NETWORK USA 2012: Colombia's Medellin airport eyes more destinations

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The operator of the airport in Colombia's second largest city of Medellin is hoping that the launch of new low-cost carrier VivaColombia will help stimulate more passenger traffic.

Airplan, which runs Medellin Jose Maria Cordova International airport, is also aiming to increase international connectivity from the airport this year.

VivaColombia is scheduled to begin operations in May and will likely operate daily flights to Bogota, says Airplan's commercial chief officer Margarita Hoyos.

Hoyos hopes the new flights will stimulate passenger traffic to Medellin, which is not as well connected as Bogota. Medellin is currently connected to nine international destinations, mostly in Latin and North America. Airplan and its shareholder, CAH Colombia, believe that there is demand to justify new non-stop routes to Brazil and Mexico. "Medellin used to be an industrial city, but the service industry is growing and more tourists are coming. Big businesses are also now based in Medellin," says Oscar J Hernandez G, the deputy chief executive of CAH Colombia.

CAH Colombia has a 30% stake held by China's Capital Airports Holding, which runs several airports in China, including Beijing Capital International airport.

"Current bilateral agreements that Colombia has with other countries cover only Bogota," says Hoyos, who says that Bogota has capacity constraints that Medellin can help alleviate. Passenger traffic at Medellin grew 15% last year, she adds.

"Most of our international traffic goes through Panama, Miami, etc. With the city developing, we feel there are opportunities for more nonstop flights to Brazil, Mexico and US West Coast destinations," says Hoyos.