One million more passengers took to the friendly skies in Colombia during the first six months of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. In all, 17.1 million people have flown so far this year, up from 16.1 million from January through June last year, according to the nation’s Special Administrative Unit of Civil Aeronautics (Aerocivil).
Figures from the Bogotá-based aviation regulator show year-over-year passenger jumps in every month, with January and June coming in as the highest-trafficked periods. More than three million fliers traveled in both months.
In all, airlines flying in Colombia have filled 78% of the 24.2 million seats offered. That represents 5.2% more seats, and a fill rate that was 1.6% higher, than in 2015.
On Wednesday, Alfredo Bocanegra Varón, director of Aerocivil, credited the increased travel to the nation’s improved security, public policy, and prosperity. “This reflects the good time our country is living and the security conditions that have lessened the phenomena of violence,” said Bocanegra.
Colombia Aviation: Flying Abroad
Interestingly, Colombians have not been deterred about taking their weakened money abroad. Despite the local currency being significantly devalued throughout 2016, compared to its relative strength early last year, international travel has seen a bigger bump than domestic flights.
“Given the weak peso it is perhaps surprising to find that the increase was higher (8.3%) for international than national (5.2%),” said Bancolombia in a note to investors. More than two-thirds of all passengers — 11.5 million vs. 5.6 million — were national travelers, however.
Colombia Aviation: Complaints
Aerocivil’s half-year report contains one trend that is no surprise: More flights have led to more complaints. In the first six months of 2016, airlines have given aggrieved travelers roughly $7.4 million USD worth of compensation to make up for canceled, delayed, and oversold flights as well as baggage-handling and other problems. Overall, the agency has logged 5,490 passenger complaints from national flights so far in 2016 vs. 4,029 over the same time frame last year.
Passengers had the most issues with low-cost carriers Aerolíneas de Antioquia (ADA) and Viva Colombia, which was recently taken control of by Ryanair investment arm Irelandia Aviation. ADA, with 153 complaints, nearly doubled second-place Viva Colombia, which had 82. The best performers were Avianca, with only 16 complaints over six months, and LAN Colombia, which had 19.
Colombia Aviation: Safety
The commercial aviation industry has recorded zero accidents in 2016 so far. If that unblemished record holds through the end of December, this would mark the sixth straight year without an accident.
The last recorded accident, according to Aerocivil, came in 2010 when there were two incidents in 12 months.
Photo: A traveler heads home after arriving to Bogotá’s El Dorado International Airport in July 2016. (Credit: Jared Wade)