By Nicolás Misculin
BUENOS AIRES, April 7 (Reuters) - A general strike in Argentina on Thursday that brought transportation to a standstill cost the flagship carrier Aerolineas Argentinas around 120 million pesos ($7.83 million), the company's chief executive, Mario Dell'Acqua, said on Friday.
Latin America's third-largest economy ground to a halt yesterday as labor unions walked off the job to challenge center-right President Mauricio Macri's austerity measures.
"There was no reason [for the strike]," Dell'Acqua told Reuters in an interview during the World Economic Forum in Buenos Aires. "It's the unions way of showing they can really have an impact on us," he said.
"I have to pay to lease the planes, I have to pay wages, but I didn't fly. We make money flying."
The strike comes at a sensitive time for the state-owned airline, which is bracing for an opening of Argentina's air travel market to boost competition which would include several budget airlines.
Macri, who took office in December 2015 and has sought to cut Argentina's massive fiscal deficit after more than a decade of free-spending populism, hopes the market opening will lower fare prices and expand the small offering of flights within the country.
Dell'Acqua said the entrance of low-cost companies could help Aerolineas by expanding the internal market, noting that Argentines fly only one-third as often as Chileans and half as often as Brazilians.
"Greater supply makes us all grow," he said, noting that after neighboring Brazil underwent a similar market opening, the number of travelers doubled.
Aerolineas is aiming to reduce its large deficit and expects to post a loss of $180 million this year, compared with a $300 million loss in 2016. ($1 = 15.3230 Argentine pesos) (Reporting by Nicolas Misculin; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Sandra Maler)