Latin American Flag Carriers
QUITO, Ecuador–TAME’s General Manager Fernando Guerrero informed on January 23rd the Ecuadorian flag carrier suspended temporarily its scheduled flights from Quito to Caracas. The reason for the suspension of services comes as a result of the problems the airlines are having in Venezuela, securing their sales earnings to be transferred by the Central Bank of Venezuela’s CADIVI Department (Comision de Administracion de Divisas) the government’s control center of foreign currency. Since April 2013 the CADIVI has not transferred the funds to TAME, an amount of $43,174,603. Fernando Guerrero also informed as soon CADIVI transfers the funds, TAME will reinstate the flights to Caracas.
SAN JOSE,Costa Rica–By 2025 Costa Rica should have it’s new airport to service San Jose and the Central Valley. This would be the third airport (La Sabana Airport inside the city served until the 1950s when the El Coco Airport, today Juan Santamaria International Airport took over). The new mega airport will be constructed in the region of Orotina, on the Pacific Coast of the country. The project is to construct a Central American Mega-Worldport that could connect the “heart” of Central America with the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia. Juan Santamaria International Airport (MROC) is today the second busiest airport in Central America after Panama’s Tocumen International Airport, but still Costa Rica is the power house of tourism in the region. The new Orotina International Airport will compete with Tocumen (that has had several terminal expansion) and El Salvador’s Comalapa International Airport (Avianca’s Central American hub) that should be upgraded in starting this year. The Orotina International Airport will double in size in comparison to Juan Santamaria, will have two runways and a super terminal that could accomodate several airliners including the Airbus A-380s, A-350s and Boeing’s 747-800s, 777s and the 787s Dreamliners. Juan Santamaria International Airport would be used as a regional airport for Central American flights, charters and executive airplanes. AERIS is the private company that manages the Juan Santamaria International Airport unil 2021. Its expected that the construction and management of the new Orotina International Airport will be handled by a private company.
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–The recently formed Costa Rican airline, Ticos Air, is searching for personnel to fill several administrative and technical posts. Marketing Manager Daniel Gil said the new company plans to hire 120 employees, who will join 22 current workers to launch the airline’s operations. Gil said the company expects to begin operating its first flights in early 2014.Ticos Air provided the Civil Aviation Administration in Costa Rica (DGAC in spanish) with the required documentation for operating permits last June. The airline will operate five Airbus 319 aircraft, and the first destinations are Mexico City, Caracas, New York and Miami.The company formed in December 2012, and has since been establishing offices in San José, hiring workers, buying planes, and conducting other preparations. TACA Airlines’ decision last May to drop five non-stop flights to Costa Rica from the United States and other countries created a market opportunity for Ticos Air and other international airlines. TACA Airlines also laid off 261 employees (pilots, flight attendants and operations) from its Costa Rica operations as part of an integration process with Colombian flag carrier airline Avianca. The airline’s website, www.ticosair.com, is currently under construction. Ticos Air will try to fill the vacuum left after the demise of Aero Costa Rica S.A. in 1997 and the full absortion of LACSA by TACA Airlines and later in 2009 by Avianca. The airline will use Juan Santamaria International Airport as its hub but it is also expected the airline will operate to Liberia International Airport in Guanacaste.
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–December 30th. At the age of 92 years, Captain Otto Escalante Wiepking died, closing a golden chapter of the Costa Rican Civil Aviation. He was only seven years old when Charles Lindbergh visited Costa Rica in the “Spirit of St. Louis” and since then he knew deep inside his life would be connected with aviation. In 1939 a young Otto Escalante graduates from highschool and a year later starts working for TACA Costa Rica in the cargo department. Once the United States joins the Allies in the Second World War, the American pilots flying in Latin America were all requested to join the armed forces, opening the possibilities for young latin men to become commercial pilots. Otto Escalante travels to the U.S. and in a year becomes a commercial pilot. Escalante showed such professionalism, the United States Government gave him a scholarship at the Sky Harbour School of Aeronautics in Phoenix, Arizona. He returned to Costa Rica and works in several airlines like TACA Costa Rica and AVO. On March 12th 1948 he travels to Guatemala with Captain Guillermo Nuñez, flying two Douglas DC-3s. A day after Escalante and Nuñez returned to Costa Rica, the DC-3s heavy full of weapons and ammunition for Jose Figueres Ferrer’s National Liberation Army. In 1949 Otto Escalante returned to flag carrier LACSA and in 1960 he is appointed General Manager for the airline. Captain Escalante flew LACSA’s first jet in April 1967, a BAC-111-400 named “El Tico” and he kept working as a pilot until 1972 when he became CEO and President of the Board of Directors. Otto Escalante also founded Cayman Brac Airways (later Cayman Airways Ltd.) as a subsidiary of LACSA and was also SANSA’s President until he retired in 1989. Captain Escalante also served as a consultant for Aero Costa Rica S.A. (the other national airline that operated from 1992 to 1997). Today a great chapter of the civil aviation in this small nation is closed with a golden seal, that of a pioneer indeed.
MANAGUA,Nicaragua–The Venezuelan flag carrier CONVIASA (Consorcio Venezolano de Industrias Aeronauticas y Servicios Aereos) started one weekly flight connecting Caracas with the Nicaraguan capital. The second Central American city after CONVIASA started daily flights to Panama City. The airline is going through expansion plans that include new Brazilian Embraer E-190s. In addition to Managua and Panama City the flag carrier connects Caracas with Bogota, Colombia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Dominica, Grenada, Havana, Cuba; Madrid, Spain and Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago. Future cities include Georgetown, Guyana; Lima, Peru; Manaus and Sao Paulo in Brazil; Mexico City; Paramaribo,Suriname; San Jose, Costa Rica; San Salvador, El Salvador; and Santa Cruz, Bolivia. It also has been rumored CONVIASA will try to start non-stop flights to Miami, Florida or in any case via Managua. The airline has a fleet of one Airbus A-340-200, two Boeing 737-300, four Bombardier CRJ700 and six Embraer E-190s.
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–The year 2014 will be the year of airport competition in Central America. As Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport attracts more airlines (the latest are Air France and TAP Portugal), the rest of the Central American airports will gear up to compete for the “second position”. San Jose’s Juan Santamaria International Airport (probably the most modern of the region) suffered in May the unfortunate dismantling of old LACSA’s hub. Juan Santamaria International Airport (JSIA) is just another point-to-point station in the Avianca route system, as practically all U.S. non-stop operations were transferred to El Salvador’s Comalapa International Airport. But AERIS, the private company that manages JSIA is focusing in 2014 to attract new airlines from South America, Europe, Russia and even Asia. AERIS will start the second phase of its expansion that includes several more gates that can handle wide-body aircraft like Airbus A-340-600 and B-747. The gate area will grow double in space by 2017. JSIA will become the hub for Costa Rican start-up Ticos Air. CORIPORT S.A., the company that manages the other Costa Rican international terminal, Liberia’s Daniel Oduber International Airport in the Guanacaste province hopes to also attract new customers like Southwest Airlines and Spirit Airlines. The Honduran government is hoping to jump start the project for Tegucigalpa’s new international airport in Palmerola, in order to finally shut down the second most dangerous airport in the world: Toncontin. The government in Tegucigalpa hopes also to upgrade the infraestructure of San Pedro-Sula, Roatan Island and La Ceiba Airports. Managua’s Augusto Cesar Sandino International Airport and Belize City International Airport at the moment have no expansion projects. In 2014 El Salvador’s Comalapa International Airport will see the start of construction. CEPA (the government agency that manages the airport) hopes to turn the air terminal in the most modern airport in Central America. The new Salvadorian low cost carrier VECA Airlines has chosen Comalapa International Airport to be its main hub.
Finally the Guatemalan government hopes to bring more airline clients to the modern La Aurora International Airport that after its remodeling is totally under used. The growth of tourism in the area will be the trigger for the international airports to modernize and expand.
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador–For decades the airfares between the Central American capitals and most important cities have been as expensive or even more than a ticket to Miami, New York or Los Angeles. The Central American airlines of the 1970s like Aviateca, TACA International Airlines, SAHSA, TAN, LANICA, Aeronica, LACSA and COPA had almost an understanding of charging the same fares. In the 1990s when TACA International Airlines purchased the ill-managed Aviateca, SAHSA and LACSA, its merged consortium knowned as GRUPO TACA practically monopolized the intra-Central American market. Fares from San Salvador to Panama City could be as high as $500.00 and fares from San Jose to Guatemala City could be as high as $400.00. In 2009 when TACA Airlines and Avianca announced the merger between the two carriers, it was clear that the monopolistic practices of the Central American market were going to be extended way beyond Colombia. In 2013 a group of entrepeneurs in El Salvador announced the creation of the first Low Cost Carrier (LCC) in the region under the name of VECA (Vuelos Economicos Centro Americanos). The airline is expected to operate from Comalapa International Airport (45 minutes away from San Salvador) to the capitals of Central America and important cities like San Pedro-Sula in Honduras and Liberia in Costa Rica. The airline will operate modern Airbus A-319s and will break the supreme monopolistic hold of both Avianca (the former TACA Airlines) and COPA Airlines, both carriers members of Star Alliance. In cities of the United States with high density Salvadorian population such as Los Angeles, Washington, New York and Houston the news of the Salvadorian start-up has been welcomed with enthusiasm. What is not clear yet is if VECA Airlines will ever spread its wings from El Salvador to the U.S. The airline is expected to start services in the first quarter of 2014.