Month: March 2014
CARACAS, Venezuela–Air Canada says it has suspended its flights to and from Venezuela due to civil unrest. In a statement posted on its website Monday, the airline says it can no longer ensure the safety of its operation in Venezuela, which has been roiled by daily street protests over crime and a deteriorating economy for more than a month. The airline’s last flight left Caracas on Sunday. It is offering refunds to those who have purchased tickets for flights after that. Foreign airlines have struggled under a $3.3 billion debt owed by the Venezuelan government. President Nicolas Maduro said Friday any airline that reduced or suspended flights in and out of Venezuela would face severe measures. He said any airline that leaves won’t be allowed back while he is in power. Avianca will cancel flights bewteen San Jose, Costa Rica and Caracas by April 7th. Also the Colombian flag carrier will reduce frequencies between Bogota and Lima and the Venezuelan capital.
CARACAS, Venezuela–President Nicolas Maduro warned airlines not to limit flights in and out of Venezuela, days after Avianca reported was reducing flights to Caracas amid industry complaints of billions of dollars in unpaid debts. “Airlines have no excuse to reduce their flights to Venezuela”, Maduro said during a press conference. “If airlines reduce flights, I will take severe measures.” Airlines have struggled to obtain dollars in exchange for the Bolivar currency as a result of long-running delays in Venezuela’s 11-year-old currency control system. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) this week said that airlines are owed USD $3.7 billion and that some are considering halting service to Venezuela. “If an airline leaves the country, it’s not coming back while we are in government”, Maduro said, casting the airlines’ complaints as part of a wider economic war against his socialist government by political foes and businesses. Maduro also said, however, that his government would pay debts to the airline industry. Avianca Holdings, operator of Colombia’s biggest airline, on Thursday told travel agents it will cut flights between the countries’ capitals to one day from three as of March 20th. Avianca will suspend flights between Caracas and San Jose, Costa Rica, as part of an effort “to match supply to market needs” and reduce the number of seats available between Caracas and Lima. The company’s Chief Executive said that currency controls hade made it difficul to bring revenue worrth about USD$300 million out of Venezuela. German airline Lufthansa said this month its 2013 financial results took a double-digit million euro hit from payment issues in Venezuela. Maduro said that various airlines around the world were ready to step in and cover any unfilled routes. “They’re asking permission to cover flights to Colombia, Panama, Central and South America”, he said without giving more details. Venezuelan state-run air carrier CONVIASA is expected to take over several routes like the Caracas-San Jose run.
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–The Civil Aviation General Directorate of Costa Rica announced in the nations capital, the Brunca Region International Airport (South Pacific of Costa Rica) will become in several years a reality. The international airport will be located 5 kilometers of the town of Palmar, close to the Sierpe wetlands in the Province of Puntarenas. The AIRB (in spanish Aeropuerto Internacional Region Brunca) will be constructed in the next four years and it is expected the new President of Costa Rica that will take power on May, will focus in the development of this important international airport in the South Pacific region. The construction of the airport will have two phases. Phase 1 will include a runway of 2,200 meters long by 45 meters wide. The terminal building would be able to attend from 150 to 200 passengers per flight. For Phase 2 the runway would be extended to 3,300 meters. “The airport has the objective to serve and facilitate the arrivals of airplanes like the Hercules C-130, equiped to transport emergency materials”, Alvaro Vargas, the director of the Civil Aviation informed. The commercial airplanes that are expected to service the AIRB are Airbus 320 family of jets (A-320,A-319 and A-318), Embraer E-190, the regional ATR-72s, De Havilland DHC-8 and Learjets. In addition to U.S. and Canadian carriers, the DGAC hopes that airlines like Avianca and COPA Airlines would operate flights from their respective hubs in San Salvador and Panama City. Also new start-ups in Costa Rica like Ticos Air and TIA (Ticas International Airlines) will be invited to operate in the Brunca Region International Airport.
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–Avianca informed on March 12th, it will suspend its San Jose-Caracas-San Jose route effective April 7th. The route has been operated by LACSA since the seventies when the service connected San Jose with the Venezuelan capital with stops in Panama City, Barranquilla and Maracaibo. When LACSA was purchased by Salvadorian TACA International Airlines, the route was changed to a non-stop flight between the two capitals. Last May Avianca (the Colombian flag carrier that purchased 70% of Grupo TACA) decided to shut down the former LACSA’s hub at Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose, cancelling the non-stop flights to New York-JFK, Los Angeles, Monterrey, Havana, Quito and Guayaquil. The next route to be cancelled was San Jose-Miami and now “adios Caracas”. Costa Ricans will be forced now to fly via Bogota using the Avianca services or Panama City with COPA Airlines. It is now expected the Costa Rican government and AERIS (the private company that manages the Juan Santamaria International Airport) will request Venezuelan flag carrier CONVIASA to take the route.
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador–The first LCC (Low Cost Carrier) in Central America, VECA Airlines (Vuelos Economicos Centro Americanos) is expected to start operations very soon. The airline will operate two Airbus A-319s from its hub at Comalapa International Airport of El Salvador to all the Central American capitals and important cities: Guatemala City, San Pedro-Sula, Tegucigalpa, Managua, San Jose and Panama City. VECA Airline is hoping to break the duo-poly of the Central American traffic of both Avianca (former TACA Airlines) and COPA Airlines of Panama. Several former TACA Airlines employees work at VECA Airlines, the new runner up as the Salvadorian flag carrier after the absorption of TACA by the Colombian flag carrier. VECA Airlines is one of the three Central American carriers hoping to take off in 2014. The other two airlines are from Costa Rica: Ticos Air and TIA (Tica Air International) owned by Air Panama. Both projects have been slow to start, and now Costa Rican pubkic opinion is skeptical the airline owned by Gino Renzi (Ticos Air) will ever take off. In the meantime, VECA Airlines is ready for take off.
QUITO, Ecuador–Ecuadorian flag carrier TAME has informed that in April, it will start Quito-Fort Lauderdale-Quito flights. This will be the second U.S. gateway for TAME (the airline already operates to New York-JFK). Fernando Guerrero, the General Manager of the airline is revamping its schedule, hoping to convert Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport in a connecting hub. The flights from Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires and Lima will easily connect in Quito to New York-JFK, Fort Lauderdale and Havana, Cuba. The airline also analyzes if to suspend its flights to Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport for six months as load factors are around 50%. Also TAME has a code sharing agreement with the Panamanian airline COPA Airlines. Guerrero is planning to adjust TAME’s actual structure to the growth the airline has had in the last years, becoming the most important carrier of the country. At the moment more international routes are just in planning analysis like Quito-San Jose, Costa Rica. Last May Avianca’s TACA Airlines suspended its operations connecting the Ecuadorian capital with San Jose opening the opportunity for TAME’s operation to the Costa Rican capital.