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Argentine ULCC Plans To Keep Maintenance Lean As It Grows

Spare-part logistics is cited as a major challenge by Flybondi.com, an airline operating a fleet of five Boeing 737 aircraft.

Established in 2016, Flybondi.com is Argentina’s first ultra-low-cost carrier. It now operates only five Boeing 737-800s to 13 destinations from its hub at Al Palomar Airport, a military base 11 miles west of Buenos Aires that has become a low-cost airport. The airline has ambitious plans to grow its operation and naturally, this will necessitate further demand on the maintenance side of its operation.

By 2021, CEO Julian Cook wants to triple his employee count to 1,500 and carry 10 million passengers on 30 aircraft. The airline has already been granted 85 routes by the Argentine Government, including 43 domestic and 42 international destinations, and has requested more than 200 routes.

Maintenance manager Omar Buono has a lean plan for supporting the airline's growth. He wants to carry out airframe maintenance work but only between C-checks, which he will outsource. “Our strategy is to increase these capacities gradually,” Buono says.

The airline outsources off-wing engine maintenance and does not work on components in-house. “We have helped other companies develop capacities for our fleet,” Buono notes.

About 50 employees are in the maintenance department as of December 2018, and Buono say he will increase the staff count as the fleet grows. He is also constantly assessing the need for more maintenance facilities.

The maintenance chief acknowledges he faces challenges in hiring mechanics. His main response is to pay competitive salaries and provide training in his maintenance unit. Another major challenge comes from his location in Argentina and the difficulty of spare-part logistics. Meeting that logistic challenge is one of Buono’s major focuses.

Whatever happens, the airline will adhere rigorously to the ULCC model. Its investors and board members include Michael Cawley, former COO at Ryanair, and Michael Powell, former CFO at Wizz Air and now chairman of Flybondi.com’s board.

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