LAN-supported AerOasis plans late 2010 launch with A320s

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Colombian start-up and potential LAN partner AerOasis is planning to launch services later this year with an initial fleet of three leased Airbus A320s.

AerOasis director Nicolas Cortazar says the carrier has selected the A320 and is close to completing deals with two leasing companies for a total of three aircraft.

"We plan to launch this year. We're now in phase two of the certification process in Colombia and hope to get government approval by October," Cortazar tells ATI.

He adds revenue services will be launched roughly one month after AerOasis secures an air operators' certificate (AOC) from Colombia's CAA. The aim is to begin serving some of Colombia's domestic trunk routes before the start of the Christmas peak season.

Cortazar says AerOasis will be based in Bogota and has already been approved for 14 domestic routes but will not decide on an initial network until after the AOC is secured.

Colombian investment firm Corso has been working on launching AerOasis since 2006. Cortazar says the project is now being accelerated with support from Chile-based LAN, which announced early last month it forged a partnership with AerOasis that will initially involve helping the carrier with the certification process.

Cortazar says the partnership could be extended to include codesharing and schedule coordination. But for now there are no plans for adopting the LAN brand or having any equity tie-up.

"LAN is interested in doing something with us," Cortazar says. "For now they are helping with certification and getting us started - that's it. We'll have to see how it goes."

LAN, which has been eyeing a possible expansion into the Colombian passenger market for several years, already has a cargo airline subsidiary in Colombia that is now providing technical support to AerOasis. LAN is also supplying technical support and consulting services to AerOasis from its Santiago headquarters. AerOasis is paying LAN for these services.

"They have experience and knowledge all over the world," Cortazar says, adding LAN's experience in launching and certifying new airlines across Latin America is particularly valuable "because we have very little time".

ATI reported last year that AerOasis was evaluating both A320 and 737 family aircraft, with a focus on used A319s or 737-300s. Cortazar says the decision to go with A320s was made independently of LAN, which operates a large A320 fleet, and none of the aircraft in AerOasis' fleet will come from LAN.

But he adds the partnership with LAN includes help with sourcing aircraft, drafting manuals and setting up maintenance programmes.

"They're helping us with the fleet selection but it is us who are leasing the airplanes. We are taking all the risk," Cortazar says.

Cortazar declined to reveal which leasing companies he is working with because the deals, which include one A320 from one lessor and two A320s from a second lessor, have not yet been concluded. But he says the aircraft AerOasis expects to lease are used A320s that are two to three years old.

He adds it not yet clear which engine type AerOasis will end up with but says the carrier's fleet will definitely not be mixed.

While AerOasis plans to launch services with three A320s, the carrier plans to quickly add two additional A320s. Cortazar says this is in line with Colombian CAA regulations, which require start-ups to operate five aircraft within six months. AeroOasis plans to source the two additional aircraft later this year.