Government orders TAM to end commercial passenger services

On 8 December Bolivia’s Minister of Public Works ordered Transporte Aéreo Militar (TAM) to suspend commercial operations, enforcing its order by banning the airline from using check-in facilities and parking its aircraft at passenger terminals, and by instructing the airport and ATC authority, Aasana, not to accept TAM flight plans for civilian passenger flights. After some confusion as to whether the order was meant to apply immediately, it was clarified that it would enter into force on 16 December. It was further clarified that the order was based on TAM’s failure to restructure itself from a military unit to a state enterprise rather than because of safety concerns — as had been widely assumed in the wake of the recent LaMia Bolivia crash. Civilian authorities have long insisted that TAM become a state enterprise, but the airline has missed many deadlines that the government had set for it to do so; the sixth such deadline came and went in April, for example, with no change in TAM’s status. As the 16 December deadline approached, a Ministerial meeting on 14 December agreed to give the airline another 45 days to re-organize itself as TAM-Comercial, allowing it to continue operating as a military organization in the meantime. However, the airline will have to operate from military facilities rather than from civilian passenger terminals. It is not clear whether any of TAM’s BAe 146s are currently operational. Even if they are, it is unlikely that they will be re-certified to operate as civilian aircraft once TAM becomes a commercial enterprise.

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