percentage of PLUNA’s shares was owned by LARAH, which in turn was owned 75% by Leadgate and 25% by Jazz Air.

Although it was initially disclosed that Jazz Air was not interested in taking all the 75% shares and it was later informed that the Canadian airline was considering the takeover, the government suspended PLUNA’s operations on July 5, 2012, after a strike that started two days earlier, after failing to find new investors for the airline. The government announced that PLUNA’s fleet and routes would be auctioned. After that, it appeared that there were no plans for the government to have any stake in PLUNA’s successor.

Pluna - CX-CRI - Bombardier CRJ-900LR

In April 2011, PLUNA connected Uruguay to 2 destinations in Argentina, 1 in Chile, 1 in Paraguay and 8 in Brazil. All these flights were operated with the Bombardier CRJ900. The airline before its bankruptcy, operated with 13 aircraft of this type. Their codes were PU, PUA and the callsign “PLUNA”.


Read Diogo’s previous article, Airlines from the Past – America




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MERV CROWE December 17, 2021 - 9:42 am

A good round up from South America, we have flown on LAN, AVIANCA and BOLIVIAN. BOA. .great photos there of airliners from the past
.Viscount , Caravelle, 727.

Durand December 22, 2021 - 5:50 pm

Just read this interesting article and bringing some nice souvenirs of a large tour across Latin America I was fortunate to put together in Spring 1988. Out of the airlines listed, I flew PLUNA (707-387B CX-BNU EZE-MVD), ECUATORIANA (707-321B, HC-BFC, CCS-BOG-UIO), CRUZEIRO (a couple of 727-100s and an A300B), and AVENSA (my only ride on board a CV 580 between CCS and PMR and a then first ride on board a short body 727-100 on the return leg)


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