Month: December 2013

The End of an Airline

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SAN JOSE, Costa Rica– January 13th, 2014 will mark the official end of an airline. This time is for LACSA (Lineas Aereas Costarricenses S.A.) that was formed by Pan American World Airways in 1945 and was the Costa Rican flag carrier ever since. The airline was owned by the Costa Rican government and domestic investors until 1991 when Federico Bloch from TACA International Airlines purchased it and merged it into the TACA Group. Since  June 1950 LACSA operated a  flight between San Jose (the Costa Rican capital) and the city of Miami. For many years the flight numbers 620 and 621 were used to identify the San Jose-Miami-San Jose run. The route was operated with Curtiss C-46 and later Douglas DC-6B. The airline received its first jetliner, the British BAC-111-400, that was promptly used for the Miami route. Later on LACSA upgraded the fleet to the BAC-111-500 and in 1979 the airline received its first Boeing 727-200 Advanced brand new from the Seattle manufacturer. After LACSA was absorbed by TACA International the flights to Miami changed its recognized flight number, but kept being marketed with the LACSA two letter code: LR. On 2009 the TACA Group was merged into Colombian flag carrier Avianca. In May 2013 Avianca decided to shut down the original LACSA hub at San Jose’s Juan Santamaria International Airport, suspending all the non-stop flights from Costa Rica to the United States. The only flight that was kept was the Miami bound flight. In December 2013 Avianca decided to finally suspend the flight, thus ending 64 years of uninterrupted service between the Costa Rican capital and Miami. January 13th will be indeed the end of an airline. RIP.

LACSA operated the Douglas DC-6 from San Jose to Miami with an intermediate stop in Grand Cayman.
In the 1950s LACSA operated the Douglas DC-6 from San Jose to Miami with an intermediate stop in Havana, Cuba.

Another Customer for Tocumen International Airport

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TAP Portugal will be the fiftth European carrier to operate to Tocumen/Panama.
TAP Portugal will be the fiftth European carrier to operate to Tocumen/Panama.

PANAMA CITY, Panama–Portuguese flag carrier TAP will be the newest airline to start services into Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport. The airline, member of Star Alliance has informed that will operate a Lisbon-Bogota-Panama City flight in 2014. TAP will be the fifth European carrier to operate to the Panamanian “super-hub” airport (Iberia, KLM, Condor and Air France operate non-stop flights to Tocumen). The airport is COPA Airlines connecting hub, called “The Hub of the Americas” and it is also the busiest airport in Central America. The second busiest airport in Central America is Costa Rica’s Juan Santamaria International Airport, but after Avianca’s dismantling of its hub, most probably this place will be taken over by El Salvador’s Comalapa International Airport.

Avianca goes for Alitalia or LOT Polish

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Avianca Airlines is eyeing Aliatalia and LOT Polish Airlines.
Avianca Airlines is eyeing Aliatalia and LOT Polish Airlines.

BOGOTA, Colombia–Avianca Airlines owner German Efromovich is looking to extend his wings to Europe and his eyes are on Alitalia or the Polish flag carrier LOT. Efromovich was born in South America but has Polish ancestors. He purchased the Brazilian LCC Ocean Air (today dbas as Avianca Brazil), later he purchased the TACA Group and Ecuadorian AeroGal. Last year Efromovich tried purchasing TAP Portugal but at the end of a long process he was not able to achieve it. “I need my airline to have more presence in Europe, buying existing airlines or creating a new one”, Efromovich declared to a newspaper in Colombia. The Polish government has also informed of its interest to privatize the flag carrier LOT (Polskie Linie Lotnicze) in 2014. Alitalia is member of DELTA’s Skyteam Alliance and LOT is member of UNITED’s Star Alliance. Avianca Airlines is also a member of Star and the second biggest airline in Latin America after LATAM Airlines (LAN and TAM).

Remodeling of Comalapa. A Reality in the Making

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Rendition of the remodeled terminal of El Salvador (Comalapa) International Airport.
Rendition of the remodeled terminal of El Salvador (Comalapa) International Airport.

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador–CEPA (Comision Ejecutiva Portuaria Autonoma) presented today the Master Plan that will start in 2014 and should keep El Salvador’s Comalapa International Airport as an efficient terminal until 2032. The project will have two phases and will have a total cost of 500 million dollars. Once the upgrading and remodeling of the terminal, Comalapa International Airport should be able to handle 6.6 million passengers per year. The airport located close to the Pacific Coast is Avianca Airlines’ main connecting hub in Central America. Flights from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Orlando, Washington-Dulles, Newark, New York-JFK, Chicago and Toronto operate to Comalapa International and connect to Central and South America. The airport is serviced by American Airlines, United Airlines, DELTA, Spirit Airlines, AeroMexico, COPA Airlines, Iberia Airlines and will also become the headquarters for the Salvadorian start-up VECA Airways.

Costa Rican Executive Airports

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Rendition of possible Quepos/Manuel Antonio Airport Terminal.
Rendition of possible Quepos/Manuel Antonio Airport Terminal.

QUEPOS, Costa Rica–Well known as the power house of tourism in Central America, the Civil Aviation Board (DGAC in spanish) is hoping to bring the domestic airports into the next level of service and connectivity. Costa Rica has only two international airports (with Immigration and Customs), Juan Santamaria International Airport that services San Jose and Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia/Golden Coast in Guanacaste. The rest of the airports are 100% domestic. Costa Rica has landing strips and some with terminal buildings at Tamarindo Beach, Nosara Beach, Samara Beach, Punta Islita, Tambor Beach, Quepos/Manuel Antonio, Limon, Golfito, Palmar Sur, Puerto Jimenez, Drake Bay, Carate Beach and San Vito. But it is Quepos/Manuel Antonio (with code XQP) the one that will become the next Costa Rican executive airport. The plan is to extend its runway and ramp, construct a new terminal building that can be developed in due time to accomodate Inmigration and Customs Areas. With an extended runway XQP could allow the operation of the ATR-42s and ATR-72s (the airliner used by Avianca Airlines from its Central American hub in San Salvador) and private airplanes. Members of the Costa Rican Congress hope the new President (elections on February 2nd 2014) will develop several more of the domestic airports into executive airports to satisfy the demand of the leisure destinations accross the nation.

The New Comalapa International Airport

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CEPA's projects for Comalapa International Airport includes new terminals and the revamping of the existing one.
CEPA’s project for Comalapa International Airport includes new terminals and the revamping of the existing one.

SAN SALVADOR,El Salvador–El Salvador International Airport (also known as Comalapa International Airport) will be upgraded in the next years to become the most important connecting hub north of Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport. The government office that handles the international terminal, CEPA (Comision Ejecutiva Portuaria Autonoma) is reaching an agreement with the State of Maryland that will support the development of several projects that include the construction of new terminals and the revamping of the existing one. On December 9th the Governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley and the President of CEPA Alberto Arene signed a MOW in San Salvador. Avianca Airlines (former TACA Airlines) closed its Costa Rica hub last May and transferred most of the flight operations to Comalapa International Airport. The new start-up LCC airline VECA Airways has also chosen Comalapa International Airport as its home base. The new Salvadorian carrier will start services in 2014 between San Salvador and all the Central American capitals with two Airbus A-320s.

Central American Airline Cemetery

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Aerolineas Nicaraguenses S.A. (Aeronica) has been the only Central American carrier to operate the Soviet built Tupolev TU-154M.
Aerolineas Nicaraguenses S.A. (Aeronica) has been the only Central American carrier to operate the Soviet built Tupolev TU-154M.

SAN JOSE,Costa Rica–The airline cemetery in Central America is quite full now. The airline industry has changed dramatically since it was born in the 1930s in the Isthmus. Guatemala used to have airlines like AeroQuetzal, TikalJets and flag carrier Aerolineas de Guatemala (AVIATECA). The latter was absorbed by TACA International Airlines. Honduras had several carriers, Transportes Aereos Nacionales (TAN), Servicio Aereo de Honduras (SAHSA) and SOL Air. Nicaragua had Lineas Aereas de Nicaragua (LANICA) that folded its wings in 1980. The Sandinista regime created Aerolineas Nicaraguenses S.A. (AERONICA) that also closed in the 1990s. TACA International created Nicaraguense de Aviacion (NICA) that was also absorbed into GRUPO TACA in 1998. Costa Rica has been the Central American nation with the most airlines; Empresa Nacional de Transporte Aereo (ENTA), Lineas Aereas Costarricenses (LACSA), RANSA, SANSA, Vuelos Especiales Liberianos (VEL), Aero Costa Rica S.A. (ACORISA) and Aeropostal Alas de Centro America. ACORISA operated for five years and folded its wings in September 1997. LACSA and SANSA were fully absorbed by GRUPO TACA in 1998. Panama has had several airlines too; PAISA, Air Panama International, Aeroperlas and Compañia Panameña de Aviacion (COPA). Aeroperlas was purchased by GRUPO TACA and suspended operations in 2012. Air Panama International also folded its wings after Noriega was deposed, but a new domestic airline was formed using the same name. Finally El Salvador has had only one international airline; Transportes Aereos Centro Americanos (TACA International Airlines). The airline originally was founded in Honduras in 1931 but became the Salvadorian flag carrier. In the 1990s TACA bought the flag carriers of Central America and in 2009 it was merged into Colombian airline AVIANCA.  The disappearance of all these airlines and flag carriers has created the need of new start-ups. For 2014 two new airlines will appear in Central America: LCC Salvadorian airline Vuelos Economicos Centro Americanos (VECA) and Costa Rican flag carrier TICOS AIR.