BOGOTA, Colombia–On November 14th up to 1800 employees systemwide were laid off at Avianca Holdings. The airline consortium owner of Avianca, TACA, LACSA, TACAPeru, Aerolineas Galapagos and TAMPA Cargo is suffering as more competition enters Colombia, Central America and the airline has not been able to recover up to 200 million dollars from Venezuela. Avianca is the second oldest airline in the world, created in 1919 in Colombia and an icon in Latin America. The merger with the TACA Group in 2009 created for a while the biggest airline in the region. Central America and the north of South America are now excellent revenue producers for U.S. carriers and Latin American airlines. For 2015 Southwest Airlines will open its first Latin American city: San Jose in Costa Rica and Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza will develop by May a new Central American hub in Houston International Airport to compete against United Airlines. Salvadorian start-up VECA Airlines is expected to start flights in February 2015 with two Airbus A-319s to Central America and most likely Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles and Baltimore. Also the Colombian LCC Viva Colombia has announced its interest to operate to three cities in Florida. Pressure on Avianca has build up and layoffs were needed to lower the operational costs. Rumors are that the airline will have a second wave of layoffs in February 2015.
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–On July 12th a complete article in LA NACION, Costa Rica’s main newspaper informed of the new flights and airlines that will start operations to Costa Rica. On August 16th Avianca Airlines Costa Rican division under the name of LACSA will start flights from San Jose to Santiago, Chile via Bogota and from San Jose to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil always via ElDorado International Airport at the Colombian capital. Also in August Cubana Airlines (the flag carrier of Cuba) will reinstate flights between Havana and San Jose. The airline used to operate the routes some years ago until it code shared it with TACA. Last year TACA suspended the route linking Cuba with Costa Rica. By November 1st the American carrier JetBlue Airways will open Boston-Liberia flights. For the end of the year the Civil Aviation of Costa Rica (DGAC) will have the final permits of the certification process of Air Costa Rica (Tica Air International) a new Costa Rican airline. The airline plans to start flights to Miami, Managua, Panama and San Andres Island. A second phase would include Quito, Guayaquil and Havana and a third phase would include New York and Los Angeles, routes once operated by LACSA. A second Costa Rican carrier, TICOS AIR has not been able to move forward in their certification process explained Alvaro Vargas, the director of the aviation department. Also Salvadorian start-up VECA Airlines is expected to obtain final permits to operate San Salvad0r-San Jose run. Vargas also mentioned Brazilian airline AZUL Linhas Aereas has been interested in learning about permit processes. Other airlines that have been metioned as interested in Costa Rica include Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Allegiant, Eastern Airlines, TAME of Ecuador and CONVIASA of Venezuela.
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador–VECA Airlines (Vuelos Economicos de Centro America) the new start-up airline and El Salvador’s flag carrier established in late 2013 in San Salvador, El Salvador is close to start its international operations. The main airline hub is located in San Salvador at Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport (formerly Comalapa International Airport). The airline is expected to commence service in June 2014 with regional service to major cities in Central America. VECA Airlines is expected to start their services with two Airbus A-319 leased from lessor International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC). The first of these, a former Cyprus Airways aircraft, has already been delivered to the carrier, while its sistership is being prepared in Miami, Florida ahead of its official handover to the start-up. Both aircraft will be configured in a single-class, 144-seat economy class arrangement. The start-up intends to bring competition into the Central American market following the recent merger of Avianca and TACA Airlines. Several former TACA Airlines employees work now at VECA Airlines, the new runner up as the Salvadorian major airline after the absorption of TACA Airlines by the Colombian flag carrier. It is unclear if VECA Airlines will expand it’s “Wings” beyong the Central American countries but Salvadorian and Nicaraguan authorities hope the airline would open flights to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, New York and Washington-DC. VECA Airlines will operate to Guatemala City, San Pedro-Sula, Managua, Panama City and San Jose, Costa Rica. The Juan Santamaria International Airport will be VECA Airlines secondary airport.
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 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.
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador–Viva Colombia’s Commercial Vice-President William Shaw, declared the airline is analyzing opening flights to the Central American capitals. Shaw attended the ROUTES AMERICAS symposium held at the Sheraton Hotel in the Salvadorian capital. “We are looking into the route to El Salvador or even to have a base in El Salvador”, Shaw declared. “The Central American region really needs a low cost carrier”. El Salvador’s Minister of Tourism, Jose Napoleon Duarte confirmed the negotiations with Viva Colombia are well advanced. Shaw insisted the interest of Viva Colombia for El Salvador is mainly because two things, the great tourist potential the country has and the Salvadorians that live outside their nation, up to 3 million and from those, 2,5 million in the United States. “We still don’t have anything defined, but with the aid of the Minister of Tourism of El Salvador, soon we will be announcing our decision” concluded William Shaw. Viva Colombia announced several months ago its plans to expand to destinations like Panama and Costa Rica. The entrance of Viva Colombia to the market will make the competition fierce between the legacy carriers like Avianca and COPA Airlines, and the low cost carriers like Viva Colombia and Salvadorian start-up VECA Airlines that should start operations in the next months.