Colombian low-cost carrier Viva Air Colombia (Viva Air) has recently withdrawn two relatively young Airbus A320neos from its fleet. The airline received the two narrowbodies towards the end of last year, and their early withdrawals highlight the significance of how much of a fragile state Viva Air has been in.
Bidding farewell to two young aircraft
The two withdrawn aircraft in question are registered HK-5389 and HK-5378. Christened as Camila Blaney, HK-5389 was only over a year old and was delivered to Viva Air on December 12th last year. The Airbus narrowbody entered into service a few days later and has been actively flying since then. Unfortunately, HK-5389 operated its somewhat premature last flight as VH 465 from Cancun International Airport to Medellin Jose Maria Cordova International Airport earlier last month on November 14th.
And just before Christmas, on December 23rd, HK-5389 was ferried from Medellin Jose Maria Cordova International Airport to Tuscon International Airport. The aircraft has remained stored there ever since. As for HK-5378, the aircraft was christened Go Pink and was only over a year old. Delivered to Viva Air in September last year, the aircraft suffered a similar premature withdrawal from service after operating its final flight for the airline on November 14th.
Then on December 27th, HK-5378 was transported from Bogota El Dorado International Airport to Tuscon International Airport for storage. With the departure of these two Airbus neo narrowbodies from Viva Air’s fleet, the low-cost carrier is only left with 10 Airbus A320neos and 11 Airbus A320-200s. The budget carrier also has three additional Airbus A320neos on order, although their estimated delivery dates have been delayed.
From leased to unleased
But if the two aircraft leased to Viva Air were based on long-term lease agreements, why would the low-cost carrier withdraw them from service? The reason would be the same as why the airline had delayed the delivery timeline of its upcoming three Airbus A320neos, as it is financially struggling. Despite the massive rebound in the post-pandemic era, Viva Air still faces a complex financial situation against rising fuel prices and a weaker peso currency.
Due to its financial struggles, the low-cost carrier has been late with the lease agreement payments for some aircraft, including HK-5389 and HK-5378, which explains their withdrawal. It’s likely that other aircraft will soon be withdrawn from its fleet shortly, which would be quite the capacity downfall since the demand for air travel is increasing. Given this consideration, any other withdrawn aircraft will likely be transferred to fellow Colombian carrier Avianca as the two airlines share aircraft lessors.
Yet another request for integration
With Viva Air continuing to struggle, given how some lower revenue routes were already suspended, aircraft deliveries delayed, and now aircraft being withdrawn from its fleet, Avianca is attempting to again request an integration with the low-cost carrier. The Colombian Aviation Authority rejected the earlier request, saying the transaction represented a considerable risk to competition as it would prove monopolistic.
If the merger had happened, the combined airline would have controlled 100% of the flight services on 16 routes. However, without the merger, Avianca argued that Viva Air would be, and currently already is, facing a slow and inevitable death. And without Viva Air, Avianca emphasizes that the Colombian aviation industry would suffer an immeasurable loss. Determined to save the low-cost carrier, Avianca highlighted in its new request that both airlines would return between 73 and 105 slots at El Dorado International, allowing other airlines to expand their presences.
The other four proposals within the new request were:
- Maintain the brand and low-cost model of Viva Air to preserve as many jobs, fleets, and routes as possible.
- Protect the fares on the routes where both airlines operate exclusively.
- Launch a codeshare or interline agreement with Satena to strengthen Satena’s social role and connectivity to Colombia’s most isolated regions.
- Keep all of Viva Air’s current interline agreements.
With the new request and the above proposals, the Colombian Aviation Authority is currently reviewing them to see if the merger will be deemed competitively justified. However, Aviana and Viva Air are desperate for a quick approval, or the low-cost carrier could see itself sinking further as the new year comes along.
Source : SimpleFlying