ALTA: Avianca Brazil to be ready for Star in 2014

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Avianca Brazil will be ready to join Star Alliance by the second quarter of 2014, filling the grouping's void in the South American country after TAM departs for Oneworld.

"I am positive it will happen," says German Efromovich, owner of Avianca Brazil's parent company Synergy Group. "It will happen in the first quarter, or [at] the very latest, second quarter."

Avianca Brazil and Bogota-based airline group Avianca are both majority-owned by Synergy, but operate separately despite having similar brands. The Avianca group of airlines joined Star in June 2012, but Avianca Brazil did not take part.

Star is seeking a new partner in Brazil, with TAM operating its last flights as a Star airline on 30 March 2014. TAM is joining Chile's LAN in Oneworld from 31 March, following the two carriers' merger to become LATAM Airlines Group.

Efromovich says work is in the process to ensure that Avianca Brazil's IT systems are ready for it to enter a global airline alliance. "We will be ready. We want to be ready when the alliance needs us," he tells Flightglobal Pro. "There is no doubt [that we will join Star]... The issue is that we must be running fast enough to join Star."

Star Alliance chief executive Mark Schwab says a partner in Brazil is important for the alliance, noting that the Brazil market makes up 40% of the business in Latin America.

Speaking at a panel at the 10th ALTA Airline Leaders Forum, Schwab said, with reference to Efromovich: "Honestly, for us, the best solution is sitting right here on this stage with me.

"Avianca Brazil is looking more and more like Avianca itself. That's a pretty good start for us to backfill our presence in the country."

Avianca Brazil operates Airbus A320-family narrowbodies and Fokker 100s, and has an order for 10 Airbus A350s. Formerly known as OceanAir, Avianca Brazil was the fourth largest carrier in Brazil in 2012 in terms of number of departures.