SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–Cuban national airline company Cubana de Aviación will offer nonstop flights between Cuba and Costa Rica starting on November 16th, the airline confirmed to Cuban media this week. The carrier dropped the route in August 2008 in order to code share the flight with TACA. But the airline will reopen the flight as part of an objective to boost tourism between the two countries. “We will offer two weekly flights on Thursday and Sunday departing from Havana in the mornings. The flights will last two hours and thirty minutes,” said Walfredo Riverón Rodríguez, corporate communications director. Flights will have a capacity of 85 passengers, operated with modern Antonov AN-158. Tickets for the route are already available at travel agencies and on the airline’s website, Riverón said. “The route will offer a great opportunity to expand ties between Central American and Caribbean countries and for developing multi-destination routes in the area,” he added. Data from the Costa Rican Tourism Board showed that only 3,372 travelers visited from Cuba last year.
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.
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–The main stockholders of Air Panama, George Novey and Eduardo Stagg have now invested in Costa Rican start-up Tica Air International. Carlos Viquez, the representative of the Costa Rican airline informed that Air Panama will transfer one of its Boeing 737-300 to the start-up for the opening of the route San Jose-Miami (that was abandoned in January by Avianca). “Costa Rica has always been a good place to invest and now more than ever with Avianca’s departure of several non-stop markets” said Eduardo Stagg, CEO of Air Panama. Viquez informed that it is expected for Tica Air International to start operations by December 2014. TAI is the second airline project in Costa Rica, after Gino Renzi’s Ticos Air. Alvaro Vargas, the Civil Aviation board (DGAC) director informed that Ticos Air still has not been able to move to the third phase of its certification, since it has not presented any of the 5 Airbus A-319s that Gino Renzi advised the airline would operate. Rumors in Costa Rica are that Ticos Air still has not been able to secure investors for the project. The advantage that TAI would have is the economic support from Air Panama, the second biggest and most important airline in Panama, that also operates flights to San Jose with a jet Fokker 100. “The idea is that both airlines should grow together, using scale economies”, conmmented Eduardo Stagg. Tica Air International is expected to open flights to Managua, David, Bocas del Toro and San Andres.
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.
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 SALVADOR, El Salvador–CEPA (Comision Ejecutiva Portuaria Autonoma) presented today the Master Plan that will start in 2014 and should keep El Salvador’s Comalapa International Airport as an efficient terminal until 2032. The project will have two phases and will have a total cost of 500 million dollars. Once the upgrading and remodeling of the terminal, Comalapa International Airport should be able to handle 6.6 million passengers per year. The airport located close to the Pacific Coast is Avianca Airlines’ main connecting hub in Central America. Flights from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Orlando, Washington-Dulles, Newark, New York-JFK, Chicago and Toronto operate to Comalapa International and connect to Central and South America. The airport is serviced by American Airlines, United Airlines, DELTA, Spirit Airlines, AeroMexico, COPA Airlines, Iberia Airlines and will also become the headquarters for the Salvadorian start-up VECA Airways.
QUEPOS, Costa Rica–Well known as the power house of tourism in Central America, the Civil Aviation Board (DGAC in spanish) is hoping to bring the domestic airports into the next level of service and connectivity. Costa Rica has only two international airports (with Immigration and Customs), Juan Santamaria International Airport that services San Jose and Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia/Golden Coast in Guanacaste. The rest of the airports are 100% domestic. Costa Rica has landing strips and some with terminal buildings at Tamarindo Beach, Nosara Beach, Samara Beach, Punta Islita, Tambor Beach, Quepos/Manuel Antonio, Limon, Golfito, Palmar Sur, Puerto Jimenez, Drake Bay, Carate Beach and San Vito. But it is Quepos/Manuel Antonio (with code XQP) the one that will become the next Costa Rican executive airport. The plan is to extend its runway and ramp, construct a new terminal building that can be developed in due time to accomodate Inmigration and Customs Areas. With an extended runway XQP could allow the operation of the ATR-42s and ATR-72s (the airliner used by Avianca Airlines from its Central American hub in San Salvador) and private airplanes. Members of the Costa Rican Congress hope the new President (elections on February 2nd 2014) will develop several more of the domestic airports into executive airports to satisfy the demand of the leisure destinations accross the nation.