LatinNews Daily - 01 March 2023

COLOMBIA: Viva Air causes chaos by grounding fleet

On 28 February the low-cost Colombian airline Viva Air grounded its fleet and suspended ticket sales, unleashing chaos at airports across Colombia.


Viva, one of the most used airlines in Colombia, has thrown airports nationwide into chaos with its unexpected decision to suspend operations with immediate effect. The company has laid the blame for the disruption with Colombia’s aviation authority, Aeronáutica Civil, which on 27 February delayed its verdict on a proposed merger between Viva and Colombian airline Avianca. Viva issued a statement arguing that it is in “financial crisis” and that the merger offers the only means for it to fulfil its obligations to ticket holders. However, the company has faced a massive public backlash that has forced it to deny that it is resorting to strong-arm tactics to pressure the aviation authority.  

  • The heavily indebted Viva has blamed the grounding of its fleet on the aviation authority, which on 27 February announced that it was delaying its verdict on the Viva-Avianca merger. The aviation authority had previously argued that the Viva-Avianca merger would restrict competition, following complaints from other airlines including Chile’s LATAM and JetSmart, and Colombia’s Wingo. In its statement on 27 February, the authority insisted that it is following due process and said that it will not rush its verdict on the merger.
  • In response, Viva released a statement saying that this delay from the aviation authority “unfortunately obliges Viva to announce the suspension of its operations with immediate effect”. Viva’s fleet of 24 planes was grounded and ticket sales suspended, immediately unleashing chaos at airports around the country.
  • Passengers with Viva tickets protested at airports in cities including Bogotá, Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Medellín. Hundreds of passengers were also stranded at airports in the Peruvian cities of Lima and Cusco, which are also served by Viva.
  • Viva issued a follow-up statement yesterday saying that the merger with Avianca offers “the only possibility to keep flying”. The company’s president Francisco Lalinde later insisted that Viva “is not blackmailing the government” by causing chaos through the grounding of its fleet.

Looking Ahead: Transport Minister Guillermo Reyes said last night that “President Gustavo Petro’s government is taking measures to safeguard the rights of passengers,” and that the government will make a further announcement today (1 March).

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