Aerolíneas Argentinas President Mario Dell'Acqua (left) and Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña today at the Aerolíneas Operations Center. (Handout Argentine Presidency)

Aerolíneas Argentinas has decided to drop its business class option from domestic and regional flights in a bid to both save money and increase the number of seats on offer on its 31 Boeing 737-800 planes.

The announcement, made today by Aerolíneas President Mario Dell’Acqua, is designed to save the flagship carrier US $73 million through 2020 and add a total of 50 seats to the fleet. Economy seats will replace the business class seats.

“We have decided to cut business class from our fleet serving our domestic and regional flights, because that’s a major source of savings, considering the objective that we have for next year is that Aerolíneas no longer needs subsidies from the state to continue to operate,” said Dell’Acqua. “This is what is being done all over the world and what our competition has been doing for a while. This means that we have a larger offer of seats, and for those who want a certain level of comfort when they fly we have implemented Economy Plus in the first three rows, which means that the seat in the middle is not used.”

According to the airline, the current layout has 170 seats; after changes are made, the configuration will have 186 or 189 seats, according to the airplane. As the changes will be made to all 31 airplanes in the fleet, the gains made in seat numbers are equivalent to three extra airplanes. US $15 million will be spent re-configuring the airplanes over the next year.

Flights to the Caribbean, Lima, and Bogotá will continue to have a business class option. Those destinations are served by the Boeing 737 MAX airplanes. In turn, the current Embraer planes used by Austral will not changed, as the airline is seeking to replace them with planes that have the updated seat configuration.

El Cronista has reported that Dell’Acqua said today that Airbus, Embraer, Bombardier, and Boeing will be participating in a bid to replace the 12 Embraer 190 planes.