|Commenced operations||19 November 1936|
|Ceased operations||5 July 2012|
|Airport lounge||Blue Lounge|
|Parent company||Government of Uruguay (100%)|
|Headquarters||Carrasco, Montevideo, Uruguay|
PLUNA Líneas Aéreas Uruguayas S.A. was the flag carrier of Uruguay. It was headquartered in Carrasco, Montevideo and operated scheduled services within South America, as well as scheduled cargo and charter services from its hub at Carrasco International Airport.
On 5 July 2012, only two days after the carrier's employees went on strike amid mounting financial difficulties, the Uruguayan government decided to close the airline down and to liquidate it. The carrier was wholly owned by the government at the time of its closure.
The airline was established in September 1936 and started operations the following month, on 19 November 1936. It was set up by Jorge and Alberto Márquez Vaesa, two brothers who had obtained the necessary financial and technical support through the ambassador of the United Kingdom to Uruguay at the time, Sir Eugen Millington-Drake. He writes in his memoirs that he suggested the airline be named using a memorable acronym, taking SABENA as an example. It was then decided on "PLUNA", an acronym for Primeras Líneas Uruguayas de Navegación Aérea (English: First Uruguayan Air Navigation Lines). Millington-Drake knew De Havilland's representative in Buenos Aires at the time, which helped in the acquisition of the airline's first aircraft. The airline flew two five-seater de Havilland Dragonflys from Montevideo to Salto and Paysandú. The two planes were christened Churrinche and San Alberto, the latter in honor of the brothers' father. PLUNA flew 2,600 passengers in their first fiscal year, a huge success for that era. It also flew 20,000 pieces of mail and 70,000 newspapers.
The carrier saw the incorporation of both the Potez 62 and the Douglas DC-2 into its fleet in the early 1940s, the latter acquired from the U.S. government. Following the outbreak of World War II, PLUNA was forced to suspend operations between 1942 and 1944 due to the lack of spare parts. The delicate position PLUNA was in at this time led the Uruguayan Government to aid the company by boosting its stake to 85% on 16 October 1944. The first Douglas DC-3 entered PLUNA's fleet in February 1946. The airline launched regular services to Porto Alegre, Brazil, in May 1948. The carrier later added the cities of Santa Cruz in Bolivia and Buenos Aires, Rosario and Córdoba in Argentina to its network.
The airline became a wholly government-owned company on 12 November 1951. After World War II, PLUNA's fleet included two Douglas DC-2s which were operated on the Montevideo–Paysandú–Salto route until they were retired by 1951. In the same year, a Douglas DC-3 and four de Havilland Herons were added to the fleet. The Herons only stayed in PLUNA's fleet for a short time and by 1957 they had been sold. The DC-3s remained in service much longer, and in 1971 the last four of them were sold to the Fuerza Aérea Uruguaya.
São Paulo was added to the route network in January 1954. On 24 June 1958 the carrier entered the turbine era with the delivery of its first of three Vickers Viscounts four-engined turboprops purchased new from Vickers; it later acquired two Viscount 700s from Alitalia and three Viscount 800s from VASP.
PLUNA's growth slowed considerably for 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 Boeing 707 and Boeing 737 aircraft.
In the 1980s PLUNA began flying to Madrid, Asunción, Rio de Janeiro and Santiago de Chile, but services to JFK and Miami were suspended. In the meantime, as the city of Punta del Este flourished as a major tourist destination, PLUNA benefited from that. During this time, an office was also opened in Tel Aviv, Israel.
The 1990s saw financial trouble loom for PLUNA. In 1995, the company was transformed into a public–private partnership and the government sold 51% of the shares to a holding formed by an Argentine consortium named Tevycom and Uruguayan businessmen; the holding later sold half of its participation in PLUNA to Varig.
At April 2000, the airline had 635 employees. At this time the fleet consisted of six Boeing 737-200 Advanced and one McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 to serve a network that included Asunción, Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Florianopolis, Madrid, Montevideo, Punta del Este, Rio de Janeiro, Rosario, Salvador, Santiago and São Paulo. By late June 2005, the airline's major shareholders were the Government of Uruguay (49%) and Varig (49%), and private investors held the balance. When Varig entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on 17 June 2005, it sought a bidder for its 49% stake in PLUNA. For almost a year, it looked as if it might go to Venezuela's state-run Conviasa, but the deal officially fell through in July 2006.
On 4 January 2007, the Government of Uruguay started negotiations to sell 75% of it shares to a private consortium of investors from Germany, United States, Uruguay and Argentina called Leadgate Investment, a subsidiary of Latin American Regional Aviation Holding Corporation (LARAH), that committed to inject US$177 million in the company. In July the same year, the government awarded 75% of PLUNA's stock to LARAH, and the acquisition of seven Bombardier CRJ-900s in a deal worth US$261 million was announced.
In late October 2007, PLUNA presented its new corporate image, developed by Australian design company Cato Partners. This new image is based on the interpretation of the name "Uruguay" as meaning "river of the painted birds" or "river of the colorful birds" (Spanish: Río de los pájaros pintados). The first of seven brand new CRJ900s that would be incorporated into the fleet during 2008 arrived in March that year; these new aircraft permitted increasing frequencies to existing routes, as well as expanding services to new destinations.
In April 2010, the Canadian airline holding company Jazz Air Income Fund invested US$15 million in LARAH. The move gave this holding an indirect control of 25% of the Uruguayan flag carrier, as LARAH had a participation of 75% into PLUNA at that time; the Government of Uruguay held the balance.
In September and October 2010 three additional new CRJ900s aircraft were delivered from the Bombardier factory. In April 2011 three options were taken up for delivery at the end of 2011 and these were delivered between September and November 2011. With these additions, PLUNA's fleet consisted of 13 airplanes, the highest number in its history.
In early June 2012, PLUNA's then CEO, Matías Campiani, disclosed that the airline might face collapse amid a financial distress that led to a loss of US$18 million for the eight months ending in February the same year, partly due to the protectionism of the government of Argentina —where the carrier concentrated 21% of its operations— following the renationalisation of Aerolíneas Argentinas in 2008, and partly due to the slowdown of the Brazilian economy in the preceding months. Later on, with losses totalling US$300 million, Leadgate disposed of their 75% stake in the airline, transferring it back to the Uruguayan government. By that time, that percentage of PLUNA's stock was owned by LARAH, which was in turn 75% owned by Leadgate and 25% by Jazz Air. Despite it being initially disclosed that Jazz Air was not interested in taking over the entire 75% stock, and that it was later informed that the Canadian airline was actually evaluating the acquisition, the government suspended PLUNA's operations on 5 July 2012—following a strike that started two days earlier, after failing to find new investors for the company.
The government announced that both PLUNA's fleet and routes would be auctioned. There are no plans for the government to have any stake in PLUNA's successor. In September 2012, the auction of the seven Bombardier aircraft that belonged to the liquidated carrier was delayed until October 2012 as there were no bidders. Cosmo Airlines, a Spanish charter carrier, eventually purchased seven Bombardier CRJ900s at a price of $137 million.
PLUNA had a codeshare agreement with Iberia, which operates the Montevideo–Madrid–Montevideo route. Under the same codeshare agreement, passengers also connected from Madrid to many destinations within Spain and also to Frankfurt. PLUNA also announced a codeshare agreement with American Airlines, which would have placed PLUNA's code on American's Miami-Montevideo route, if it had government approval.
Accidents and incidents
PLUNA had only one fatal accident with the loss of ten crew members, the Aviation Safety Network records 3 hull-loss accidents/incidents for the airline.
- 8 January 1946: A Douglas DC-2-124, registration CX-AEG, was destroyed during a thunderstorm in Uruguay.
- 9 October 1962: A Douglas C-47A, registration CX-AGE, crashed during a final test flight. The crash occurred during takeoff from Carrasco International Airport, when the right wing grazed the runway, bouncing the aircraft and causing the right tire to burst, then bouncing the aircraft again causing the engine to smash into the ground at almost full throttle, and finally rolling over and coming to rest upside down. A fire broke out shortly afterwards. All 10 crew members died.
- 11 May 1975: A Vickers 769D Viscount, registration CX-AQO, flying a scheduled Carrasco International Airport–Buenos Aires-Aeroparque service, ran off the end of the runway at the destination airport on landing. The damage wrote off the aircraft. All 57 passengers and crew survived the incident.
- Uphoff, Rainer (19 June 2012). "Uruguay seeks new investor for Pluna after Leadgate's withdrawal". Madrid: Flightglobal.com. Archived from the original on 19 June 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- "Comunicado del Directorio de PLUNA Líneas Aéreas Uruguayas S.A." (Press release). PLUNA S.A. 5 July 2012. Archived from the original on 6 July 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
- "Uruguay's Pluna warns of collapse, but CEO's missive may be more political than financial". Centre for Aviation. 8 June 2012. Archived 31 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Pluna: reunión de conciliación entre el Estado y Leadgate." Espectador.com. September 8, 2009. Retrieved on July 9, 2010. "La reunión estaba fijada en la sede de Pluna en Carrasco,"
- "Offices and call centre." PLUNA. Retrieved on May 13, 2010. "Headquarters Miraflores 1445 (Carrasco)"
- "World airline directory—Pluna–Primeras Lineas Uruguayas de Navegacion Aerea". Flight International: 97. 21–27 March 2000. Archived from the original on 10 May 2014.
- "Brasileiros invadem Punta del Este" [Brazilians move into Punta del Este] (in Portuguese). Folha de Sao Paulo. AFP. 29 December 2003. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
A Pluna realiza vôos charters do Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Porto Alegre e Curitiba para o Hotel Conrad (Pluna fly charter services for the Conrad Hotel from Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Porto Alegre and Curitiba.
- "Aerolineas Argentinas, BQB, Gol and LAN-TAM poised to benefit from demise of Uruguay's Pluna". Centre for Aviation. 13 July 2012. Archived from the original on 13 July 2012. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
- "Uruguay's flag carrier Pluna "indefinitely grounded" and most staff redundant". MercoPress. 6 July 2012. Archived from the original on 6 July 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
- "Pluna cancela operativa por 48 hs. por paro de sindicato OFP" [Pluna cancels operations for 48 hours due to OFP union strike] (Press release) (in Spanish). Pluna SA. 3 July 2012. Archived from the original on 6 July 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
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- Pereira Lima, Edvaldo (9 July 2012). "Uruguay's Pluna suspends operations indefinitely". Air Transport World. Archived from the original on 9 July 2012. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- "Gobierno decidió liquidar Pluna y venden aviones a mejor postor" [The government decided to liquidate Pluna and sell its planes to the best bidder] (in Spanish). El Observador. 6 July 2012. Archived from the original on 6 July 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
- "World Airline Survey – Primeras Líneas Uruguayas de Navegacion Aérea (PLUNA)" (PDF). Flight International: 628. 14 April 1966. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
- PLUNA's history Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Varig pode vender Pluna para a Aerolíneas Argentinas" [Varig's Pluna stake may be sold to Aerolineas Argentinas] (in Portuguese). Folha de Sao Paulo. 16 March 2004. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
- Albuquerque, Vinicius (27 June 2005). "Varig deixa gerência da companhia aérea uruguaia Pluna" [Varig steps down from management at Pluna] (in Portuguese). Folha de Sao Paulo. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
- "Pluna in play". Flightglobal.com. Airline Business. 22 August 2005. Archived from the original on 8 June 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2012.
- "Venezuela quer comprar ação da Varig na Pluna" [Venezuela wants to buy Varig's stake in Pluna]. Folha de Sao Paulo (in Portuguese). 14 July 2005.
- "PLUNA se capitaliza en 20 millones de dólares y anuncia plan de crecimiento" [PLUNA gets a capitalisation worth US$20 million and announces a plan to grow] (in Spanish). Espectador.com. 5 May 2010. Archived from the original on 6 July 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
- Uphoff, Rainer (8 January 2007). "Uruguay government close to selling controlling stake in Pluna to investors, replace management team". Flightglobal.com. Archived from the original on 20 June 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- "Ambitious project to recover Uruguay's flag carrier". MercoPress. 6 January 2007. Archived from the original on 20 June 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
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- "Uruguay's flag carrier signs contract for 7 midrange Bombardiers". MercoPress. 10 July 2007. Archived from the original on 19 July 2012. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
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- "Historia de la compañía" [Company's history] (in Spanish). Pluna. Archived from the original on 6 July 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
- "Canadian Fund Invests in Uruguay's Flagship Carrier PLUNA". MercoPress. 27 April 2010. Archived from the original on 8 June 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2012.
- Bonnassies, Olivier (14 March 2011). "Jazz Air to convert to corporate structure by year-end". Flightglobal.com. Archived from the original on 8 June 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2012.
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- Oyhenard, Andrés (12 June 2012). "Acuerdan salida de socio privado de Pluna y esperan ratificación" [Exit agreed for Pluna's private partner and ratification is awaited]. El Observador (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 21 June 2012. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
- "Jazz no está interesada en adquirir más acciones de Pluna" [Jazz is not interested in taking over additional shares in Pluna]. El Observador (in Spanish). 18 June 2012. Archived from the original on 21 June 2012. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
- Larocque, Sylvain (15 June 2012). "Chorus Aviation won't invest more to help Pluna airlines out of financial woes". Canadian Business. The Canadian Press. Archived from the original on 21 June 2012. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
- "Canadian company still interested in recapitalization of Uruguay's national airline". MercoPress. 22 June 2012. Archived from the original on 6 July 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
- "Ejecutivos de Jazz llegan al país para negociar compra de Pluna" [Jazz's executives arrives in Uruguay to negotiate the buyout of PLUNA] (in Spanish). El Observador. 21 June 2012. Archived from the original on 21 June 2012. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
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- Pereira Lima, Edvaldo (23 July 2012). "Liquidated Pluna to auction fleet, route rights within 60 days". Air Transport World. Archived from the original on 26 July 2012. Retrieved 26 July 2012.
- Pereira Lima, Edvaldo (14 September 2012). "Pluna's fleet auction postponed to Oct. 1". Air Transport World. Archived from the original on 14 September 2012. Retrieved 14 September 2012.
- "Auction of Pluna's Bombardier aircraft collapses: terms "non attractive" and "non viable"". MercoPress. 14 September 2012. Archived from the original on 14 September 2012. Retrieved 14 September 2012.
- Edvaldo Pereira Lima (4 October 2012). "Cosmo buys liquidated Pluna's seven CRJ900s".
- "Pluna confirma la compra de tres nuevos aviones Bombardier CRJ 900 NextGen" [Pluna confirms the acquisition of three brand new Bombardier CRJ 900 NextGen] (Press release) (in Spanish). PLUNA. 25 April 2011. Archived from the original on 6 July 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
- "SubFleets for: PLUNA". AeroTransport Data Bank. 8 June 2012. Archived from the original on 8 June 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2012.
- "Pluna Extension" (PDF). Flight: 234. 15 September 1938. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
Early last month a Pluna D.H. 86B, flown by the Paraguayan pilot Nudelman, visited Asuncion, partly by way of a survey of the proposed service between Montevideo and Asuncion which may be operated by the company.
- "Accident record for PLUNA". Aviation Safety Network. 28 November 2004. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
- Incident description for CX-AEG at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 12 August 2011.
- Accident description for CX-AGG at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 12 August 2011.
- Accident description for CX-AQO at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 12 August 2011.
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