The stakes are escalating amid a labour conflict in the aviation industry, with two pilots unions saying they will carry out a 48-hour strike this weekend.
The Asociación Pilotos de Líneas Aéreas (APLA)and Unión de Aviadores de Líneas Aéreas (UALA) have said they will walk off the job on Saturday and Sunday amid a dispute over wage renegotiations. Such a move would see widespread delays and cancellations for passengers travelling with state-run carrier Aerolineas Argentinas and Austral.
On Tuesday, the president of Aerolíneas Argentinas, Luis Malvido, announced that the company requested "mandatory conciliation" proceedings be opened in the face of the threat of strikes from the pilots' unions. He described the situation as intolerable, saying "we cannot leave Argentines without flights."
That news broke after the Labour Ministry summoned representatives from the two unions for a hearing on Thursday, in a bid to avert the planned strike action.
Hours later, presidential frontrunner Alberto Fernandez called on the unions not to follow through on their threat, promising workers that "from December 10 we will build another story."
Fernández, the Frente de Todos leader who is expected to defeat President Mauricio Macri in next month's presidential vote, described the workers as "right and victims of government policies," but said it wasn't the time to carry out "
Speaking from San Juan, where he appeared alongside provincial Governor Sergio Uñac at a campaign event, Fernández said "if we can do something to avoid having a conflict over the weekend, let's be thankful for it."
"If my word is worth something, I ask you please do not take these measures. It is not a good time," he said.
He added that "I think that Argentina has to have a flagship line and I am determined to stand up for Aerolineas Argentinas."
The strike, should it take place, would seek pilots walk off the job both at Aeroparque Jorge Newbury and Ezeiza international airport for two days. It would cause the cancellation of 104 flights and affect more than 10,800 passengers, according to aviation officials.
Sources from the Labour Ministry told Télam Tuesday that "in case the parties do not reach an agreement on the issues raised, and in order to ensure the normal development of flights over the weekend, the labour portfolio would dictate obligatory conciliation [proceedings]."
Unions have warned they would not comply and said the strike action will only be lifted should pilots be granted the 22-percent increase they have requested.
A statement said members were "perfectly aware of the difficult situation facing all commercial activity in the country, and the company in particular. But we are not going to accept that they hold workers accountable for the crisis that they generated."