TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras–Regional Honduran Airline AEROLINEAS SOSA is expanding its network to neighboring Guatemala operating its only jet, a Bombardier CRJ-100. The airline operates mainly as a domestic airline in Honduras, serving Tegucigalpa, Sam Pedro-Sula, La Ceiba, Brus Laguna, Puerto Lempira, the Bay Islands (Roatan, Utila and Guanaja) and their only international flight to George Town in Grand Cayman. Their fleet is composed of 4 LET L-410 UVP, 2 BAe Jetstream 31s, 2 Saab 340 and 1 Britten-Norman Islander. The airline sports a blue and white livery and the Honduran flag on the tail, as one time now defunct flag carriers TAN and SAHSA used to have. In all Central America the existing small airlines are expanding its route structures (Air Panama, TAG of Guatemala and now Aerolineas Sosa) and in other countries start-ups (El Salvador, Costa Rica and Nicaragua) could be partly after Avianca’s take-over of Central American airline TACA.
MIAMI, Florida–When the Avianca Airbus landed last January 13th in Miami International Airport, more than half a century (64 years to be exact) of air history came to an end. Finally LACSA Airlines in no more. When in 2009 Avianca and TACA Airlines decided to merge, the latter’s Costa Rican hub (once developed by LACSA Airlines since the 1980s) run the chance of being shut versus TACA’s El Salvador and Lima hubs and of course Avianca’s at El Dorado in Bogota. LACSA’s San Jose hub was developed since 1979 when the then Costa Rican flag carrier expanded its service to New Orleans, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orlando and Toronto in North America and Bogota, Lima, Quito, Guayaquil, Rio, Sao Paulo in South America. At that time LACSA’s slogan was: “Uniendo las Tres Americas” (Uniting the three Americas). Now Costa Ricans travelling to South America should use Avianca’s Bogota hub and for North America, the hub at El Salvador International Airport. Everybody hopes the vaccum left by Avianca would be filled up by the new Costa Rican airline Ticos Air that is expected to start flights on the first semester of 2014 with Airbus A-319s to cities like Miami, Los Angeles and New York.
TELA BAY, Honduras–On March 15th, the deluxe Indura Beach & Golf Resort will open in Tela Bay on the northern coast of Honduras. Just 50 minutes north of San Pedro-Sula International Airport, Indura is the first five star resort in the Central American country. The name of the resort is the translation of “Honduras” in the garifuna language and will feature a state-of-the-art golf course designed by Gary Player. A unique golf course surrounded by native mangroves and palm trees, local flora and fauna, and spectacular views of the Caribbean coastline. Dotting a lush tropical landscape the 60 junior suites are scattered in 15 villas that are interconnected by footpaths that meander to a pristine beach. The design incorporates the liberal use of local Honduran products and sustainable materials, including bamboo floors, walls of local pine, San Juan wood doors and decorative accents of Guanacaste wood. Anchored in the culinary traditions of Honduras, dining at Indura Beach & Golf Resort will be a relaxing, authentic experience that pairs indigenous ingredients grown on the property with local fare prepared with recipes and techniques borrowed from the Garifuna and South American cultures. The resulting dishes capture the essence of this corner of paradise while still remaining flavorful and familiar. The first of its kind in Honduras, the spa will be a reflection of an immersion in the culture of Honduras, both in design and development of treatments. A philosophy in tune with nature’s elements, Maina will be a sanctuary of relaxed simplicity designed around fragrant and serene water gardens. Gentle sea breezes will pass through private spa “casitas” capturing the essence of local flora while sunlight and shadows play lightly throughout the space. An outdoor lifestyle is fostered in the relaxation areas comprised of terraces, balconies and pools. Guests of Indura Beach & Golf Resort will be able to enjoy the resort but also the picturesque Jeannette Kawas National Park, a treasure trove of beaches, wetlands, tropical forests, coral reefs and lagoons and the Laguna de los Micos and the Lancetilla Botanical Gardens plus one-day tours to the Copan Archaeological Park. Even though the Honduran government plans to upgrade Tela Bay Airport, the best way to reach the resort from the U.S. will be using San Pedro-Sula’s International Airport that is serviced by American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Spirit Airlines and Avianca.
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.
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.