Live blog: Routes Americas 2020

Our live blog from Routes Americas 2020 in Indianapolis, the only route development event dedicated to the Americas region.

Follow our live blog for updates throughout Routes Americas 2020the only route development event dedicated to the Americas region, taking place in Indianapolis. The conference programme is sponsored by the Jamaica Tourist Board.

Follow #RoutesAmericas on Twitter

Thursday 6 February 2020

15.00 - Routes Americas heads back to Colombia for 2021

ram20 handoverBy David Casey

As Routes Americas 2020 draws to a close in the Midwest city of Indianapolis, the baton has been passed to the host destination for next year’s event.

The 14th route development forum for the Americas will take place in the city of Bogotá, Colombia, hosted by El Dorado International Airport. From 9-11 February 2021, the event will unite senior decision makers from airlines, airports and destinations from across the region.

Bogotá is a charming and captivating city, centred around colonial streets, historic sites and an exciting calendar of shows and concerts. As a popular tourist destination on the rise, it is the perfect location for the next edition of Routes Americas.

Steven Small, director of events at Routes, said: “We are delighted that Routes Americas will return to Colombia in 2021, El Dorado International Airport and the city of Bogotá.

“Bogotá is the perfect starting point for delegates at Routes Americas to explore the opportunities that exist in all regions of the country, including their gastronomy, culture, people and other characteristics that make Bogota a multicultural city.

“Having held the event in Cartagena in 2013 it is now a perfect time to head back to Colombia for our 14th Routes Americas.”

The growth of the air sector in Colombia has been significant in recent years, led the country’s civil aviation authority Aerocivil and the Ministry of Transportation. Aerocivil is forecasting that annual passenger numbers should reach 100 million by 2030.

El Dorado International acts as the gateway for Colombia and South America, connecting the city with more than 85 destinations around the world. Recent new route successes include Air Canada Rouge’s link to Montreal and Delta Air Lines resuming flights to New York JFK.

14.00 - Mexican ULCC Viva Aerobus continues expansion

fernando viva aerobus ram20

By Karen Walker

Fast-growing Mexican ultra-LCC Viva Aerobus expects to add about 20 new routes this year, including a couple of US routes.

The carrier is planning to take delivery of six more Airbus A320 family aircraft in 2020, including the first four A321neos configured with 240 seats. Aerobus currently operates 36 A320 family aircraft with an average age of 3.8 years, making it the youngest fleet in Latin America.

Viva Aerobus VP strategy, business development & ancillary revenues Fernando Estrada told the Routes Americas 2020 conference in Indianapolis Feb. 6 that Aerobus carried 11 million passengers in 2019--2 million more than in 2018--, added 19 new routes and saw a 20% growth available seats. By the end of the year, the airline was operating 100 domestic routes and 18 international routes, mostly to the US. Aerobus’ domestic market share had grown to 18%.

With a 5.1c CASM, Aerobus says it has the world’s lowest cost base that allows it to maintain very low fares and stimulate the market. But another important factor is its high utilization rate, which averages 12.8 block hours per aircraft per day. That means aircraft typically fly more than six stages per day, with an average length of about 620 miles (1,000km).

Estrada could not reveal the new Mexico-US routes that the airline plans to open this year, but said an announcement was likely “in another couple of weeks”.

13.00 - Check out the highlights from Day Two

12.30 - New podcast from Indy!

12.00 - Sky Airline to launch maiden US route

sky airline ram20

By David Casey

Budget carrier Sky Airline will begin flights to the US for the first time later this year as part of its ongoing network expansion from Peru. The Chilean airline plans to start service between Lima and Miami, delegates at Routes Americas 2020 have been told.

Strategic planning senior manager Jose Manuel Mino said the route is one of three international services being launched from Lima in the coming months.

On April 2, Sky will begin flying four times per week to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, and on April 15 it will begin a 3X-weekly service to Cancun in Mexico. The Miami route is slated to open three months later.

“We have consolidated the domestic market, so our next plans are for international expansion,” Mino said. “Two years ago, we were an airline highly focused on our Chilean operations, with some international destinations.

“But by 2021, we’ll have operating bases in two countries – Chile and Peru – each with very solid domestic networks and a much wider array of international destinations.”

Sky received a Peruvian AOC in February 2019 and began domestic operations in April. It now operates 10 domestic routes in Peru.

11.00 - Read the latest Routes magazine!

Routes magazine is the leading publication focusing on route development strategy, insight and analysis. 

Routes 1 2020

In this issue:

  • How transatlantic travel has become the new battleground for carriers
  • What's next for LCCs in the US as the next wave prepare to take to the skies?
  • Interview: Air Corsica president Luc Bereni outlines the carrier's network strategy
  • PLUS: Route Analysis, Airport Briefs, Events Calander, Destination Showcase

Read the full magazine

10.00 - Image gallery

RAM20 image gallery

See the latest images from Routes Americas 2020 on our Facebook page!

09.00 - Jamaica sees Latin America as key market as LATAM service takes off 

By Lori Ranson

Latin America is a key and growing market for Jamaica, and the country hopes to build on momentum in visitor arrivals from the region in 2020 after the launch of new flights by LATAM Airlines from its hub in Lima, Peru to Montego Bay.

LATAM inaugurated 3X-weekly service on the route in early December. Donnie Dawson, deputy director of the Americas for the Jamaica Tourist Board, told Routes Digest during Routes Americas 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana that load factors on the Lina-Montego Bay route are roughly 70%.

The service from LATAM’s Lima hub allows for connectivity from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay to Jamaica, and although the route remains in its infancy, discussions are being held about potential expansion at some point in the future, Dawson said.

Jamaica’s other links to Latin America are Copa’s 5X-weekly flights from its hub at Panama City Tocumen airport to Montego Bay and 4X-weekly flights from Tocumen to Kingston.

Dawson explained that visitor arrivals from Latin America to Jamaica increased by 28% year-over-year in 2019, and those numbers should increase in 2020 as a result of the new service from LATAM. “Latin America is extremely important to us,” Dawson said.

Visitor arrivals to Jamaica from the US increased a solid 12% in 2019 to 1.8 million while arrivals from Canada were roughly flat at 400,000.

After Air Jamaica ceased operations in 2015, many markets to the US were left unserved, and Dawson remarked that Jamaica worked to secure service from the country’s major airlines.

Now, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines operate flights to Jamaica from several US gateway hubs. There are always discussions about the possible expansion of service, but the continued grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX is making some carriers reluctant to open new gateways, Dawson said. However, “the conversations continue,” he added.

Wednesday 5 February 2020

20.30 - Myrtle Beach International Airport named overall winner at the Routes Americas 2020 Awards!

Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR) was crowned the overall winner of the Routes Americas 2020 Awards at a ceremony in Indianapolis, USA.

The annual Routes Americas Awards, sponsored by Rolls Royce, took place at the Indiana Rooftop Ballroom last night (Feb 5, 2020). The awards are highly regarded in the aviation industry for recognising marketing services that support new and existing air services, as well as excellence and innovation in the route development community.

The judging panel included senior network planners from the likes of Alaska Airlines, Air Canada, Delta Air Lines, Spirit Airlines and United Airlines.

Myrtle Beach International was named the Overall Winner and also won the Under 4 Million Passenger category. The airport experienced a record-breaking year in 2019, with capacity growth on 15 routes and an analytic approach resulting in non-stop air services from more than 45 markets.

Upon being named the Overall Winner of the awards, Scott Van Moppes, Director of Airports, said: “We are honoured to be recognised by the airline industry for what we are doing at the Myrtle Beach International Airport. There is no better acknowledgment to our achievement than to win the 2020 Route Americas Awards!”

It is the second time in three years that the South Carolina airport has been named overall winner after picking up the prize two years ago at Routes Americas 2018 in Quito, Ecuador.

Austin-Bergstrom International (AUS) won the 4-20 Million Passenger category following the airport’s busiest ever year. Nine carriers started or announced 24 new routes during 2019, including WestJet’s service from Calgary (YYC) and Lufthansa’s connection from Frankfurt (FRA).

São Paulo-Guarulhos (GRU) won the Over 20 Million passenger category, witnessing a 2.8% growth in 2019 to break the 43 million passenger barrier for the first time. The airport secured five new international services including routes to Munich and Montreal, as well as 26 domestic services.

Myrtle Beach Chamber/CVB won the Destination category, attributing local passenger growth to its dynamic, research-based marketing efforts and an alliance with the local airport dating back to 2012.

The final award of the night, the new Route Exchange award, was presented to Aruba Airport Authority to recognise its excellence in digital marketing campaigns and airline engagement via the Route Exchange platform.   

19.00 - Get ready for the Routes Americas 2020 Awards!

17.00 - Boeing projects continued growth on transatlantic routes

By Aaron Karp

Boeing predicts transatlantic passenger air traffic flow to grow 2.8% annually over the next 20 years in terms of RPKs, indicating one of the world’s most popular air traffic corridors still has plenty of room to grow, Routes 2020 Americas delegates heard.

“In the last few years, it’s been even hotter, with 5-6% annual growth,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes director-airline network, fleet & revenue planning Alex Heiter said during a panel discussion on the transatlantic market at Routes Americas 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. “We do expect the dust to settle in terms of traffic flow. To maintain 5-6% a year over 20 years is really an unimaginable level of growth.”

The transatlantic market is essentially split into two segments: 75% is controlled by traditional network airlines involved in antitrust-immunized joint ventures, while 25% is controlled by low-cost carriers, mostly operating from the European side of the Atlantic Ocean. According to Heiter, both segments continue to grow.

Read the full story.

16.00 - Aspiring Dominican ULCC Flycana works towards a late 2020 launch 

Flycana RAM20

By Lori Ranson

Santo Domingo-based ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC) Flycana hopes to launch operations during the fourth quarter of this year and has ambitions to more than double the destinations it serves from the Dominican Republic by its fifth year of operations. 

The startup is in the process of working to secure $80 million in funding from both local and international investors by April, CEO Fred Jacobsen told the Routes Americas 2020 conference audience. Its target would be to inaugurate service six to eight months after closing its investment funding, he added.

Flycana is using the operating certificate of the former Dominican Wings, and aims to launch with seven aircraft, either Airbus A320ceos or  Boeing 737NGs. By its fifth year of operations, Flycana’s fleet will grow to 32 aircraft, Jacobsen said. 

14.00 - Sun Country remains true to its MSP base

Jude Bricker RAM20

By Karen Walker

Minnesota is a great home base for an airline because Minnesotans are fervent and reliable travelers and they are also hard workers, the CEO and president of Minneapolis-based Sun Country said.

Addressing the Routes Americas 2020 conference on Wednesday, Jude Bricker, who joined the carrier two years ago, explained how its base at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International (MSP) is a major asset supporting the airline’s strong growth.

Since taking the helm two years ago, Bricker has made significant changes at the carrier, which used to be a two-cabin full-service airline. Its new low-cost carrier model, operating Boeing 737-800s, is strongly focused on the leisure market and has lowered fares by an average of $35 while adding some 20 new destinations—all of which have been “100% successful,” Bricker said.

“Around 60%-70% of what we do is done from Minneapolis and all our crews are based there. It’s a great home market with great growth opportunities, and we now have about 50 destinations out of the airport,” Bricker said.

Delta Air Lines also has a base at MSP, but Bricker says Sun Country’s leisure-focused strategy enables it to stay competitive. “Most of our markets are also served by Delta, but Delta owns the corporate market. That’s a dead end for us, but the leisure customer has to overpay on the Delta cabin because it is filled with their corporate and high-mileage customers. So when we come in with 25% lower fares, you have stimulation opportunities,” Bricker said.

13.00 - Watch the highlights from Day One!

12.00 - Shortlists for the Routes Americas 2020 Awards!

Fourteen airports and five destinations have been shortlisted for tonight's Routes Americas 2020 Awards following a competitive month of voting.

Regarded as some of the most prestigious accolades within the community, the awards provide the airline community with the chance to have their say as to which organisations they think have displayed excellence in air service development marketing over the last 12 months.

The shortlisted organisations are:

Under 4 Million Passengers category

Curaçao-Hato International Airport
Myrtle Beach International Airport
Piedmont Triad International Airport
Queen Beatrix International Airport, Aruba

4-20 Million Passengers category

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport
Corporación Quiport - Quito International Airport
José María Córdova International Airport-Rio Negro, Medellín
RIOgaleão - Rio de Janeiro International Airport
Sacramento International Airport

Over 20 Million Passengers category

Tampa International Airport
São Paulo - Guarulhos International Airport
Washington Dulles International Airport
Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport
Vancouver International Airport

Destination category

Myrtle Beach Area Chamber/CVB
San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau
Tampa Bay & Company
Greater Medellin Convention and Visitors Bureau

11.15 - Contour Airlines to open Indy base

contour indy ram20

By David Casey

“Contour Airlines landing in Indiana is a huge win for the Hoosier state,” said Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb, after it was confirmed that the regional airline plans to establish an aircraft base at the Indianapolis International Airport (IND) and launch three new domestic routes.

The airline will create up to 55 new jobs in central Indiana by the end of 2023. It is purchasing additional ERJ-135/145 aircraft and investing a “significant amount” over the next few years to establish its new base, which will initially house two of the regional jets.

The new daily air service will connect IND to Nashville International (BNA), St. Louis Lambert International (STL), and Pittsburgh International (PIT), bringing the total connectivity available from the Indy airport to 53 nonstop destinations, an all-time high. Contour plans to begin operation from IND on June 10, 2020.

10.30 - Dynamic shifting towards JVs - Cerdá

cerda ram 20

By David Casey

The dynamic is shifting away from global alliances towards joint ventures (JVs) as airlines seek to take greater control over their destiny, according to IATA regional VP of the Americas Peter Cerdá.

He said the tie up between LATAM Airlines and Delta Air Lines highlights this, with LATAM not expected to join a global alliance following its exit from oneworld.

“Do you need to be in an alliance to be effective?” said Cerdá. “LATAM will remain commercial relationships with some of its oneworld partners despite the Delta partnership.

“It shows the dynamic is shifting and will continue to shift because customers are looking for different types of services and products.”

09.30 - Peter Cerda from IATA

08.00New route from Indy

 American Airlines has announced a new daily, nonstop flight from the Indianapolis International (IND) to Boston set to begin this May. The new route will depart from Indianapolis 2X-daily Sunday-Friday and once on Saturdays, beginning on May 7.

“Giving Hoosier travelers more options to get there from here is our goal,’ said Mario Rodriguez, executive director of the Indianapolis Airport Authority. “More nonstop flight options enable travelers to get to their destinations easily and quickly – and that’s part of the value the Indy airport strives to deliver. The new American Airlines flight aligns perfectly with that mission.”

The new flight to Boston will put the number of nonstop destinations American Airlines serves out of Indianapolis at 11 connecting Hoosiers to major business and leisure destinations, including Washington DC, New York, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Miami and Charlotte.

American Airlines averages 40 flight departures per day—the most among Indy airport airlines—and carried on average 22% of the 2019 monthly passenger traffic.

Tuesday 4 February 2020

17.30 - The Welcome Reception is underway!

15.00 - US majors ‘unlikely to consolidate regional players’

RAM20 regional panel

By David Casey

There is unlikely to be a trend of US regional airlines being swallowed by legacy carriers in the coming years, Routes Americas 2020 delegates in Indianapolis have heard.

Republic Airways president and CEO Bryan Bedford said it was not in the best interests of the majors as it would not deliver the return on investment they are looking for. Full-service carriers often cut costs by outsourcing low-density routes to regional airlines.

“I don’t think there will be consolidation in that way,” he said. “There are concerns in terms of labor complexities and we would not be able to maintain the labor arbitrage that we have today.”

ExpressJet Airlines president and CEO Subodh Karnik agreed. He said it was unlikely that such deals would produce any “clear value” for a major.

“I don't think that's a major focus of the larger airlines at this point in time. At the end of the day we are a production system. What do you want in a production system? Reliability and stability.

“If there is reliability and stability in the production system, 80% of the angst for the larger airline is over. What they don't want to mess with is reliability and stability.”

According to the Regional Airline Association, US regional airlines operate about 41% of scheduled passenger flights and provide the only source of scheduled air service to nearly two-thirds of US airports.

Indianapolis-based Republic partners with American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, flying a fleet of almost 200 Embraer 170/175s. ExpressJet operates as United Express on behalf of minority owner United, with an all-jet fleet of 125 aircraft.

Bedford and Karnik expressed optimism about the future of the industry, citing the strong interest mainline carriers have in partnering with them. However, both acknowledged that pilot shortages remain a challenge.

13.00 Welcome from Steven Small

steven ram20“Routes Americas is consistently the most important event in the calendar for aviation and tourism professionals working across the continent," said Routes brand director Steven Small. 

“We are expecting this year’s conference to open the door to many of the developments that we see in the Americas in the new decade.”

12.30 - Routes Americas lands in Indianapolis!

By David Casey

The 13th annual Routes Americas is now underway, bringing together airlines, airports and tourism organisations from across the region.

Indianapolis International Airport (IND), Visit Indy and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation are hosting the event, which is taking place at the J.W. Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.

Mayor Joe Hogsett and Governor Eric Holcomb will be in attendance during the conference, as they both understand how crucial air service and global connectivity is to the city’s and state’s economic growth.

“We collectively worked for nearly two years to land this prestigious and highly valuable conference, which has historically been held outside of the United States, with the exception of prior events in Denver and Las Vegas,” said Marsha Stone, IAA Sr. director of commercial enterprise. “We’re ready and eager to show airline decision makers why they should choose Indy.”

Stone said it can take years for an airport to secure new routes and new airlines. But the Routes Americas conference is the international mecca to build those relationships.

“We’ll have a prime opportunity to show them the ‘why’ behind IND, rather than tell them from a distance,” said Stone.

Mario Rodriguez, Indianapolis Airport Authority executive director, added: ““IND is a $1.7 billion airline market, and we have the attractions, the facilities, and the workforce to attract the best opportunities for Indiana. And this is our week to make that case – and we’re in it to win it!”

10.00 - Interview: Indianapolis seeks to build on new route successes

maggie bishopMaggie Bishop, manager of air service development at Indianapolis International Airport (IND), explains more about the Routes Americas 2020 host’s targets for future growth.

What are the targets for future growth? The Indianapolis economy has changed significantly over the last five years as tech companies such as Salesforce and Infosys establish roots alongside legacy life sciences and advanced manufacturing industry leaders such as Eli Lilly, Rolls Royce and Cummins. Routes Americas is a terrific opportunity to showcase Indy’s new, thriving economy.

Beyond technology, manufacturing and life sciences, Indianapolis is known as the “amateur sports capital of the world” and is home to the NCAA headquarters, along with hosting multiple major college and professional sporting events throughout the year with commitments into the future, including the NFL Combine (committed through 2021), 2021 NBA All-Star Weekend, 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four, 2022 College Football Playoff National Championships, and 2026 NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four – in addition to world-famous racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which hosts the Indianapolis 500 (the largest single-day sporting event), Brickyard 400 and other racing events throughout the year – bringing crowds from around the world. 

With all of this in mind, our air service strategy continues to focus on increased service in both domestic and international markets, including:

  • West Coast of the US
  • Drive markets from Indianapolis such as St. Louis, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Memphis, Cleveland and more
  • International markets in Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe and Asia

Read the full interview

09.00 - What it means to host Routes Americas

Monday 3 February 2020

16.00 - About the Circle City

ODMedia_RoutesAmericas_DayThree110.jpgBy David Casey

Routes Americas 2020 arrives in Indianapolis as the thriving Midwest city prepares to celebrate its 200th birthday. Best known throughout the world as home of the iconic Indianapolis 500 race, the city’s vibrancy and appeal extends beyond sports.

Named by Forbes as one of the top 25 best places in the US to visit in 2020, Indianapolis is prospering with a rich cultural scene and an array of renowned museums. Districts like Mass Ave and Fletcher Place are home to a line-up of hip bars and restaurants, while the Children's Museum is the largest of its kind in the world.

Later this year, Indy will celebrate its bicentennial with a year-long festival of music, food, arts and culture. The celebrations kick off in June, to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the state capital moving from Corydon, and will run until May 2021. 

Other milestones this year include the opening of the Bottleworks District, the city’s newest multi-use neighborhood. The project involves the $300m redevelopment of a former Coca-Cola bottling plant, offering restaurants, bars, residential space, a food hall and a hotel set across 11 acres.

Elsewhere, 2020 marks the reopening of the Madam Walker Legacy Center which honors Madam CJ Walker, the first African American self-made millionaire. Madam’s story will also be highlighted in a Netflix mini-series backed by Lebron James and starring Octavia Spencer. 

Mirroring the growth of the city, Indianapolis International Airport (IND) is also experiencing a period of sustained expansion. During the first-half of 2019, the airport served a record 4.7 million passengers, boosted by a capacity hike by Delta Air Lines and Spirit’s inaugural routes. Since then the likes of Allegiant Air, Frontier and Spirit have opened new non-stop routes, while Alaska Airlines is to add a second-daily flight to Seattle from May 2020.

15.00 - Find out more about our Charity Partner

Image result for alder hey logoAlder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, UK cares for more than 275,000 children and young people each and every year.

The Routes team are aiming to raise £35,000 ($46,000). Thousands of children and young people are treated within the Cardiac Unit at Alder Hey each year and for many, their treatment involves making a trip to the Cardiac ECHO Rooms where a technician will check to see how their heart is doing via a monitor. 

Every penny raised by the Routes team will go towards equipping a 4d Immersive Distraction Room. 

Find out how you can support the Routes team and Alder Hey Children's Charity.

13.00 - About the venue

Indy About the VenueAs one of the largest JW Marriott hotels in the world, the property offers 1,005 guest rooms and suites, 104,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, and convenient access to Indy’s top attractions. Step outside the front door to find the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, an 8-mile urban greenway connecting visitors to six unique neighborhoods each with their own flavor of dining, shopping, nightlife, and entertainment.

Out the back door of the hotel is White River State Park with 250-acres of green space, riverfront views, and seven major attractions – the NCAA National Office and Hall of Champions, Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indiana State Museum, IMAX Theater, Central Canal Walk, Indianapolis Zoo, and Victory Field.

Hop on the Pacers Bikeshare or simply walk to Super Bowl host Lucas Oil Stadium for a tour, Monument Circle for eagle eye views from atop Soldiers & Sailors Monument or a local café, or Circle Centre Mall for more than 100 specialty shops.

11.00 - Download the app

Sponsored by Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the Routes app gives attendees all the latest event information on the device of their choice. Available on iOS, Android and in HTML5 format for BlackBerry, Windows and laptops, the app is designed to engage route development stakeholders attending the event in Indianapolis.

Simply enter your email address followed by your unique Personal Registration Code (PRC), which will allow you to view all the apps features, including: personalised profile, full delegate listings and a tailored agenda. 

 Download the app now  or search "Routes Events" in the app store.

09.00 – Welcome to Indy!

Indy host imageThe 13th annual Routes Americas gets underway in Indianapolis tomorrow (Feb. 4, 2020), bringing together airlines, airports and tourism authorities from across the region to discuss and develop air route networks. 

The event's delegates will take part in more than 2,100 face-to-face meetings to discuss new and existing air services. Are you among the attendees?

Share your journey to Indy on Twitter using the #RoutesAmericas hashtag and on the Routes app