SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–Salvadoran Low Cost Carrier (LCC) VECA Airlines landed at Juan Santamaria International Airport last February 27th. The airline will operate three times a week a flight from Guatemala City via San Salvador with an Airbus A-319 for 144 passengers in one single class. The airline is expected to offer excellent fares and compete with both Avianca and COPA Airlines. In 2009 the Colombian airline Avianca purchased GRUPO TACA and for a while the new airline operated as AviancaTACA but in 2013 the airline changed its name again to just Avianca. The Central American communities in the United States and Canada lost the emotional connection they used to have with the Salvadorian flag carrier that started in 1931 and now expect VECA Airlines to fill the void. Non official versions insist that VECA Airlines will start flights to Baltimore, New York, Houston and Los Angeles by the end of 2015 or beginning of 2016. The airline’s web site http://www.vecaairlines.com shows future services to Panama City from San Salvador.
BOGOTA, Colombia–Avianca Holdings posted a full-year net profit of $120.5 million in 2014, down 51.6% from a net profit of $248.8 million in 2013. The Panama City-registered carrier reported full-year operating revenues of $4.7 billion, up 2% year-over-year (YOY), as expenses came to $4.42 billion, up 4.6% YOY. The company’s full-year operating profit was $284.6 million, down 26.1% YOY from 2013’s $384.9 million operating income.Avianca’s cargo revenue performance was strong in 2014, totaling $834.2 million, up 11.6% YOY. During the year, Avianca acquired a stake in Mexican airfreight carrier AeroUnion and entered into a commercial agreement with Etihad, “creating a stronger cargo operation and more connectivity from Los Angeles via Mexico, while also improving cargo connectivity to Europe, from Milan and Amsterdam to Bogota,” Avianca said. Avianca’s passenger traffic grew 4.5% YOY to 32.6 billion RPKs on a 5.9% rise in capacity to 41.1 billion ASKs, finishing 2014 with a full-year load factor of 79.4%, down 1.1 points from 2013. The company carried 26.2 million passengers in 2014, up 6.6% YOY. CASK for the full-year decreased 1.5% YOY to 10.7 cents, partly attributable to the drop in fuel prices during the 2014 fourth quarter, Avianca said. Excluding special items, Avianca reported an adjusted net income of $129.1 million for the year. The company said its 2014 EBITDAR (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and rents) totaled $786.7 million, down 5% YOY; Avianca’s full-year EBITDAR margin was 16.7%, down 1.3 points from 2013. In 2014, Avianca took delivery of 32 new aircraft, including 14 Airbus A-320 family aircraft, 10 ATR 72-600 aircraft for regional flight deployments, four Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners, two A-330s and two A-330 freighters. All 10 of the company’s Fokker 50s were phased out and sold; the company’s entire ATR 42 fleet was retired as well. As of Dec. 31, 2014, the company’s consolidated operating fleet comprised 181 aircraft. Avianca Holdings, created in 2009, operates Latin American airlines Avianca (based in Colombia), TACA (based in El Salvador), Costa Rica’s LACSA, Guatemala’s Aviateca, Ecuador’s Aerogal, plus Avianca Brasil, TACA de Honduras and TACAPeru.
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.
BOGOTA, Colombia–Panama City-registered Avianca Holdings reported third-quarter net profits of $33.2 million, down 7.6% from $35.9 million posted in the year-ago period. Operating revenues were $1.23 billion, up 3.9% year-over-year, as expenses rose 10.2% to $1.16 billion. Resulting operating income for the quarter came to $70.3 million, down 46.9% from $132.2 million in the September 2013 quarter. Avianca attributed the results to “redeployed capacity (ASKs) as well as the strong demand observed in the Colombian domestic market and … the entry into operation of the Bogota-London route.” Avianca’s third-quarter traffic grew 5.3% year-over-year to 8.7 billion RPKs on a 6.1% rise in capacity to 10.7 billion ASKs, creating a quarterly load factor of 81.3%, down 0.7 point from the 2013 third quarter. The company carried 6.9 million passengers during the quarter, up 7.5% from the 6.4 million passengers transported in the third quarter of 2013. Yield dropped 0.8% year-over-year to 11.9 cents. CASK excluding-fuel was up 5.8% year-over-year to 7.5 cents.nThird-quarter EBITDAR fell 14.8% year-over-year to $202.5 million. In the company’s quarterly results analysis, Avianca Holdings CEO Fabio Villegas Ramirez said, “Our cargo traffic expressed in RTKs grew 27% … resulting in an improvement of 600 basis points in load factor when compared to the third quarter of 2013,” Villegas said. “In addition, we have made further progress … with the completion of the acquisition of a stake of Aerounion in Mexico and the new commercial agreement with Etihad … which enables the company to improve its inbound cargo operation from Los Angeles via Mexico as well as enhancing connectivity to Europe.” On October 20th, Avianca Cargo and Etihad Cargo announced a commercial partnership agreement involving the deployment of freighter flights from Avianca’s Bogotá, Colombia, hub at El Dorado International Airport to Milan’s Malpensa Airport and Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. The twice-a-week service commenced operations November 12th. During the quarter, Avianca took delivery of 10 new aircraft: two Airbus A321s, two A320s and two A319s, plus four ATR-72s slotted to operate on the company’s domestic Colombian and Central American routes. Two ATR-42s were taken out of service. As of September 30th, Avianca’s fleet comprised 180 aircraft—165 of which are currently operational—including: 58 A320s (27 on operating lease); 36 A319s (17 on operating lease); 12 Embraer E-190s (two on operating lease); 11 ATR-72s; 11 A330s (10 on operating lease); 10 A318s (all on operating lease); 10 Cessna Grand Caravans; nine ATR-42s (five on operating lease); eight A-321s (six on operating lease); five A330 freighters; five Fokker 100s; three Boeing 767 freighters (one on operating lease) and two Fokker 50s.
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–On July 12th a complete article in LA NACION, Costa Rica’s main newspaper informed of the new flights and airlines that will start operations to Costa Rica. On August 16th Avianca Airlines Costa Rican division under the name of LACSA will start flights from San Jose to Santiago, Chile via Bogota and from San Jose to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil always via ElDorado International Airport at the Colombian capital. Also in August Cubana Airlines (the flag carrier of Cuba) will reinstate flights between Havana and San Jose. The airline used to operate the routes some years ago until it code shared it with TACA. Last year TACA suspended the route linking Cuba with Costa Rica. By November 1st the American carrier JetBlue Airways will open Boston-Liberia flights. For the end of the year the Civil Aviation of Costa Rica (DGAC) will have the final permits of the certification process of Air Costa Rica (Tica Air International) a new Costa Rican airline. The airline plans to start flights to Miami, Managua, Panama and San Andres Island. A second phase would include Quito, Guayaquil and Havana and a third phase would include New York and Los Angeles, routes once operated by LACSA. A second Costa Rican carrier, TICOS AIR has not been able to move forward in their certification process explained Alvaro Vargas, the director of the aviation department. Also Salvadorian start-up VECA Airlines is expected to obtain final permits to operate San Salvad0r-San Jose run. Vargas also mentioned Brazilian airline AZUL Linhas Aereas has been interested in learning about permit processes. Other airlines that have been metioned as interested in Costa Rica include Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Allegiant, Eastern Airlines, TAME of Ecuador and CONVIASA of Venezuela.
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–Avianca informed on March 12th, it will suspend its San Jose-Caracas-San Jose route effective April 7th. The route has been operated by LACSA since the seventies when the service connected San Jose with the Venezuelan capital with stops in Panama City, Barranquilla and Maracaibo. When LACSA was purchased by Salvadorian TACA International Airlines, the route was changed to a non-stop flight between the two capitals. Last May Avianca (the Colombian flag carrier that purchased 70% of Grupo TACA) decided to shut down the former LACSA’s hub at Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose, cancelling the non-stop flights to New York-JFK, Los Angeles, Monterrey, Havana, Quito and Guayaquil. The next route to be cancelled was San Jose-Miami and now “adios Caracas”. Costa Ricans will be forced now to fly via Bogota using the Avianca services or Panama City with COPA Airlines. It is now expected the Costa Rican government and AERIS (the private company that manages the Juan Santamaria International Airport) will request Venezuelan flag carrier CONVIASA to take the route.
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.
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 SALVADOR,El Salvador–El Salvador International Airport (also known as Comalapa International Airport) will be upgraded in the next years to become the most important connecting hub north of Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport. The government office that handles the international terminal, CEPA (Comision Ejecutiva Portuaria Autonoma) is reaching an agreement with the State of Maryland that will support the development of several projects that include the construction of new terminals and the revamping of the existing one. On December 9th the Governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley and the President of CEPA Alberto Arene signed a MOW in San Salvador. Avianca Airlines (former TACA Airlines) closed its Costa Rica hub last May and transferred most of the flight operations to Comalapa International Airport. The new start-up LCC airline VECA Airways has also chosen Comalapa International Airport as its home base. The new Salvadorian carrier will start services in 2014 between San Salvador and all the Central American capitals with two Airbus A-320s.