Avianca drops regional airline plans, to add new ATRs to mainline fleet

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Bogota-based Avianca has confirmed that it will incorporate all 15 ATR 72-600 aircraft it has on order into its mainline carrier fleet rather than to a new Panama-based regional carrier created to operate the aircraft.

Avianca Holdings, which owns Avianca, created Regional Express Americas as an independent airline to absorb the regional operations of Avianca and Taca in Colombia and Central America. Avianca closed a merger with Taca in 2010.

With the first ATR 72-600 scheduled for delivery in July, Regional Express had already obtained its operational permits in Colombia and authorisations to serve a number of regional routes, most of them connecting its Bogota hub with secondary destinations such as Yopal, Manizales and Florencia.

However, an Avianca spokeswoman tells Flightglobal that the aircraft will be operated directly by Avianca.

"The ATR72-600 acquired by Avianca Holdings S.A. will be incorporated to the Avianca fleet and will be assigned to routes currently operated by Avianca's Fokker 50 and Taca's ATR 42 aircraft," she adds.

While she does not give further reasons for the change in strategy, the move looks like a victory of Avianca's pilots association Acdac, which had recently stepped up its campaign against eroding pilots' labour rights through the newly created subsidiary.