By Juan Pedro Sanchez Zamudio
Chilean Low Cost Airline SKY Plans 2021 With Outsized Growth
Although the aviation industry in Latin America is still largely depressed by prevailing travel restrictions — especially in the international market — domestic traffic in Chile has been recovering in recent weeks as travelers are anxious to get back to the skies.
Last year was the most difficult in at least a decade for the global and local aviation industry, with IATA estimating that industry-level losses were $118 billion for the year. Despite that, José Ignacio Dougnac, the CEO of Santiago, Chile-based low-cost carrier SKY Airline, stated in an interview with aviationclubcenter that the strengthening and development of SKY’s cargo and charter businesses have allowed the Chilean low-cost carrier to face the crisis and end up in a better financial situation than when they entered the pandemic. That, he said, makes him optimistic about the future, despite the fact that last year, his airline transported 64% fewer passengers throughout Chile than in 2019.
SKY Airline began operating the first A321neo aircraft in Chile last month, which allowed the low-cost airline to be 37% more efficient in terms of fuel use and carbon dioxide reduction per seat than the previous generation A320ceo. Those fuel savings were likely a crucial part of the airline’s cost-cutting and pandemic success.
SKY is currently working to become the strongest low-cost airline in South America, a difficult task in a market that has seen several newcomers join to compete against large incumbents like LATAM. Dougnac said the airline is focusing on continuing to create value for its customers, offering new routes to destinations such as Punta Cana — the capital of the Dominican Republic — as well as Miami. It is also restarting flights to other cities including Bogota, Colombia and Cancun, Mexico, which the airline had to shutter shortly after launching in 2020 owing to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the moment, the Chilean low-cost airline is strengthening its operations from Chile and Peru, with the aim of expanding regionally from both regions as soon as restrictions in both countries are relaxed.
Although the health situation is complicated in most of the South American countries, SKY is seeking to continue growing in Peru, where it operates both domestic and international flights, expanding transborder operations from Jorge Chavez International Airport in the nation’s capital.
Along these lines, the airline intends to open a new route that connects Peru with Argentina, where, as in Brazil, it can gradually recover with the easing of restrictions. With the gradual relaxation of flight restrictions, SKY Airline plans to end the year flying at 80% of its capacity domestically and between 30% and 40% internationally.
By 2023, the Chilean airline will receive its first A321XLR aircraft that will allow SKY to offer new routes directly on long-haul flights rather than the more spoke-focused model it currently operates. Additionally, Swiss company CH-Aviation recognized SKY as the airline with the newest fleet in America and the second-youngest in the world.