Adios Pluna, Uruguay’s miserable little airline.

If you are a Uruguay Expat, or are visiting Uruguay to investigate if our lovely Oriental Republic is right for you, you have to fly here. Sadly, or more likely luckily, you won’t be doing that on Uruguay’s own airline, miserable little Pluna. They have suspended all flights and are shutting down.

The story on the closure from my friends at Sky Today news.

We don’t need Pluna. It was a regional-aircraft-only airline that charged for absolutely everything including water. Despite being “Uruguay’s Airline” it was owned primarily by a Canadian hedge fund with a bunch of German money, as a sweetheart deal buying Canada’s Bombardier Canadair jets. Instead of even considering buying own-bloc Mercosur Brasil Embraer regional jets which are far preferred by most flyers due to much better headroom, essentially a small mainline “real” jet rather than a BarbieJet JungleJet.

Uruguayans, Uruguay Expats, and visitors to our lovely little country –  If you haven’t flown Pluna – Lucky you! If you have – well at least whomever you fly next time, you won’t have to pay for water. It’s not like we don’t have other choices.

LAN Airlines has very nice service from their Santiago Chile hub, connecting Montevideo Uruguay to the world. Flew them a number of times, including back from Uruguay to USA in January. Partner with American and all other oneworld airlines. LAN also serves Australia with a QANTAS codeshare and New Zealand with a Santiago nonstop.

TAM Airlines, now also owned by LAN via merged parent company LATAM Airlines, connects through Sao Paolo Brasil, with very nice onboard service and good service in Montevideo Carrasco Airpot and Montevideo City Ticket Office (horrible service in Miami but that’s another story.) Flew them to Uruguay and back to USA in May 2011, and again to Uruguay last November when AAwful Airlines stranded me in Miami. TAM in Montevideo City Office was wonderful when Pluna totally mangled my return journey last year. From Sao Paolo, TAM and Lufthansa provide connections to Europe.

AAwful American Airlines is still viable and the only nonstop to the USA (or to anywhere in North America), as well as a LAN partner in the oneworld alliance. I *almost* flew them to Uruguay until they turned around over Cuba and stranded me in Miami.

Taca Airlines has lovely service through Peru and then via Central American hubs in El Salvador or Costa Rica to many USA and one Canada gateway. Just flew them back from Uruguay 3 weeks ago and loved it. Partner of United and all the other Star Alliance airlines. Now merged with Avianca so connection options from Taca to Avianca in Colombia are available, on to the world including Avianca to US cities that may not be served directly by Taca. An excellent AviancaTaca joint Frequent Flyer program, LifeMiles, that can get you free travel all over the worldwide Star Alliance network. Now my primary FF program.

Using Taca, once you are in Peru on the Taca Peru nonstop from Montevideo to Lima, Star Alliance partners United and Air Canada have nonstops to North America if you choose to switch to a widebody for the intercontinental leg.

Copa Airlines has a nice late-night nonstop up to Panama, with one-connection ongoing service to a half dozen or more US cities which are hubs of its close partner United for ongoing connections, and one in Canada to its Star Alliance Partner Air Canada. Flew them to Uruguay about 5 weeks ago.

Gol, increasingly known as Delta of Brasil (Delta Airlines just bought a big chunk of them, is codesharing, with rumors of bringing them into SkyTeam) connects to Sao Paolo and elsewhere in Brasil. With Delta connections to the USA.

Checking out Uruguay from Europe? Iberia, co-owned with British Airways, has a nonstop from Montevideo to Madrid, one of the two major European hubs of IAG that owns both carriers, and a big hub for all of oneworld in Europe.

Oh, and miserable but big Aerolíneas Argentinas, owned by the Argentine government (and just as well run) connects from Montevideo to Buenos Aires and then to the world. Including to Europe and USA, and with a partnership with Delta and soon in SkyTeam.

Published by

Mark Mercer

Site co-owner Mark Mercer. AKA Marcos Cristoforo Mercer, AKA the Fuzzy Wanderer. Expat from USA living in Uruguay as of mid-2012, after "test-driving" it for a few months in 2011 and early 2012. Married to Lisamaria, AKA well-known travel and fitness writer Lisa Marie Mercer. Follow Mark on Twitter @mcmxs and his many other sites, which you can find at http://about.me/MarkMercer. I write and engage about many of my other interests, on Google+ at https://google.com/+MarkMercer

3 thoughts on “Adios Pluna, Uruguay’s miserable little airline.”

  1. Well, it is sad that a few people think your way. As a former Pluna Airlines pilot I must say our "miserable little" company will be missed for ever. With an excellent safety record, providing flawless yet economic service throughout the southern southamerica, from a convenient location hub. I am among those 900 former employees who´s families right now are dealing with unemployment. Why do you hate Pluna so much? So much so as to write a blog about it?

    1. Gabriel,

      I am sorry for you and your fellow Pluna employees – but our blog is not about the plight of Pluna employees. It is about visiting Uruguay and moving to Uruguay, both of which involve flying to Uruguay. You may not want to hear this, but Pluna was a very bad airline overall, as far as its value proposition to its paying customers, compared to its competition in the region.

      My post from 2 months ago mentioned many reasons, such as the uncomfortable CR9s instead of the better-respected (by customers) and more comfortable, and Mercosur-built, E-Jets. Pluna charged for everything, including water. On my 5 or so Pluna flights – one was cancelled at the last day, leaving me with a very big Brasil transit-without-Visa problem, which Pluna did little to solve and TAM did all the work to take care of us.

      On my very first Pluna flight, April 2011 into MVD for us to explore the idea of moving to Uruguay, Pluna lost our bags for 4 days. They said they would send them on to Colonia to our hotel. They did not. When I called, they told me to go to the BUS station and ask in the lost-luggage. Finally on day 4, when we were back in Montevideo, they got our bags to our hotel in Plaza Cagancha.

      If you follow me, Mark/Marcos on FlyerTalk (MarkXS), on Facebook (Marcos Cristoforo Mercer) or on Google+ (Mark Mercer), or on my Travel Blog fuzzywanderer.com, you will see that I often write about airlines, and hold all of them to high standards of service. I have recently ripped into United Airlines for bad service, as well as American Airlines. I have recently praised Copa Airlines and Taca Airlines. I have praised Air Canada, LAN, and given ok reviews to Alaska Airlines, and some others.

      I’m sure Pluna pilots were very well trained. The Pluna cabin crew and gate agents were friendly. The Pluna city ticket office people in Montevideo were friendly and helpful, though they required TAM to fix my problem caused by Pluna canceling my flight.

      But Pluna planes, even with the CR9 the largest Bombardier CRJ, are still cramped, limited hand luggage, limitations on hold luggage, low headroom – I don’t like those Canadian-made planes any better on Delta or Air Canada than I did on Pluna. But on those airlines I did not pay for water or Coca-Cola. And those airlines and every other airline I mentioned participates in some frequent flyer scheme that is part of a larger alliance, where flying helps me earn more free tickets.

      Pluna’s program was only for small cash discounts on short Pluna-only flights. Whereas AviancaTaca’s LifeMiles program is how I am flying for nearly free back to Uruguay in 3 weeks from USA, after using a ticket from United’s mileage scheme with miles earned in part from buying TAM tickets, to fly for free to Uruguay last June on Copa. While my wife moved to Uruguay on American Airlines using miles from Alaska Airlines scheme.

      Pluna’s scheme was near-worthless, and totally worthless for things like that.

      Finally… Sorry, but Uruguay is just too small to have its own airline. Arguably, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, are all too small to have their own airlines – which is why Lufthansa now either owns or controls their previous “national” airlines. Or like Belgium’s original Sabena and Switzerland’s original Swissair, those airlines close down and people lose their jobs, only some re-hired by the separate successor Brussels Air and SWISS International Airways.

      Face it – With 6-country-ownership group LATAM (LAN of Chile, LAN Perú, LAN Ecuador, LAN Argentina, LAN Colombia, and TAM of Brasil), and 4-country-owenership-group AviancaTaca (El Salvador, Costa Rica, Colombia, Perú) dominating Latin America and Intra-Americas transport along with the American connection with LAN and the United-Copa connection with AviancaTaca and for now still a few months with TAM, and all the Star Alliance and Oneworld connection options with through ticketing and shared Frequent Flyer schemes benefits, how could 1-county-only, no-alliances Pluna hope to survive?

      No matter how good you and your fellow employees are, the airline made no sense. And it gave up being a real Uruguayan-owned airline connecting uruguayos to the workd and the world to Uruguay, years ago when that Canadian-German group took over.

Comments are closed.