By Juan Pedro Sanchez Zamudio
Colombian Viva Air Continues Grab for Stronger Market Position
Colombian low-cost carrier Viva Air has already reactivated all of its pre-pandemic operations and is now working on adding new routes to various domestic and international destinations as a part of the recovery of the airline industry across both Colombia and all of South America.
Last year, the Colombian low-cost carrier went almost six months without operating a passenger flight due to restrictions stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic, so a little more than 2 million passengers flew with Viva Air.
Between January and July, the airline transported 2.6 million travelers, but the carrier expects to end 2021 transporting more than 6.5 million people, which represents growth of 10% compared to 2019, Viva Air CEO Felix Antelo told local outlet La República in an interview.
In Colombia, since March of this year, Viva Air has offered between 20% and 50% more seats than in the same period in 2019. For the last quarter of 2021, it expects to transport 50% more passengers than two years prior.
Since March, the carrier has already resumed and even exceeded the level of operation it had in 2019, and with this, the carrier’s payroll has grown 15% so far this year. Largely as a result of those service additions, the Colombian low-cost carrier has reached almost 25% market share in the domestic market while taking on local giants such as Avianca.
The group’s goals are to have the lowest unit cost in the region by 2023 and to reach a third of the Colombian market share within the next three years.
Viva Air foresees the entry into service of 10 more Airbus A320neo aircraft by the end of the year, closing 2021 with 21 aircraft.
For the group, Colombian operations represent 75% of total traffic and revenue, with the rest being divided between international passengers and Peruvian domestic passengers. International operations are the airline’s fastest-growing division. The airline plans to open 15 new international routes in the next three years.
This year alone, Viva Air launched four new routes abroad — the airline now operates a total of seven — flying between Bogotá and Mexico City; Medellín and Mexico City; Medellin and Cancún and Medellín and Orlando.
With the vaccination boom in the U.S., Viva Air has increased frequencies substantially, going from one daily flight to Miami just a few months ago to having up to five daily flights with an average load factor of 85%. As such, the carrier is looking to add two more international routes to the U.S., one to New York and another somewhere in the South, sometime next year.
In addition, Viva Air is analyzing whether to start operating to destinations in the Caribbean, with potential targets including Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and Curaçao.
In South America, the Colombian low-cost carrier is also analyzing the potential to begin operations to some cities in Brazil, as well as Buenos Aires and Santiago. Antelo said there is also potential to add service to other destinations with less traffic such as Asunción, Paraguay and Montevideo, Uruguay.
Regarding domestic routes, at the beginning of this year the Colombian low-cost airline opened three separate services from Bogotá to Bucaramanga; Medellin to Bucaramanga and Medellín to Cúcuta. From October, Viva Air will begin to fly five more domestic routes focused on tourist destinations such as Bucaramanga to San Andrés and San Andrés to Cartagena.
With these latest new destinations, Viva Air would be operating 30 domestic routes.