Air Comet’s demise reduces competition between Spain and South America

Image: Air Comet goes under
Air Comet goes under: The collapse of the Grupo Marsans-owned airline caused distress across its route network. Despite relaunching the brand in 2007, Air Comet’s unpaid debts brought an end to operations on 21 December 2009. (Photo courtesy of EFE, the leading Spanish language news agency)

Logo: Air CometAir Comet, the Grupo Marsans owned, Madrid-based airline, ceased operations on 21 December 2009. The airline, which was founded in December 1996 as Air Plus Comet, was initially focussed on operating charter flights from Spain to South America and the Caribbean. In 2006, it benefited from the demise of local rival Air Madrid and in 2007 revealed a new brand and revised name, Air Comet. The decision was also made to focus more on scheduled services.

During 2009, the airline’s fleet consisted of a mix of A320s, A330s and A340s, though by the end of the year, its fleet appeared to comprise just four A330s. The airline’s parent company Grupo Marsans used to have orders for over 60 further aircraft (all from Airbus), including four A380s and 10 A350s, intended for its two airlines Air Comet and Aerolineas Argentinas. In 2008, the Argentine carrier was, however, renationalised and Air Comet’s Chilean subsidiary, not surprisingly named Air Comet Chile, was declared bankrupt.

Image: Air Comet Fleet
Air Comet’s fleet shrunk gradually during its last two years as lessors repossessed their aircraft. A month before its demise, the airline was still operating eight aircraft; three A340s and five A330s. In the end, only half of them remained.

Focus on South America

Even as a scheduled carrier, the airline’s focus remained on routes to South America and the Caribbean from its base in Madrid. During 2009, it offered year-round flights to Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador and Peru. This winter, summer flights to San José in Costa Rica were replaced by seasonal services to Santa Cruz in Bolivia.

Period Routes (weekly frequency)
August 2009 Bogotá (3), Buenos Aires (6), Havana (4), Lima (6), Quito (5), San José [Costa Rica] (3)
December 2009 Bogotá (2), Buenos Aires (5), Havana (3), Lima (5), Quito (5), Santa Cruz (2)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 3 August 2009 and w/c 7 December 2009

In response to Air Comet’s collapse, Iberia has announced that it will be increasing capacity and frequencies on many of the routes on which the two airlines competed. From mid-January, Lima will get four additional weekly flights (11 in total), Buenos Aires will increase from 14 to 17 weekly flights, while Quito will get three additional flights. Bogotá and Havana will also see an increase in seat capacity during the year.

It is also worth noting that during the winter 2008/09 season, Air Comet also operated intra-European routes from Madrid to London Gatwick (twice daily) and Paris CDG (twice daily) using A320s configured with 168 seats. In the UK trade press, the airline focussed on promoting the possibility of flying to South America from London via Madrid.


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