Ryanair investment arm Irelandia Aviation has increased its ownership of VivaColombia from 25% to 75% to take the majority stake in Colombia’s only discount airline. In announcing the move, it highlighted Colombia’s potential for growth and said it plans to continue to develop the airline. “We firmly believe in the future of the company, and we will continue growing the business going forward,” said Irelandia Aviation in a statement.
The deal was conducted by Irelandia Aviation purchasing the shares held by both Grupo Bolívar and Grupo Fast, each of which had partnership roles in VivaColombia. IAMSA, a Mexican transportation company that operates buses and has a stake in domestic discount airline VivaAerobus, will retain the other 25% of VivaColombia.
The Rionegro-based airline, which flies to at least 12 destinations in Colombia as well as Miami, Lima, Quito, and Panama City, will also undergo a management restructuring. William Shaw, one of VivaColombia’s founders, will become CEO. He replaces Juan Emilio Posada, another co-founder who, along with Gabriel Migowski, has resigned from the airline. Bernardo Carrasco has also resigned from VivaColombia’s board and will be replaced by Manuel Leal.
VivaColombia was born in August 2010 after receiving approval from Colombia’s civil aeronautics agency. The first flights began in May 2012, and both VivaColombia and Ryanair co-founder Declan Ryan have boasted about its ability to allow many lower-income Colombians to fly for the first time in their lives.
“When we started in Colombia, only 2.5% [of the population] had ever boarded a plane,” Ryan told Argentine paper La Nacion. “After four years there, the figure rose to 10%.”
In addition to its role in flagship Irish carrier Ryanair and its majority stake in VivaColombia, Irelandia Aviation is a major partner in Allegiant Air in the United States, VivaAerobus in México, and Tiger Airways in Singapore.
The VivaColombia deal is likely its first of several in the region. Declan told La Nacion that further expansion in Latin America is also looming, noting that “it’s only a matter of time” before the discount-airline empire comes to Argentina. He expects that move to happen next year, pending approval and finding the right acquisition target. Declan added that,”we have started negotiating with all the countries in the region except for Brazil, where there is lots of corruption.”
Photo: A VivaColombia jet sits on the tarmac at Bogotá’s El Dorado International Airport. (Credit: Santiago Narayana)