Avianca Takes on Discounters With New Routes

Edward Russell
August 16th, 2021 at 12:01 AM EDT

Avianca named low-cost carriers as one of its biggest competitive challenges in its bankruptcy reorganization plan. To counter that, it is densifying the cabins on its Airbus A320 family jets and adding new point-to-point routes that take a page from discounters’ network plans.

Last week, the carrier unveiled plans for 22 new international routes — plus one that was previously announced — that almost entirely bypass its main Bogotá and San Salvador hubs. Most of the additions will be in Avianca’s largest market, Colombia, with new service planned from Bucaramanga to Miami; Cali to Cancun, Mexico City, New York JFK, Quito and San José; and Medellin to Aruba, Guayaquil, Mexico City, Orlando, Quito and San José. It will also connect Bogotá and Toronto.

Costa Rica and Ecuador, two markets that it named as secondary bases in its reorganization plan, gain eight new routes. Avianca will connect San José — where it closed the former Taca hub in 2013 — to Los Angeles, Managua, Mexico City and New York JFK. And both Guayaquil and Quito will gain new nonstops to Miami and New York JFK.

Elsewhere, Avianca will also add new Guatemala City-Washington Dulles and San Salvador-Orlando service. All of the new routes begin in 2022.

The expansion is a shot across the bow of some of Avianca’s rapidly growing budget competitors. Mexico’s Volaris plans to launch a new El Salvadoran subsidiary this fall as well as expand its Costa Rican subsidiary — particularly on routes to the U.S. — as it is blocked from adding flights to the U.S. from Mexico for the time being. The airline will also add its first-ever service to Colombia this fall. And Viva Air Colombia has doubled down on its Medellin base, which it upgraded to a connecting hub in June with new service to Cancun, Mexico City and Orlando.

Avianca is betting that its improved cost structure, plus denser aircraft, and strong brand name in the region will be enough for it to out compete its budget competitors in these markets. “We have the firm purpose of continuing to be the airline with the most robust route network in our region,” said Manuel Ambriz, the airline’s commercial chief, in a statement.

Edward Russell

Route Briefs

  • Aeromexico beefs up its presence in Madrid this winter. The carrier will connect Guadalajara and Monterrey with the Spanish capital from December 15 and 16, respectively. The routes will complement its existing service between Mexico City and Madrid. All three routes will be flown with Boeing 787s.
  • Despite still flying just a fraction of its pre-crisis capacity, Air Canada is expanding to the U.S. with new service to Orange County, Calif. The airline will connect the Southern California airport with Vancouver with Boeing 737-8s from Oct. 2. Air Canada previously served Orange County from Calgary in 2010.
  • With an eye on winter leisure travel, Alaska Airlines will add three new seasonal routes to Mexico from its San Francisco hub. The carrier will connect the Bay Area airport with Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Loreto and Mazatlan from December 18 through April 16, 2022 with Airbus A320 jets.
  • Keeping with its strategy of local bases, Allegiant Air is putting down roots in Appleton, Wis., and Flint, Mich., early next year. The discounter will base three Airbus A320 family jets in Flint from February 16, and two A320 family aircraft in Appleton from March 2 for a combined investment of $125 million. In a statement, Allegiant Senior Vice President of Revenue and Planning Drew Wells said the bases will allow it to increase “nonstop flight offerings” but, as yet, the airline has unveiled only one new route: Flint-Phoenix Mesa beginning in November.

    The news of the bases came as Allegiant unveiled 22 new routes beginning from October through December. Phoenix Mesa will see the most additions with new service to Amarillo, Flint, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Orange County, Springfield, Ill., Spokane and Tulsa. Austin, Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Springs, Provo, Punta Gorda, Sarasota-Bradenton and Sioux Falls will also see new service.
  • Fresh off a second quarter profit, Copa Airlines will add its first new destination since the pandemic began: Armenia, Colombia. The Star Alliance carrier will connect Armenia and Panama City thrice-weekly with a Boeing 737-700 from December 2.
  • Ryanair is swapping its London Southend base for one in Newcastle as the pandemic changes to its map continue. The Irish discounter will close its Southend base on November 1 and redeploy aircraft based there elsewhere in the name of “network efficiency,” reported Routes Online. Ryanair maintains bases at London’s Luton and Stansted airports.

    Fast forward to March 2022 and Ryanair will open a new base in the UK’s north in Newcastle. It will add 12 new routes to seven it already operates from the airport with two locally based aircraft. New routes include four to the Canary Islands (Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Tenerife), two to the Balearic Islands (Ibiza and Menorca), as well as Paphos, Cyprus, and Zadar, Croatia.
  • Singapore Airlines is adding a new way — or restarting an old one depending on how you look at — to get to Los Angeles. The carrier will begin one-stop service between its namesake base and LAX via Taipei with an Airbus A350-900 from August 25. The route complements SIA’s nonstop flight and one-stop via Tokyo Narita. SIA previously flew Singapore-Taipei-Los Angeles in 2008.
  • Citing pent-up demand, Virgin Atlantic has big plans for Caribbean flying this winter. The airline will add four new routes: Edinburgh-Barbados from December 5; London Heathrow-Nassau from November 20; London Heathrow-St. Lucia from December 18, replacing previous London Gatwick-St. Lucia service; and Manchester-Montego Bay from November 6. In addition, Virgin Atlantic will debut Edinburgh-Orlando service in April 2022. The new routes will be flown with a combination of Airbus A330 and Boeing 787 aircraft.
  • Virgin Australia hopes to add two new routes amid Australia’s rapidly evolving lockdowns and domestic travel restrictions. The carrier will connect Adelaide with Darwin and Launceston from September 6 and 7, respectively. The new routes come as Australian airlines juggle services following a spike in new Covid-19 cases that has, for one, prompted stay at home orders in Sydney and restricted travel to and from New South Wales.
  • Wizz Air is moving forward with plans to grow 20 percent per annum for the next four years. The discounter has unveiled four new routes at its Tirana, Albania, base; four from Italy; plus one from its Abu Dhabi base all beginning in September. Wizz will connect Tirana with Billund, Liverpool, Madrid and Oslo Sandefjord from December when it bases a sixth aircraft, an Airbus A321neo, at the airport. From Italy — a country at the center of a competitive face off between budget juggernauts Wizz and Ryanair — the carrier will connect Bologna, Milan Malpensa and Rome Fiumicino with Gran Canaria, and Malpensa with Marrakesh from October. And Wizz will link Abo Dhabi and Bahrain from September.

Edward Russell

Edward Russell
August 16th, 2021 at 12:01 AM EDT

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