BOGOTA, Colombia–On November 14th up to 1800 employees systemwide were laid off at Avianca Holdings. The airline consortium owner of Avianca, TACA, LACSA, TACAPeru, Aerolineas Galapagos and TAMPA Cargo is suffering as more competition enters Colombia, Central America and the airline has not been able to recover up to 200 million dollars from Venezuela. Avianca is the second oldest airline in the world, created in 1919 in Colombia and an icon in Latin America. The merger with the TACA Group in 2009 created for a while the biggest airline in the region. Central America and the north of South America are now excellent revenue producers for U.S. carriers and Latin American airlines. For 2015 Southwest Airlines will open its first Latin American city: San Jose in Costa Rica and Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza will develop by May a new Central American hub in Houston International Airport to compete against United Airlines. Salvadorian start-up VECA Airlines is expected to start flights in February 2015 with two Airbus A-319s to Central America and most likely Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles and Baltimore. Also the Colombian LCC Viva Colombia has announced its interest to operate to three cities in Florida. Pressure on Avianca has build up and layoffs were needed to lower the operational costs. Rumors are that the airline will have a second wave of layoffs in February 2015.
PANAMA CITY, Panama–Portuguese flag carrier TAP will be the newest airline to start services into Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport. The airline, member of Star Alliance has informed that will operate a Lisbon-Bogota-Panama City flight in 2014. TAP will be the fifth European carrier to operate to the Panamanian “super-hub” airport (Iberia, KLM, Condor and Air France operate non-stop flights to Tocumen). The airport is COPA Airlines connecting hub, called “The Hub of the Americas” and it is also the busiest airport in Central America. The second busiest airport in Central America is Costa Rica’s Juan Santamaria International Airport, but after Avianca’s dismantling of its hub, most probably this place will be taken over by El Salvador’s Comalapa International Airport.
BOGOTA, Colombia–Avianca Airlines owner German Efromovich is looking to extend his wings to Europe and his eyes are on Alitalia or the Polish flag carrier LOT. Efromovich was born in South America but has Polish ancestors. He purchased the Brazilian LCC Ocean Air (today dbas as Avianca Brazil), later he purchased the TACA Group and Ecuadorian AeroGal. Last year Efromovich tried purchasing TAP Portugal but at the end of a long process he was not able to achieve it. “I need my airline to have more presence in Europe, buying existing airlines or creating a new one”, Efromovich declared to a newspaper in Colombia. The Polish government has also informed of its interest to privatize the flag carrier LOT (Polskie Linie Lotnicze) in 2014. Alitalia is member of DELTA’s Skyteam Alliance and LOT is member of UNITED’s Star Alliance. Avianca Airlines is also a member of Star and the second biggest airline in Latin America after LATAM Airlines (LAN and TAM).