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We are usually called the Phoenix of airlines in Latin America, because in just four years, we managed to re-invent the company. How did we do this?
In 2007 the Uruguayan flag carrier Pluna – whose employees would later create Alas Uruguay – was near to closing. Yet Pluna responded with an aggressive restructuring plan: the airline opened a hub in Montevideo, and in four years managed to double the fleet and passengers by applying a hybrid business model. We are particularly proud of the fact that Pluna was the first airline in South America to market ancillary services such as luggage, special seating, food, and on board duty-free.
Pluna’s business model earned the Federico Bloch Award from the Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association (ALTA), as well as an award from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in 2011 for leading world air traffic growth. The airline also had more than 100 interline agreements, 40 interline eTicket agreements, several codeshare and operational safety and quality certifications, including IATA’s IOSA and ISO-9000.
Amadeus had provided the technological support for these achievements since Pluna became a customer in 1995. In 2010 we worked intensely on the next step: the adoption of the full Altéa suite. Unfortunately, this project had to be aborted due to the unexpected closure of the company citing financial difficulties.
After nearly 80 years of accident-free operations – a record in the aeronautical industry – this closure came as a surprise. That winter, a large group of workers gathered in Montevideo´s Independence Square to protest. Amongst the various signs, one in particular stood out, "No nos corten las Alas” or “Do not clip our wings”.
The Pluna team responded to the call. The airline reorganised through its two unions, and Alas Uruguay (Uruguay Wings) took off as the first self-managed airline in the world. Alas Uruguay was founded with the aim of rescuing Pluna’s rich human and technical capital, and to restore air connectivity for Uruguay and the region. The airline’s mission was to provide operational safety, with a focus on regularity, punctuality and high quality customer service. The self-managed model – unique in the aviation industry – is based on the principles of a self-disciplined and honest management, competitive pricing, and alliances.
The process began in 2012, a few weeks after the closure of Pluna. It was a long and bumpy road, but the tenacity and conviction of the team as well as the unconditional support we received from our partners, including Amadeus, helped us to overcome any obstacles.
With the support of Amadeus, the Altéa project was born again in Alas Uruguay. Amadeus demonstrated the flexibility to adapt to a project full of changes and challenges and responded proactively at all times. Amadeus provided Alas Uruguay with strong distribution capabilities throughout the region, a competitive and scalable business model, and best in-class solutions – enabling us to offer top-quality services to our customers and meet our international growth objectives. As a global distribution and technology partner, Amadeus delivers value to airlines and travel professionals alike.
Self-management involves challenges and major difficulties that constantly need to be overcome. Today, with our aircraft already in flight, our team is focused on continuing the process which allows Uruguay to spread its Alas (the Spanish word for wings) again.