Ecuador approves Lan’s domestic operations

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Ecuador's National Aviation Council has decided to authorise Lan Ecuador's request to operate domestic flights in the country with some restrictions.

TAME and AeroGal, Ecuador's principal domestic airlines had objected heavily against the market entry of a new competitor, but the country's third airline Icaro reversed its stance and supported Lan's request, hoping to reach some kind of commercial deal with Lan on secondary routes not operated by the Oneworld carrier.

A source at the Ecuadorian presidency confirms that, in addition to its existing international traffic rights, Lan has been awarded 56 domestic roundtrips, somewhat short of its request to operate 77 weekly return flights.

The routes on which Lan will be allowed to operate are the country's busiest including Quito and Guayaquil, Quito and Cuenca, Guayaquil and Cuenca and flights from the mainland to the Galapagos Islands.

The Council's ruling determines that service to the Galapagos Islands must be operated under a code share agreement, but did not require Lan to codeshare with a specific operator.

Flights to the Galapagos and its Air Force-operated airports have been traditionally a monopoly of TAME, also owned by the Air Force. Although in recent years TAME's principal competitor Aerolineas Galapagos (AeroGal) has also gained access to this highly profitable market.

Lan pLans to start the local flights in late March. Initially it planned to deploy three Airbus A318 aircraft in Ecuador to sustain the operation. However, it is unclear if the reduced number of frequencies awarded will force the airline to adjust its fleet for domestic service.

Lan Ecuador is part of Chile's Lan group and operates Boeing 767 aircraft to Madrid, New York, Miami and a combined flight to Santiago de Chile and Buenos Aires.