Latin American Flag Carriers
SAO PAULO, Brazil–Low Cost Carrier Azul Linhas Aereas Brasileiras S.A. announced it has ordered an Airbus A-330 airliner to start flight operations between Sao Paulo (Viracopos Airport) and Fort Lauderdale, Florida and New York-JFK. David Neeleman the Azul’s CEO wants the airline to connect with both of JetBlue’s connecting hubs. The Brazilian newspaper “Folha de Sao Paulo” indicated that Azul’s service to the United States should start before the end of 2014. This will be the third Brazilian airline to operate to the U.S. after TAM Airlines (Miami, Orlando and New York-JFK) and GOL Airlines (Miami).
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–Air Costa Rica is the new brand name of Tica Air according to the Public Registry of the airline, which has launched the second phase of a certificationn process and expects to receive approval from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation within four to six months to operate as an international airline. The first stage of the airline’s plans include starting with charter flights to other countries in the region and then opening international routes to the United States, Nicaragua, Panama City and Colombia. Carlos Víquez, the director responsible for the formation of the airline , told El Financiero (EF) that “Civil Aviation now have 10 days to review the technical information provided, as the legal and financial documents have already been accepted. After that period, the government entity will usually provide a list of differences, for which the company has 30 working days to respond. ” Air Costa Rica is a company whose associates, George Novey and Eduardo Stagg, also own Air Panama. This company has operated since 2006 and has over 300 employees and 18 aircraft. Its core business is domestic flights in Panama and its only international route so far is San Jose. Last February, Stagg informed El Financiero that it was interested in operating a route to Miami from San Jose, taking advantage of the fact that Avianca had left that slot empty after closing the former LACSA hub at Juan Santamaria International Airport. They have also announced flights to Managua, Panama and San Andrés. Air Costa Rica would operate one of the Boeing 737-300s that Air Panama has purchased. At the moment Air Costa Rica seems to be the most probable Costa Rican carrier to start air services as Ticos Air has not been able to take off and has lost momentum.
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.
LA PAZ, Bolivia–Effective May 23rd, the Bolivian flag carrier Boliviana de Aviacion (BoA) will start non-stop flights from La Paz to Miami. The news were announced by the airline general manager Ronald Casso at a news conference in the Bolivian capital. The airline will operate wide-bodied Boeing 767-300, like the ones its already using to Madrid. Boliviana de Aviacion operates Boeing 737-300s to Buenos Airres and Sao Paulo. Casso declared the airline’s next airport in the U.S. after Miami International will be Washington-Dulles. The biggest ethnic concentration of Bolivians is precisely in the U.S. capital. In 1925 Guillermo Kyllmann founded in Cochabamba LAB Airlines (Lloyd Aereo Boliviano). The airline served as Bolivia’s flag carrier until it ceased operations in 2008. In April 1992 another Bolivian airline was founded under the name of AeroSur; and it suspended its operations on May 2012. Boliviana de Aviacion (BoA) is expected to also extend its operations to other ALBA counties like Venezuela and Cuba.
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–Last September the Costa Rican team that runs the airline Ticos Air presented the required documentation to the Civil Aviation General Directorate in order to be certified to operate international flights in Costa Rica. It was expected the airline to start services by December, but still the new Costa Rican carrier has not been able to take off. The director of the Directorate (DGAC) informed the airline has not been able to move forward to the third phase of its certification, since it has not presented yet any of the five Airbus A-319s it stated will use for its international services to Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Caracas and Mexico City. Rumors in Costa Rica are Ticos Air’s CEO Gino Renzi has not been able to secure any investors for the airline to take off and that its loosing momentum. The airline has its headquarters in Forum, a high end business center in Escazu, but no one from the airline has been able to clarify when the airline will launch its flights. In the past several ill-fated projects for a Costa Rican carrier never took off, like West Caribbean Costa Rica and Aeropostal Alas de Centro America.