El Salvador

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.
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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.

Conviasa to Nicaragua

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MANAGUA,Nicaragua–The Venezuelan flag carrier CONVIASA (Consorcio Venezolano de Industrias Aeronauticas y Servicios Aereos) started one weekly flight connecting Caracas with the Nicaraguan capital. The second Central American city after CONVIASA started daily flights to Panama City. The airline is going through expansion plans that include new Brazilian Embraer E-190s. In addition to Managua and Panama City the flag carrier connects Caracas with Bogota, Colombia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Dominica, Grenada, Havana, Cuba; Madrid, Spain and Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago. Future cities include Georgetown, Guyana; Lima, Peru; Manaus and Sao Paulo in Brazil; Mexico City; Paramaribo,Suriname; San Jose, Costa Rica; San Salvador, El Salvador; and Santa Cruz, Bolivia. It also has been rumored CONVIASA will try to start non-stop flights to Miami, Florida or in any case via Managua. The airline has a fleet of one Airbus A-340-200, two Boeing 737-300, four Bombardier CRJ700 and six Embraer E-190s.

CONVIASA's E-190 are used for the Caracas-Managua run.
CONVIASA’s E-190 are used for the Caracas-Managua run.

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.

Remodeling of Comalapa. A Reality in the Making

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Rendition of the remodeled terminal of El Salvador (Comalapa) International Airport.
Rendition of the remodeled terminal of El Salvador (Comalapa) International Airport.

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.