Argentina approves 135 new airline routes for Avianca, others

BUENOS AIRES, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Argentina’s civil aviation authority approved on Monday 135 new routes for five airlines looking to start operating in Latin America’s No. 3 economy at more competitive prices.

President Mauricio Macri’s government estimates airlines such as Colombia’s Avianca will invest $1.7 billion in Argentina in the next four years, giving Argentines more travel options.

The companies approved, pending a green light from the transportation ministry, are FB Líneas Aéreas, Andes Líneas Aéreas, American Jet, Alas del Sur and Avian Líneas Aéreas, the local unit of Avianca Holdings SA.

The companies have three months to prove their technical capacity before they can start flying the routes, according to documents from the aviation authority, Anac.

The government’s embrace of more competition in Argentina’s skies, particularly of budget airlines, has generated protests by airline employees who fear the competition will undercut benefits enjoyed by employees of state-run Aerolineas Argentinas and LAN Argentina, a unit of LATAM Airlines Group.

Low cost airlines such as Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA are also expected to request routes in Argentina in coming months. (Reporting by Maximiliano Rizzi; Writing by Caroline Stauffer; editing by Grant McCool)