Ryan family's Colombian airline to boost passengers by 50pc
THE Ryan family's VivaColombia is planning a major expansion drive this year as the Ryanair model takes hold in South America's third biggest aviation market.
The Colombian low-cost carrier, which is backed by Ryanair founder Tony Ryan's family, will boost passengers by 50pc this year as it adds international flights, according to its co-founder.
The closely held airline, which began flights two years ago, will fly 2.7 million travellers this year, chief commercial officer William Shaw said in an interview over the weekend.
It has already surpassed Panama City-based Copa to become Colombia's third-biggest airline, carrying 9pc of domestic passengers in 2013, and plans to expand its no-frills service to routes between Colombia and Panama City after the arrival of the first of two Airbus A320, 180-seater jets that it's expecting to lease this year, Shaw said.
The company plans to add Peru and Ecuador routes after the arrival of another jet which is expected by November, he added.
The Ryan family's Irelandia Aviation, led by Declan Ryan, is one of the biggest shareholders in VivaColumbia in partnership with Mexican bus company Grupo Iamsa. They own a combined 50pc.
It is the fifth low-cost carrier launched or invested in by Irelandia. As well as famously founding Ryanair, in which it still has a stake, the Ryan family also has a large interest in US carrier Allegiant Air, Asian airline Tiger Airways and Mexican carrier Grupo Viva Aerobus SAB, which started in 2006 and says its fares are competitive with buses on some routes.
"What we saw in Latin America is that actually we could make the fares affordable to a large percentage of the population, that people were already travelling long distances around the region, but they were doing that in bus companies," Irelandia chief operating officer Tony Davis said. "We've really been delighted with how consumers in Colombia have responded."
The company's entry has created a new market for cheaper flights within Colombia, said Victor Mizusaki, an analyst with UBS in Sao Paulo. The lowest fares in its home country tumbled by half after it entered the market, Viva Columbia claims.