Ben Baldanza

Spirit Airlines to fly San José-Houston four times per week starting next year

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SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–The U.S. low cost carrier Spirit Airlines said Monday it would open four weekly flights between San José and Houston beginning on May 28, 2015.The airline plans to open the new route to Costa Rica as part of its expansion in Latin America, the company said. Flights will use an Airbus A319 and A320 with the capacity to accommodate 178 passengers. Alberto López, general manager of the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT), said the carrier’s announcement is important for the country as it will be the first flight of a low-cost airline from the central region of the U.S. to Costa Rica. “Texas is the third largest state where the best traveler prospects for our country live, which means its residents have a high interest in visiting or returning to Costa Rica. This new route and four weekly flights will increase the number of seats available and the number of tourists visiting our country,” López said on Monday evening. ICT studies show that Texas has 2 million residents who could be considered as top prospects for tourism in the region. “Texans are seasoned travelers with high income and higher education levels,” the ICT claims. Official reports also state that during the first nine months of this year, some 740,000 U.S. travelers entered the country by air with a tourist visa. U.S. tourists who entered Costa Rica in 2013 remained on average 10.4 nights and spent an average of $1,232 during their stay. Spirit’s announcement adds to five other airlines that have scheduled new flights to the country. Aeroméxico, JetBlue, Delta Airlines and United Airlines will increase flights to the country’s two international airports, Juan Santamaría, outside the capital, and Daniel Oduber, in Liberia City in the northwestern province of Guanacaste. Last week, German carrier Condor started its third weekly flight to Costa Rica, and Cubana Airlines on Sunday resumed nonstop flights to Cuba. Thomson Airways and Southwest Airlines confirmed new flights in 2015, while Turkish Airlines, VECA Airlines and VivaColombia currently are in negotiations for opening routes to Costa Rica in 2015. Also Costa Rican start-up Air Costa Rica should start flights from San Jose to Miami, San Andres Island, Central America and Mexico with two Boeing 737-300s. ICT executives also hope that Spirit Airlines would consider Liberia Airport in the near future from both Ft. Lauderdale and Houston.

Spirit Airlines will start Houston-San Jose on May 2015.
Spirit Airlines will start Houston-San Jose on May 2015.

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Massive Layoffs in Avianca

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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.

Turbulent air ahead for Avianca Airlines.
Turbulent air ahead for Avianca Airlines.