Published on February 3rd, 2012 | by Mark Chesnut
New Flights, New Airlines: The Changing Skies Over Latin America
|Growth mode: Copa is among the airlines adding new routes in Latin America.
BY MARK CHESNUT
Whether it’s Mexico travel, Central America travel or South America travel, globetrotters flying to and around Latin America will notice a bunch of new options when they book this year, thanks to a slew of new flights, new alliances and freshly named Latin American airlines. And even more changes are in the works, so fasten your seat belt.
What’s behind all the changes and growth? Consider the recent events that have changed air travel in Latin America within the past couple of years: Mexicana Airlines stopped flying. Avianca merged with TACA. Copa Airlines rebranded its Colombian affiliate as Copa Airlines Colombia. And, more recently, LAN Airlines took over Aires of Colombia and renamed it LAN Colombia. Meanwhile, American Airlines is fighting to maintain its dominance in the region as it proceeds through bankruptcy proceedings, while LAN and TAM put the finishing touches on their planned merger, which will create the largest airline in Latin America (I reported about some of this a few days ago in an article for Latin Business Chronicle, “American Airlines’ Latin America Strategy“).
So what does all this mean to you as a traveler? It’s too early to report on what changes to expect from the LAN-TAM merger. But here are a few of the new flights and growth plans that await:
• Latin America-bound travelers flying from Sin City will have a new option this summer. Copa Airlines announced that it will begin non-stop service in June from its Panama City hub to four new destinations: Las Vegas, Recife, Liberia (Costa Rica) and Curacao. In addition, Copa will add 10 new Boeing 737-800s Next Generation aircraft this year, for a total of 83 aircraft.
• American Airlines has increased service from JFK to Caracas from two to five times a week, and has upped service to daily frequencies to both Brasilia and Belo Horizonte. The carrier’s daily flight to Montevideo, which operates traditionally only through February during the high season, has been extended through April this year. And American is planning to launch new service to Manaus later this year.
• LAN Airlines’ freshly renamed affiliate LAN Colombia (formerly Aires) launched Miami-Bogota service on February 1. The airline operates four flights per week on Airbus A320 aircraft.
• AviancaTaca, the parent company of Avianca, Taca and AeroGal, last month signed a purchase agreement for 33 Airbus A320neo aircraft, so expect new routes and flights to appear on its route networks in the coming months.
• Volaris is also positioning for growth, and claims to have placed the largest order of a single-aisle aircraft in Mexican aviation history, following an announcement last month that it would acquire 44 new Airbus A320 aircraft, 30 of which will be the more fuel-efficient, longer range A320neo.
• AirTran will begin service from San Antonio to Mexico City and Cancun in May, and parent/partner Southwest will debut flights from California’s John Wayne Airport in Orange County to Mexico City and Cabo San Lucas in June.