BoA to launch Lima; eyes more international growth

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Bolivia's state-owned airline Boliviana de Aviación (BoA) is planning to launch services to Lima in the second quarter of this year and is studying several possible new international destinations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

BoA CEO Ronald Casso tells ATI the carrier aims to launch service from La Paz to Lima in May or June. Lima, which will initially be served with three weekly Boeing 737-300-operated frequencies, will give BoA three international destinations.

BoA launched domestic services in March 2009 and last year launched its first two international services, to Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo. Casso says Buenos Aires, which is served six times per week, is particularly performing well with 83% average load factors. He says so far Sao Paulo, which is served three times per week, has been averaging load factors of 65%.

Casso says BoA aims to add a seventh frequency to Buenos Aires and three additional weekly flights to Sao Paulo. While Lima will start with three weekly flights, "depending on the market we can increase to six frequencies".

BoA is also studying several other potential new international destinations in line with its fleet expansion plan. The carrier now operates four 737-300s but plans to place into service two more 737-300s over the next couple of months and add a new aircraft type by year-end.

Casso says BoA is now looking at launching service to Caracas with continuing service to the Caribbean, "probably Havana and the Dominican Republic". He adds "the other option for us is Panama and Mexico".

According to Innovata, currently there is no carrier operating from Bolivia to Venezuela, Cuba, the Dominican Republic or Mexico. Copa, however, currently serves Santa Cruz from Panama City. BoA also will have to compete in the La Paz-Lima market against three carriers - Bolivia's Aerosur, Lan Peru and TACA Peru.

Aerosur and BoA already compete fiercely in Bolivia's domestic market as well as to Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo. BoA is based in Cochabamba and Aerosur in Santa Cruz but both have significant operations in Cochabamba, Santa Cruz as well as La Paz.

Casso says BoA's new Lima service will operate from and to La Paz but on BoA's other international routes the carrier does not have the ability to operate from La Paz due to takeoff restrictions at the high altitude airport.

On the Buenos Aires route, BoA now has three weekly flights from Santa Cruz and three from Cochabamba although all six connect with flights from La Paz. On the return three of the flights from Buenos Aires go direct to La Paz as there are no restrictions on landings at La Paz while the other three land in Cochabamba.

Casso says on BoA's Sao Paulo route all six weekly frequencies are operated from and to Santa Cruz although domestic connections are available to Cochabamba and La Paz.

He says the new Lima flights can operate from La Paz because Lima is much closer to Bolivia than Buenos Aires or Sao Paulo. Casso adds BoA is now looking at the possibility of operating longer international flights from La Paz but for now the weight restrictions on takeoffs from the high altitude airport make this difficult to pursue.