Aerosur plans international expansion

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After a year of route consolidation, privately owned Aerosur plans to expand its international network again in 2009 with service to capitals Santiago in Chile and Bogota in Colombia.

The Bolivian carrier, which has a domestic traffic market share of around 80%, is adding two Boeing 737-200s in the first quarter of 2009 and a 767-200ER in the second quarter, says Miguel Angel Roca, commercial vice-president of Aerosur.

Its fleet features eight 727-200s, five 737-200s, a 747-300 and a 767-200ER. An Airbus A330-200 and an A340-200 are wet-leased from Spanish carrier Air Comet.

"We are discussing code shares in the Santiago and Bogota markets," says Roca. The carrier is also planning to increase frequency on its popular Miami route to five times weekly in the summer season.

Aerosur is based in Bolivia's largest city Santa Cruz. It is majority owned by Bolivian businessman Humberto Roca, who has a diverse range of interests including construction and real estate.

The carrier has a staff of 1,300 and is on track to carry 1.6 to 1.7 million passengers this year, a growth of 8-10% over 2007, says Roca. Its revenues will climb to between $200 million and $220 million and it expects to be profitable in 2008, despite the high fuel prices of earlier this year.

The carrier has a high social responsibility, says Roca. For over a year it has run a programme called Procer, where it flies Bolivian nationals and residents over 80 years of age for free. The word Procer roughly translates as an old person who is also a hero, he says. Some 5,000 people have taken advantage of the offer so far.