Latin American Low Cost Carriers

VECA Airlines starts flights to Costa Rica

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VECA Airlines operates two Airbus A-319s.
VECA Airlines operates two Airbus A-319s.

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–Salvadoran Low Cost Carrier (LCC) VECA Airlines landed at Juan Santamaria International Airport last February 27th. The airline will operate three times a week a flight from Guatemala City via San Salvador with an Airbus A-319 for 144 passengers in one single class. The airline is expected to offer excellent fares and compete with both Avianca and COPA Airlines. In 2009 the Colombian airline Avianca purchased GRUPO TACA and for a while the new airline operated as AviancaTACA but in 2013 the airline changed its name again to just Avianca. The Central American communities in the United States and Canada lost the emotional connection they used to have with the Salvadorian flag carrier that started in 1931 and now expect VECA Airlines to fill the void. Non official versions insist that VECA Airlines will start flights to Baltimore, New York, Houston and Los Angeles by the end of 2015 or beginning of 2016. The airline’s web site http://www.vecaairlines.com shows future services to Panama City from San Salvador.

Azul to the United States

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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).

Azul Brazilian Airlines will operate Airbus A-330 to Ft. Lauderdale and New York-JFK.
Azul Brazilian Airlines will operate Airbus A-330 to Ft. Lauderdale and New York-JFK.

VECA Airlines soon to Fly

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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.

VECA Airlines will start operations in June from El Salvador International Airport.
VECA Airlines will start operations in June from El Salvador International Airport.

VECA Airlines ready for Take-Off

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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.

VECA Airlines will operate Airbus A-319s for Intra-Central American service.
VECA Airlines will operate Airbus A-319s for Intra-Central American service.

 

Viva Colombia to Central America

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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.

Viva Colombia could start flights to Central American capitals in the near future.
Viva Colombia could start flights to Central American capitals in the near future.

Delayed taking off?

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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.

Ticos Air has not been able to move forward to its third phase of certification.
Ticos Air has not been able to move forward to its third phase of certification.

 

2025: Central American Mega-Worldport

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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.

The new Orotina International Airport will have two extended runways at sea level.
The new Orotina International Airport will have two extended runways at sea level.

Central American Airport Competition

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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.

Guatemala City's La Aurora International Airport is one of the most under used terminals of the region.
Guatemala City’s La Aurora International Airport is one of the most under used terminals of the region.

 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.

The Salvadorian Start-up

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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.

VECA Airlines modern logo uses the colours of the Salvadoran flag.
VECA Airlines modern logo uses the colours of the Salvadorian flag.

Viva Colombia Expands Its Wings

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Viva Colombia operates modern Airbus A-320s.
Viva Colombia operates modern Airbus A-320s.

MEDELLIN,Colombia–Low Cost Carrier VIVA COLOMBIA will start international services in 2014. The airline plans to service Panama City, Mexico City and Cancun from its base at Medellin International Airport. The information was provided by Declan Ryan, the son of the founder of Ryan Air and cofounder of the Colombian LCC. VIVA COLOMBIA has become one of the most important airlines in Colombia, offering a excellent domestic fares within the country. Colombia’s domestic flights have been in control of Avianca, Copa Colombia (former AeroRepublica) and LAN Colombia (former Aires). Future international services from Medellin include Costa Rica and Peru.