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Airline delays are seemingly a given nowadays, but Colombian airline Avianca is having none of it. “The achievement of the year was—and we’re very proud of it— that we were the named the best airline and most punctual airline in the world in 2023,” shares Rolando Damas, Avianca’s Sales Director for North America, Central America and the Caribbean, during a recent conversation with Recommend.

Rolando Damas, Avianca Airline’s Avianca’s Sales Director for North America, Central America and the Caribbean (Photo by Avianca)

And 2023 was also a record year for the airline’s growth—a record that seems likely to be broken in 2024. “2023 was an amazing year. We grew like over 35 percent versus 2022 in capacity.  And in 2024, already in the first quarter, we’ve grown over 25 percent! So, if you compare first quarter 2024 to first quarter 2022, I mean, I know it’s kind of coming out of COVID, but it’s like almost a 50 percent increase in capacity that we’ve had,” says Damas.

Last year, Avianca added 32 new routes, “and in 2024, we’ve already launched nine in the first half of 2024, and we’re planning to launch more before the end of the year. So, the growth continues to be there.”

Damas explains that in the North American market, which includes Toronto and Montreal, the airline has 377 weekly frequencies to Latin America. Their main hub is in Bogota, naturally, but they also have a hub in El Salvador, which means they’re able to cover Central and South America. “It’s a huge operation. About 40 percent of our business is point to point, and 60 percent is hub connecting,” he says.

Machu Picchu. (Photo by Jeremiah Berman on Unsplash)

It’s important to point out that while the VFR (Visiting Friends and Relatives) market is still tops, the leisure market is growing rapidly. In Colombia, Damas mentions Medellin as receiving more visitors, with Cartagena still popular. Plus, for the adventurers on your client list: Avianca is “the only airline that is nonstop from Bogota to Cusco. To get to Cusco with most airlines you have to go to Lima.” Miami-Bogota-Cusco… and your client is at the foot of Machu Picchu.

“We also have Galapagos,” adds Damas. “We are the only airline with flights to both islands in Galapagos.”

Avianca’s New Seasonal Launches

The airline is launching 11 new routes from June 1st through September and will be operated on A320 family aircraft with a capacity of 180 passengers, representing over 20,000 seats weekly on these 11 routes. “One of the routes is Washington, San Jose, Costa Rica, there’s a big demand from Washington, DC to San Jose, Costa Rica. We’re doing Las Vegas/Salvador…and it’s incredible how much connectivity that flight has to Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.” He adds the summer seasonal lift is usually also available for the holidays.

Avianca and Advisors

Avianca has an extensive sales staff in the US—LA, Washington, New York and Miami—and Damas pointed out they communicate extensively with advisors , including through GDS advertising, but there’s one very important tool for an advisor’s sales kit that should be taken advantage of:

“I think FAM trips are very important because in order for you to sell a destination, you need to learn about the destination, and you need to see the destination,” says Damas, adding the airline works closely with several tour operators in the US.

“[A] large tour operator will organize the FAM trip, invite agents from different agencies, or even within their own agency, and we’ll put it together. We’ll help them out with the tickets, they coordinate with a receptive operator in the destination that they’re going to and coordinate all the transfers and all the local stuff. And then we’ll put the air and get them there for sure,” he says.

Of note: The airline has a fleet of A320 Airbus, plus Boeing 787 Dreamliners with full-flat beds in Business Class which they operate from some cities in the US, including Miami. Starting July 1st, the narrow-body planes will now offer Business Class, as well, with all the service, food, drinks and perks of that level, something that will very much appeal to corporate clients.

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