Avianca-Taca to decide on new turboprops by end-2012

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Latin American airline group Avianca-Taca is likely to make a decision by end-2012 on replacements for its ageing turboprop fleet.

"We are in the process of selecting new aircraft, and hope to make a decision by the end of the year," says Avianca-Taca's chief executive Fabio Villegas.

Colombia-based Avianca operates seven Fokker 50s built in 1993-1994, according to Flightglobal's Ascend database. Taca Airlines has 11 ATR 42s, built between 1985 and 1995, in service.

The airline group is looking to purchase about 20 new turboprops to replace these aircraft, says Villegas.

Avianca and Taca completed their merger in 2010 and is in the process of bringing all the airlines in the group under a single brand, Avianca. The group of carriers joined Star Alliance on 21 June, adding four airport hubs to the Star network.

Besides an extensive network in Central America, Avianca also has a brand presence in Brazil through Avianca Brazil, which operates separately from the Avianca-Taca group. Formally called OceanAir, Avianca Brazil is wholly owned by the Synergy Group, which is Avianca-Taca's majority shareholder. Villegas says there is no definite plan yet for Avianca Brazil to join Avianca-Taca, adding that the process will involve many steps. Avianca-Taca's membership in Star does not include Avianca Brazil's network.

While Avianca Brazil executives have said previously that the airline will become part of Avianca-Taca eventually, Villegas indicates there is no firm date for this. "It is difficult to say what is going to happen," he says, pointing out that the integration between Avianca and Taca was a complex process and that integrating Avianca Brazil into the airline group would be equally complicated.