Colombian low-cost carrier Viva Air recently announced that it is making available two million seats for domestic and international flights from November 2021 to January 2022. This represents a 64% increase when compared to the airline’s performance in 2019, allowing the company to reach a total of six million passengers during the current year.
The Colombian airline’s growth comes in a context of global disruptions for the air travel industry. According to an estimate by Boeing, global air travel will only return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024 as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to hit the industry. Lockdowns, stricter health protocols and mobility restrictions heavily impacted consumer confidence, which has yet to fully recover from the effects of the pandemic.
The numbers illustrate this issue clearly: global air travel demand went down by 58.4% in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. In this context, Viva continues to perform as one of the few airlines in the world to achieve positive results this year.
“The authorized routes will offer a new range of possibilities to air transport users to find more alternatives within the market, provide more connection points within and outside the country and ratify the commitment of the national government to support the economic reactivation of the sectors derived from air activity, which already reaches 20 million passengers mobilized and is expected to reach 30 million by the end of 2021,” said Camilo Pabón Almanza, Colombia’s vice-minister of transportation.
The company keeps betting on its low-cost model to expand operations through its hub in Medellín. Starting in November, Viva will increase flights from Medellín to Miami to 14 per week, Medellín to Lima and Medellín to Mexico City, both with one daily flight, Medellín to Cancún with five daily flights, and Medellín to Orlando with three weekly flights. These add to the already existing 32 routes to beach towns such as San Andrés, Cartagena, Barranquilla y Santa Marta.
Colombian civil aviation authority Aerocivil had already approved Viva flights from Bogotá and Medellín to Cordoba and Buenos Aires in Argentina; Santiago de Chile and Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, more than doubling Viva’s international reach. Now, the airline has received approval for 65 new international routes, as well as new domestic routes.
“On behalf of the aviation authority, we will continue to be committed to reactivating air transport, allowing connectivity between different parts of our country and the country with the world. With this, we seek to offer more and more alternatives for the benefit of users and the possibility of providing better connectivity opportunities,” said Jair Orlando Fajardo, Aerocivil’s director.
Approved New International Routes
|Destination||Medellín (MDE)||Bogotá (BOG)||Cali (CLO)||Cartagena (CTG)||Cúcuta (CUC)|
|San Salvador (SAL)||🛩||🛩|
|Santo Domingo (SDQ)||🛩||🛩|
|Punta Cana (PUJ)||🛩|
|Rio de Janeiro (GIG)||🛩|
|Mexico City (MEX)||🛩||🛩|
|New York (JFK/EWR)||🛩||🛩|
|San Juan (SJU)||🛩||🛩|
Cali Flights To Cancún & México City
Today, Viva also announced that it is launching international flights between Cali, Colombia’s third largest city, and the Mexican destinations of Cancún and México City beginning March, 2022. These will be Viva’s first international routes to and from Cali’s Alfonso Bonilla Aragon airport in the suburb of Palmira. Viva says that its entry into the market for Cali-México routes should cause an overall reduction in airfares between these destinations of up to 35%. The low-cost carrier also indicated that it expects to carry 100,000 passengers on these new routes in its first 12 months of operations.
Tickets have already gone on sale via Viva’s website, and flights between Cali and Cancún will operate Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays beginning March 22, 2022. Routes between Cali and México City will run Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays beginning March 23.
“Cali is an essential part of the Viva destination network and our commitment to this city is strong. That’s why we have added to our offering these two new direct international routes to México City and Cancún, expanding connectivity from Cali to two new destinations. Since opening (Cancún & México City routes) in August, they have had an excellent reception from Colombian travelers who now know that with Viva they can travel internationally at super low cost,” stated Félix Antelo, President & CEO of Grupo Viva.
A Plethora Of New Domestic Routes Approved
In addition to the 65 new international routes that Aerocivil approved for Viva, they also approved the following domestic routes. Though these routes have been approved by regulatory authorities, Viva has made no official announcement of any of these new routes nor have they released a schedule. They are currently taking periodic deliveries from Airbus on an order of 50 new A320neo aircraft.
Certain routes are interesting in light of Avianca’s recent tie up with Colombian competitor EasyFly, a domestic airline that specializes in flying to smaller cities. For example, Easyfly had the Bucaramanga Cúcuta route to itself, and now may codeshare with Avianca, as Avianca is releasing its ATR72 turboprop fleet. Now Viva will compete directly on these short-haul routes such as Armenia – Medellín (160 miles) or Bucaramanga – Cúcuta (122 miles). In much of Colombia’s mountainous terrain, road travel can take many hours, making air travel a much more feasible alternative. For example, Medellín to Bogotá is only 257 miles away but can take 10 hours-if there are no traffic jams, mudslides, or accidents along the way. On the other hand, a flight is 40 minutes and usually costs less than ground travel anyway.
Approved New Domestic Routes
|Destination||Medellín||Bogotá||Cali||Cartagena||Santa Marta||San Andrés||Bucaramanga|
Photos: Loren Moss except Felix Antelo, courtesy Viva