Colombia's Aires is planning to launch six new routes, including three to the USA, over the next two months as it places additional Boeing 737-700s into service.
Aires now operates seven Boeing 737-700s on domestic trunk routes and to Fort Lauderdale in Florida. An Aires spokesman says an eighth 737-700 has arrived in Colombia and should enter service later this month. He says Aires is scheduled to take two more 737-700s later this quarter, giving it a fleet of 10 737-700s by the end of March.
ATI first reported in October Aires had committed to expand its 737-700 fleet to 10 aircraft through new lease deals with AWAS and Mitsubishi.
The Aires spokesman says some of the additional capacity will be deployed on Aires' new US operation. The carrier launched services to the US in November with one daily flight on the Bogota-Fort Lauderdale route. It already has traffic rights for several other US routes including Barranquilla, Cali and Cartagena to Fort Lauderdale and Bogota to New York JFK.
The spokesman says Barranquilla-Fort Lauderdale and Cali-Fort Lauderdale will be Aires' next US routes. "We're planning for February but we have no date yet," he tells ATI.
He adds both routes, which will be served with one daily 737-700 flight, will likely begin in the later portion of February as Aires has not yet begun selling tickets on either service. Typically Aires begins ticket sales 20 days before a route is launched.
The spokesman says Aires is also now aiming to begin service on the Bogota-New York JFK route in March. "We're working with the airport now to get the certifications," he says.
The spokesman says Aires is also looking at beginning 737-700 service from Bogota to Aruba in March but again a launch date has not yet been set. Aires already serves Aruba from Barranquilla with Bombardier Dash 8s. The Bogota-Aruba route represents the first of several potential Caribbean services from Bogota using newly acquired 737s.
Aires also secured last year traffic rights to serve Bogota-Sao Paulo but the spokesman says the planned 737-700 service to Brazil will not begin until the second half of 2010.
Domestically Aires is also expanding with new routes in February from Bogota to Riohacha and Valledupar in northeast Colombia. The spokesman says a schedule and launch date for these services have not yet been set.
Aires has been expanding its domestic network rapidly over the last several months as 737-700s were placed into service. Its last new domestic route, Bogota-Cucuta, was launched last month.
Cucuta was the last of Colombia's large cities to be added to Aires' network. The carrier is also now operating 737-700s into several smaller cities. Riohacha, for example, is a relatively small destination currently only served according to Innovata with one daily Fokker 100 flight from Bogota by Avianca.
Bogota-Valledupar is now only served by Avianca with three daily Fokker 100 flights, according to Innovata. Valledupar, however, is already served by Aires from Barranquilla with one daily Bombardier Dash 8 flight.
One year ago Aires was a regional carrier only operating turboprops on thin domestic routes. With the 737-700s Aires has been converted into a low-cost carrier competing with Colombia's two main carriers, Aero Republica and Avianca, on domestic trunk routes.
Aires also has been looking at leasing 70-seat Dash 8 Q400s to supplement its 37-seat Q200s. The spokesman says the carrier still hopes to have two Q400s in service by the end of March and currently has a team overseas inspecting specific aircraft.
According to Colombian CAA data, Aires transported 1.3 million domestic passengers through the first 11 months of 2009, a 15% increase over the same period the previous year. For the 11 months Aires had a 15% share of the domestic market, putting it number three behind Avianca and Aero Republica. But for the month of November, it had 18% share of the market, putting it just head of Aero Republica.