(AP) Latin America's largest airline said Wednesday that an Argentine government order to vacate its hangar at the downtown Buenos Aires airport would force it to stop operating domestic flights in the country, and said it was seeking a court injunction to block the eviction.
LATAM Airlines's subsidiary, LAN Argentina, said it has invested $5 million in the maintenance hangar at Aeroparque Jorge Newbery, and pays $20,000 a month in rent according to a contract that runs through 2023.
The airports regulator's eviction notice doesn't explain the state takeover other than declaring it to be "in the national interest." The notice also notes that the government offered to help move LAN's domestic flights to Argentina's main international airport in the Buenos Aires suburb of Ezeiza, an offer it said the company has refused.
The Ezeiza airport is much less convenient for domestic flights than Aeroparque, and would add hours to any domestic trip for many residents of the capital. If LAN stops using Aeroparque and stops making domestic flights, the money-losing state airline Aerolineas Argentinas would be free to operate without its toughest competitor.
"We'll go to the courts to enforce our rights," Agustin Agraz, the company's spokesman, told Argentina's Diarios y Noticias agency. He said that the eviction order would make it impossible to maintain 10 jets that currently fly within Argentina, and put 1,500 employees out of work.
Requests for comment left Wednesday by The Associated Press with LAN Argentina and with Argentina's national airports regulator were not immediately returned.