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[BUENOS AIRES] One of the founders of Ireland's budget airline Ryanair is eyeing Argentina as the next market for his brand of low-cost flying, following startups in Mexico and Colombia.
"It's just a question of time," Declan Ryan told the Spanish-language Argentine daily La Nacion on Monday.
"For 10 years, we've had VivaAerobus in Mexico and four years with VivaColombia. If life is good to us and we have a bit of Irish luck, we hope to see Viva operating in many Latin American countries, including in Argentina next year."
Budget airlines are increasingly moving into Latin America after becoming strongly established in Europe and the United States, where they have undercut traditional carriers.
Ryan and his family started what is now one of Europe's top low-cost companies, Ryanair, in 1985. In 2003, less than a decade after it went public, he quit as director.
He is managing partner in the Ryan family's investment company Irelandia Aviation, a group that has replicated the model of Ryanair, of which it remains a shareholder.
La Nacion said Irelandia Aviation was in talks to buy a small local firm to kick off its low-cost Viva operation in Argentina in 2017.
Aviation in the country is currently dominated by the flag carrier Aerolineas Argentinas.
Mr Ryan told the daily that the biggest challenge faced in the South American country was not its regulations but airport taxes.
One group, Aeropuertos Argentina 2000, "manages 35 of the 38 airports in the country, and that doesn't seem very fair to me," he said, adding that he had raised that point with Argentine authorities.
Irelandia Aviation invested in VivaAerobus in Mexico in 2006 with a local bus company, Grupo IAMSA, as its partner. That no-frills airline has 19 aircraft and Ryan sits on its board.
VivoColombia, of which Ryan is chairman, was launched along the same lines in 2012, and has nine aircraft.