LAN sets it sights on Colombia through Aeroasis deal

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Colombian startup Aeroasis could become part of Chile's LAN group through a new partnership to support the launch of Aeroasis.

Aeroasis first secured a license from Colombian authorities in 2006, and in July of 2009 the carrier's management told ATI it was targeting a launch in 2010. The company has renewed its license at least three times.

LAN says initially it is providing Aeroasis with technical support to obtain an operating permit. The Chilean company is also assisting Aeroasis with hiring, developing technical materials and equipment selection and acquisition.

"LAN's firm interest is that once Aeroasis obtains its operating permit, the Colombian airline may become part of the LAN group of airline operators," says LAN.

In addition to its operations in Chile, LAN has affiliates in Peru, Argentina and Ecuador. Members of LAN's management have previously said Colombia and Brazil could be potential markets for expansion.

Colombia during the last couple years has been one of the most dynamic aviation markets in Latin America. Aires launched operations in 2009 with Bombardier Dash 8 turboprops and early this year began operating Boeing 737-700s. It is now the third largest domestic carrier behind Avianca and Copa Holdings subsidiary Aero Republica.

Colombian Jetstream 41 operator EasyFly has previously said it is considering an expansion into narrowbody flying. Other players include Avianca subsidiary SAM and regional carrier Satena, which is owned by the Colombian air force.

Colombia's largest airline Avianca in October 2009 announced a merger with Ecuadorian carrier Taca, and the combined airline group has a significant presence in Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras.

Shortly after Avianca and Taca announced their merger LAN management said the carrier didn't expect the tie-up to significantly affect competition in Latin America.