Colombian national carrier Avianca will make its anticipated return to the UK market this summer when it resurrects its direct air link between its hub at El Dorado International in Bogotá and London Heathrow. The airline will inaugurate a four times weekly service on the route from July 3, 2014, using an Airbus A330-200.
The proposed new route, which we understand is not yet available for reservation, will be the sole direct air link between Colombia and the UK. Avianca last served the route in the 1990s and early 2000s but suspended its previous link at the end of the summer schedules in October 2001. Aerocivil, Colombia’s civil aviation authority, approved the new international link back in July 2012 as part of a strategy to increase the country’s global connections.
"Today, as in 1946 when the company inaugurated its first flight between Colombia and Europe, Avianca remains true its commitment to offer travelers from the Andean region the best connections and facilities for travel to strategic points," said Fabio Villegas, chief executive officer, Avianca. "The direct Bogotá - London - Bogotá flight opens up new opportunities for trade and tourism in markets of great interest to Hispanics and vice versa."
Estuardo Ortiz , Executive VP and Chief Revenue Officer, Avianca, will be among the speakers at the Routes Americas Strategy Summit in San Salvador, El Salvador later this month. Full details here.
According to UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data, 60,968 passengers travelled on the Bogotá – London route in Avianca’s last year of operation in 2011 with around 31,258 passengers flying from/to London Heathrow and 29,710 flying from/to London Gatwick. Although there are no longer direct flights on the Bogotá – London city pair an estimated 53,000 bi-directional O&D passengers travelled between Bogotá and destinations across the UK last year, highlighting the strong potential of the market. According to UK Office of National Statistics data, an estimated 161,000 Colombians reside in the Greater London area.
As the chart below shows, the majority of these passengers are currently flying with Iberia via Madrid, although Avianca does already hold a 7.4 per cent share of the traffic via its existing links into Spain.
Colombia is one of the world’s most promising economies and the deal will help the UK meet its new bilateral trade target of £4 billion by 2020, as announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on his trade mission to Colombia this week. As the balance of economic growth shifts from the developed world to emerging markets, leading economies are forgeing new connections in order to remain an attractive place to invest and do business. Colombia is part of a new class of growing economies called CIVETS – Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa - which are characterised by high prospects for growth in the coming decades.
The deal has taken five years to come to fruition, with Heathrow first talking to Avianca in 2009. With Heathrow, the UK’s only hub airport, full, Avianca was forced to wait for suitable take-off and landing slots to become available from other airlines before it was able to secure the slots it needed, a senior executive at the facility confirmed to The HUB.
Avianca's experience echoes that of China Southern, which had to wait seven years for their slots at Heathrow in order to put on flights to Guangzhou, and Aeromexico, which waited four years for slots to Mexico City. According to Colin Matthews, chief executive officer, London Heathrow Airport, other airlines from major emerging economies would also like to add new routes at Heathrow but are unable to do so.
“We are delighted that Avianca is coming to Heathrow this summer. The world’s economic centre of gravity is shifting and Britain needs to capitalise on links to fast growing economies like Colombia. We would like to welcome more flights bringing trade and jobs to the UK but a lack of hub airport capacity means we are less well connected than we could be,” he explained.
The UK will be the second European market to be regularly served by Avianca, although the carrier is understood to be also looking at resuming a previous link to Frankfurt, Germany. It currently operates flights to both Barcelona and Madrid from Bogotá while the Spanish capital is also served directly from Cali and Medellin.
Avianca currently faces European competition from Air France (Paris CDG), Iberia (Madrid) and Lufthansa (Frankfurt), but as the chart below shows, last year it was the dominant carrier holding a 41.1 per cent share of O&D demand between Colombia and Europe. Avianca’s traffic in this market increased 11.6 per cent between 2012 and 2013, increasing its share of the O&D demand by 3.2 percentage points.