Since Avianca resumed operations in October, the South American airline has reactivated almost 100 routes. Little by little, Avianca is reconnecting Colombia and El Salvador with many Latin American countries, despite the ongoing travel restrictions and waves of COVID-19 infections. Simple Flying spoke with Avianca’s CEO, Anko van der Werff, about the airline recovery. This is what he told us.

The domestic market going strong

In 2020, September and October were two critical months for Avianca. On September 1, Avianca restarted commercial flights in Colombia; 18 days later, it did the same in El Salvador.

At first, Avianca deployed a 12% capacity, compared to the same period in 2019. Nowadays, Avianca operates 36 domestic routes in Colombia, serving 722 weekly frequencies and offering over 100,000 weekly seats. Since September, Avianca has increased by 118% its frequencies in Colombia.

Anko van der Werff said,

“We include direct flights between Colombian regions, for example, from Cali to Santa Marta, Cartagena, Medellín, Pasto, and Tucamaco; from Bucamaranga to Cartagena and Santa Marta; from Medellín to Montería, Cali, Cartagena, and Santa Marta, among others. Our travelers can directly connect between cities, without having to do stopovers in Bogota.”

The airline also operates domestic flights in Ecuador. It is currently serving five routes, with 20 weekly frequencies, adding nearly 2,700 weekly seats.

The Colombian economy has served as a catalyst for Avianca. Unlike other South American countries (Argentina, for instance), Colombia has performed better economically, allowing Avianca and other carriers in the country — LATAM, Viva Air, Wingo, Satena, EasyFly — to recover faster. Nevertheless, there’s still a long way to go. According to local media, Avianca handled 65% fewer passengers during the 2020’s holiday season, compared to the previous year.

The international market, a slower take-off

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the international market has registered a slower recovery, said Anko van der Werff.

He added,

“By January, our global operation is nearly 300 daily frequencies, a lot less if we compared them to the 750 daily flights we had before the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Avianca launched its international flights from El Salvador on September 19. Once that connectivity opened, Avianca reconnected the Central American nations like Honduras and Guatemala with key markets like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, New York, and Washington, said the CEO.

A few days later, on October 1, Avianca restarted international flights in Colombia. The first routes it operated were between Bogota and Ecuador, Brazil, Mexico, and the US.

Nowadays, Avianca offers 19 international routes from El Salvador. It operates 109 weekly flights offering nearly 15,000 seats. From Colombia, it has 34 international routes, with 186 weekly flights and more than 28,700 seats.

“Unfortunately, we still have a limitation in seat availability due to the current government measures and the reestablishment of travel restrictions like quarantines,” said Anko van der Werff.

For example, Avianca informed yesterday that it is canceling all its flights between Colombia and Brazil. Plus, it is constantly adding the health protocols one must follow to visit Colombia and other South American countries.

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Going forward and going stronger

Since restarting operations, Avianca has increased by 77% the number of routes served across its board. The Colombian airline has also added weekly frequencies by 124%. Monthly, the airline is reactivating several routes. For instance, in January, it relaunched six domestic routes in Colombia.

In the meantime, Avianca continues progressing with its Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in the US. Despite the international uncertainty, Latin America’s oldest airline is planning every step of the way to assure that it can survive another hundred years.

In the next few days, we’ll continue posting information about Simple Flying’s interview with Anko van der Werff.

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