Colombian airline Viva Air announced this week that the José María Córdova International Airport in Rionegro, which services nearby Medellín, will become the company’s strategic hub. It also announced a number of new international routes.
According to Viva Air, in an effort to “decentralize” flights in Colombia, the company has chosen to adopt the country’s second-largest city as its hub, while at the same time aiming to help decongest Colombia’s main airport, El Dorado, in Bogotá.
El Dorado is the fourth-busiest airport in Latin America and according to International Airport Review, it served over 35 million passengers in 2019. By contrast, José María Córdova ranks 24th on a list of busiest Latin American airports and serviced just over 9 million passengers in 2019, according to Air Mundo. Colombia shut down international air travel for much of 2020 to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“As an airline we understand that aviation in Colombia cannot depend solely on a single airport, Bogotá,” said Félix Antelo, President and CEO of the Viva Air Group. “Therefore, we seek to make air connections from Medellín just as important as those from El Dorado.”
The executive said that he hopes the move will help promote tourism and development as well as contribute to the economic reactivation of Medellín and the surrounding region, helping to dig the country’s tourism industry out of the hole that COVID-19 has left it in.
“Despite the challenges that the pandemic brought with it, our plans to connect Colombia domestically and internationally don’t stop,” said Antelo. “The inauguration of four new international routes ratifies our expansion plan and strengthens our commitment to the country’s connectivity.”
Viva Air has resumed its international expansion plans that were put on hold in 2020 the company said in a statement. Passengers will soon benefit from four new international routes connecting Medellín to Mexico City; Medellín to Cancun; Medellín to Orlando, FL; and Bogotá to Mexico City. Most new routes are expected to begin hauling passengers in June 2021.
These additions bring the total number of routes the budget airline offers to 26 domestic routes to 12 national destinations and seven international routes to five destinations in Peru, Mexico and the United States.
The airline also announced that it has resumed 90% of its operations with a load factor of over 85% on its flights. The country’s aviation authority, Aerocivil, re-opened international flights slowly beginning in September 2020. In December, flights from the United Kingdom were suspended due to fears of the spread of a new variant of COVID-19 from the country. The country’s largest airline Avianca, announced in late January that it had resumed 100 routes.