Colombian Minister of Transportation Speaks Out On Viva Situation, Government Actions
After Colombian low cost carrier Viva ceased operations leaving thousands unemployed and tens of thousands of travelers stranded, Colombian government officials had an urgent meeting on Thursday to ascertain the situation and determine appropriate steps on the part of the government. Afterwards, they held a press conference to summarize discussions for the public. Finance Colombia presents the transcripts below.
Guillermo Reyes: Good afternoon everyone, in the meeting held with the Mr. President of the Republic, the Director of Civil Aviation, the superintendents of Industry and Commerce of Transportation, the vice-minister of Infrastructure, the presidential adviser, and the delegated superintendent for the consumer protection, we can say that we arrived to the following conclusions that we share with all of the Colombian people.
In the first place, we made a revision aimed, as arranged by the Mr. President of the Republic, at how the state, the national government, must guarantee as its priority the protection of the over 460.000 passengers in tickets and reservations that have been acquired in this year 2023. For the month of March alone we have over 230.000 tickets already acquired by passengers, and it’s one of the main focus points considered in this meeting.
In the second place, the “World Power Government of Life,” the Government of Change, President Gustavo Petro restates that his priority is the protection of the rights of users and workers of aerial transportation, in this case, the Viva airline.
In the third place, in this sense, the Civil Aviation, the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce, and the superintendence of Transportation, will continue to evaluate the measures that each, on the exercise of their respective powers, must take to protect the aforementioned rights.
In fourth place, the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce is at this moment in 19 airports of the national territory, where there have been difficulties with passengers that have not been able to fly because of Viva’s decision, offering an orientation to all affected passengers. And through the exercise of its jurisdictional functions, in the following hours will begin to proclaim the first verdicts about the requests of these affected passengers, as well as the precautionary measures that may consist of the rearrangement of passengers in other airlines, refund of the money spent in tickets, and the guarantee of providing food and lodging to these passengers while they are moved to a flight offered by other airlines in response of Viva’s suspension of flights.
In fifth place, today the superintendence of Transportation has initiated and communicated to the public opinion an administrative investigation against Viva, dictating an administrative order to go through with the obligations generated by the contract of transportation, as part of the protection of users’ rights, for which they have been given three days to fulfill. In the same vein, this superintendence will push forward for the rest of the proceedings to take place.
Sixth, Civil Aviation will continue its process of revision of integration as solicited by airlines Avianca and Viva within the due administrative process, and with a clear proposition for the protection of users of aerial transport, and the over 1700 workers of Viva airline. The line of our President, of our Government of Change, is the protection of users and the protection of workers.
Seventh, we will continue the task of accommodating, as was arranged yesterday when the director of Civil Aviation put together and integrated the position of unified command, comprised of the management of said entity, and the representatives of the different airlines, in all available offers, so all available seats in those airlines may be taken by passengers of Viva. Today we will concentrate on the critical focus points, where Civil Aviation is already taking immediate measures, in particular the air terminals of Santa Marta, Ríohacha, and San Andrés. The position of unified command will be giving in the following hours the available measures and flights. Yesterday, out of more than 17.000 passengers, over 10.000 were moved to different flights and managed to get to their destinations.
Finally, this Minister, in virtue of the faculties of intervention as mentioned in article 32 of the law 1340 of 2009 with competition rules, warns that we are considering the option of taking measures, as many as necessary, so aviation market players are committed to continuing to operate in conditions that benefit the users of aerial transport. They are the necessary actions that may, if needed, reach intervention in the market, to protect the users and guarantee the conditions of balance and efficiency of the market of aerial transportation. Mister Director.
Roberto Bossa: Thank you very much, everyone. Once again I apologize to the passengers for a situation that was induced and surprising for Civil Aviation. As well said by the Mr. Minister, this is an act of government authority among all the authorities here present. The authority of competence and consumer protection, the superintendence of Transportation and Civil Aviation, within their jurisdictions.
In this vein, Civil Aviation has arranged a Permanent Emergency Committee, or PMU, where requests are being met and all events to move passengers are being coordinated, for all those affected in this situation we are facing today. Like yesterday, we count on the collaboration and compromise of both the airports and aerial transports to achieve this goal, as we managed to evacuate the affected parties to Argentina, Peru, and we are doing the same with a series of national airports. The size of the fleets offered may change in some instances, to ensure greater seat availability for operators in some destinations, to be able to transport the people waiting to get to their destinations at this moment.
Likewise, it is an action of authority from the government, the complete authority, as said by the Minister, from its capacity to intervene in the market, and the Constitution that protects markets and allows these state actions, and the Civil Aviation, in this case, attending each airport; with special gratitude to the SIC that has placed permanent consulting in airports so each passenger present can be advised in their respective demands, and this way offer a rapid verdict. So they can solve, individually if they wish, each of the situations and will be moved shortly.
The superintendence of transportation has helped and has been with us in airports, and has been with us in the requirements and the measures it has been exercising, both with Viva and the entire sector, so it can move forward in the solution of this crisis. Likewise, the Ombudsman Office, Home Office with its management, and everything related to the efforts of the local mayors and governors to serve the affected community. This is an immense mobilization in solidarity with the passengers, elucidating they are not alone, and that in each airport, all these authorities in cooperation are protecting their rights, finding solutions, or offering relief in whatever they may need to deal with the situation that the country and the aerial transport is facing today.