Colombia’s “New Airline” takes to the skies as VivaColombia

Juan Emilio Posada, VivaColombia’s Chairman; Juan Miguel Durán Prieto, Superintendent for Transport; Santiago Castro, Director General, Aerocivil; Fred Jacobsen, VivaColombia’s CEO; and Airplan’s Sara Ramírez last Friday oversaw the well-attended launch of Colombia’s new low-cost airline.

VivaColombia logo

Backed by the original founders of Europe’s largest low-cost carrier Ryanair, Irelandia has over the years become a serial developer of low-cost airlines around the world. With first experiences in Latin America stretching back to 2006, when Mexico’s VivaAerobus was founded, Irelandia now teamed up with other investors to duplicate the low-cost model in Colombia.

The country’s aviation market is largely dominated by the full-service Avianca, which holds more than 60% of domestic traffic. While the region’s large airline groups have made inroads in the country, Easyfly was until now Colombia’s only carrier to adopt the low-cost model.

Medellín becomes the operational base; five A320s expected by October

Originally conceived as a thesis at Stanford Business School by its current executives, VivaColombia launched on 25 May with two routes from Medellín’s main airport José María Córdova International; Colombia’s second-largest airport. Fred Jacobsen, VivaColombia’s CEO, said: “The airport offers low operational costs in a country market famous for exactly the opposite.”

Sporting VivaColombia’s promo shirts during the launch, John Gallagher, Irelandia’s Financial Analyst, and Gerry Power, Executive Director, Power Aviation Services, posed for a commemorative picture with VivaColombia’s Ground Operations Director, Garret Malone.

A map of Colombia

Although only given the final go-ahead from the Colombian regulator a day before its launch, VivaColombia has now been authorized by Aerocivil to operate on as many as 32 domestic routes. Initially, flights will mostly be offered on already busy routes, and the airline anticipates fierce price-based competition to the overall benefit of the market; in fact, incumbent airlines are reported to have lowered their fares prior to the launch.

VivaColombia commenced operations with three leased A320s in high-density 180-seat configuration; the fourth aircraft is expected to arrive in mid-June, and be followed by a fifth unit in early autumn. As the aircraft arrive, new destinations will be added to the network, including thinner routes to more remote locations, like Letitia in the Colombian Amazon, which are currently not served directly from Medellín. According to Jacobsen, VivaColombia “hopes to break even within the first year of operation, although it is very much down to the market reception.”

Launch date Origin Destination WF Competition (WF)
25-May-12 Medellin (MDE) Bogota (BOG) 7 Avianca (148), LAN Colombia (54), Copa Colombia (26)
25-May-12 Cartagena (CTG) 7 Avianca (21)
01-Jun-12 Cali (CLO) 7 Avianca (47)
01-Jun-12 Barranquilla (BAQ) 7 Avianca (19)
01-Jun-12 Pereira (PEI) 4
03-Jul-12 Apartado (APO) 3 Medellín (EOH): Easyfly (13)
11-Jun-12 Bucaramanga (BGA) 7 Medellín (EOH): Easyfly (20)
29-Jun-12 San Andrés (ADZ) 7
03-Jul-12 Monteria (MTR) 4 Medellín (EOH): Easyfly (15)
22-Jun-12 Bogota (BOG) Cartagena (CTG) ? Avianca (97), LAN Colombia (44), Copa Colombia (19)
29-Jun-12 Cali (CLO) 7 Avianca (157), LAN Colombia (40), Copa Colombia (21)
15-Jun-12 Cartagena (CTG) Pereira (PEI) 4
01-Jun-12 Cali (CLO) Cartagena (CTG) 6 Avianca (5)
Source: Airline booking tool as of 30 May, Innovata for w/c 4 June

Comments

  1. James Pearson says:

    “Easyfly was until now Colombia’s only carrier to adopt the low-cost model.”

    In what ways did it adopt it? I ask because EasyFly utilises Jetstream 41s which clearly have high CASM and seat costs (but low trip costs), doesn’t seem to have particularly high aircraft productivity, it offers connections, etc.

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