VivaColombia will initially fly high-traffic routes between the cities of Bogota, Medellin, Cali, Cartagena, Barranquilla and Bucaramanga, although 32 total routes have been authorized by Aerocivil, Colombia’s aviation authority, including flights to destinations such as Leticia in the Amazon and San Andres islands close to Nicaragua.
Flight prices start at $15.74, but with additional costs of sales tax, airport tax, and administrative charges, the final price is $29.85 with a free allowance of 10 kilos or 22 lbs of hand luggage.
VivaColombia president Fred Jacobsen told Colombia Reports that customers will be able to buy tickets online through the company’s website, call center and branches in airports. While online purchases will be free, other purchase methods will carry an additional cost. He added the company hoped the first commercial passengers would be on board by the upcoming weekend.
Food and drink will be available on board, but at additional cost. There is an additional charge of $9.36 for priority boarding and a fee of $7.02 at the check-in desk to use the express queue.
The airline will use Jose Maria Cordoba airport near Rionegro in the western department of Antioquia as the hub. “Jose Maria Cordoba has all the characteristics we were looking for; an airport that can operate with lower operating costs,” said Jacobsen. “Colombia has one of the most expensive places for transport passengers per kilometer,” he added.
The airline is the brainchild of William Shaw, Juan Emilio Posada, Fred Jacobsen, and Gabriel Migowski, who presented the idea as a thesis at Stanford Business School. Investment groups that contributed are Grupo Fast, formed by the company’s founders, IAMSA, the Mexican road transport group, Irelandia– in the investment group of Ryanair founder Declan Ryan– and Sentido Empresarial.
The groups made an investment of $10 million with the hope the company would go into profit within a year. Jacobsen said, “With this business model a lot depends on the reaction of the market, but we hope to be at a point of equilibrium in the first 12 months.” In comparison Colombian airline Easyfly went into the black after three years of operation.
Andres Ramirez, editor of online Colombian aviation magazine Aviacol, told Colombia Reports in an email that the launch of the airline will invigorate the market by giving those who could not previously access air transport the opportunity to do so.
It will also help with the problems of terrestrial and maritime transport infrastructure that Colombia suffers from, especially during periods of heavy rains, like those most recently experienced in the country.
Ramirez also said the new airline is leading to a greater variety of flight options on other airlines for passengers.”Without officially having gone into operation, VivaColombia has already made other airlines put strategies into place in order not to lose markets in the future. Avianca has requested authorization for several secondary routes from Medellin, routes which it had shown no interest in until VivaColombia received authorization. We will have to see if some of these routes can handle two airlines and how the ticket prices behave.”