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By Marijulia Pujol Lloyd
VivaColombia, the low cost airline, began operations in Panama on Friday, July 31, with the arrival of its first flight from Medellín, Colombia to the Panama Pacifico International Airport, located on the former military base of Howard.
The airline will fly seven days a week to the Colombian capital, Bogota, and on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday to Medellin. Currently the tickets from Panama to Colombia cost an average of $500 round trip while Viva Colombia is offering the same deal for $200.
Soon VivaColombia’s fleet of six aircraft will travel to Lima, Peru and Quito, Ecuador. The company is also analyzing the possibility of offering a route to Venezuela. There are only five low cost airlines in Latin America, three of them in Brazil.
Juan Antonio Posada, president of VivaColombia, said these new flights are only the first leg of routes that will soon depart from the Panama Pacifico Airport, chosen for its proximity to the Pacific beaches, Panama City and the Colon Free Zone.
Also the passengers arriving in this airport, explained Posada, will pay a lower airport tax of $20 instead of the $40 that is normally paid in Tocumen International Airport
Posada said that although VivaColombia has links with Declan Ryan, one of the founding members of Ryan Air and Irelandia, the Irish airline, the Colombian company does not have any plans for incursions into the European market and will only travel to destinations that are no more than four hours away.
According to VivaColombia’s president, the travel market is going to grow a lot over the next few months and the flight ticket costs will go down, because as demand increases the volume of passengers will grow for all the routes, “because when we lower the prices, the competitors do the same.”
Posada said that the airline is expected to transport 13,000 passengers a month to Panama, which means a total of 160,000 travelers a year, and it is expected that the market will grow an average of 30 percent per month.
VivaColombia president said that the low cost airlines around the world are taking between 35 to 40% of the market which has forced the bigger airlines to reduce their fares.