The state run airline Aerolíneas Argentinas was rocked yesterday by news that CEO Isela Costantini, was resigning from her post.
The brief press release issued yesterday afternoon stated that she decided to resign for “personal reasons,” but as the hours went on, a different version of what happened began to take shape indicating that this wasn’t really the case. Apparently, these “personal reasons” were actually linked to key members of the company being against her administering the airline. One name that continues getting brought up as being one of the main detractors is the Transportation Minister, Guillermo Dietrich, the man in charge of overseeing policy for all state-run transportation companies, Aerolíneas among them.
According to outlets with access to sources close to the company’s leadership, it was Dietrich himself to who told Costantini she “wasn’t the right person to lead the next phase of the company.” Mario Dell’ Aqcua, former CEO of Intercargo — the state-run baggage handling company — has been chosen to replace her.
“The minister gave her two options: resign or remain in the company with an important institutional role. Finally, Costantini decided to leave,” La Nación reported.
The outlet went on to explain the reason for Dietrich’s move is tied to the fact that they had different visions about how to run the company. While Costantini proposed to reduce its deficit gradually, the Minister considered a “shock” policy to be more appropriate.
Dietrich’s main points of criticism about Costantini’s administration were twofold: the purchase of 20 new planes when — based on his criteria the current fleet is adequate. And this year’s salary negotiations with unions, which he considered to have been overly beneficial for the employees, but made at the detriment of the State’s coffers. In some cases employees received a 40 percent raise as a result of the negotiations.
When consulted about this today, Dietrich said that her leaving was a mutually made decision, but conceded they had had arguments about the budget Aerolíneas would face in 2017.
“What’s true is that the government has a big budgetary restriction and we have to stick to it. Closing Aerolíneas’s budget wasn’t easy, as it wasn’t with a lot of other companies,” said Dietrich, who went on to almost praise Costantini in saying “we built a team to reach the goal to not privatize, [and go onto] grow, provide a better service and become self-sustainable. And those goals have been met,” he said.
But besides these statements, others argue that this wasn’t the case. That leaving wasn’t in Costantini’s plans: “the company was in shock today. We know the truth and this wasn’t a mutual decision at all. The ‘personal reasons’ excuse is not true either. It’s true she was upset about certain things but in no way planned to leave like this,” a source from Aerolíneas told La Nación.
“It’s an injustice what they have done to her. She was making the company better, lowering expenses, re-negotiating supply deals and plane purchases. There were no major conflicts with unions because she knew how to reach consensus,” the source added.
Management isn’t the only group upset by the news. Aerolíneas workers’ unions also criticized it, praising Costantini at the same time. Something rather uncommon for union leaders from any company, usually engulfed in a constant battle with the managing sector.
“We didn’t expect it,” asserted union leader Juan Pablo Brey. “It was a good administration. We thought they came to downsize the company and fire people, but it was the other way. Jobs were created and the company continued to grow. She lowered the deficit without closing routes.” More than anything, unions recognize her predisposition to dialogue and reaching agreements with unions.
Costantini will now go on vacation and then will work along the new CEO for a couple months to help smooth the transition. Though by the looks of it, she will be missed by many in Aerolíneas Argentinas.