Star Peru plans to launch Ecuador and Colombia services

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Star Peru is aiming to expand its fledgling international network to Cuenca in Ecuador and Leticia in Colombia.

The Peruvian carrier launched last September its first scheduled international route, connecting Cuzco with Rio Branco in western Brazil. Star Peru general manager Roman Kasianov says the carrier is looking to add at least one more international route in 2011 and has performed one "reconnaissance" flight between Chiclayo in northern Peru and Cuenca in southern Ecuador.

"We have made some studies and there are a lot of commercial movements and tourist movements [from Cuenca] to beaches in the north of Peru," Kasianov tells ATI.

Kasianov adds Cuenca, which has an international airport but currently does not have any scheduled international services, is "very supportive of this flight". He says Star Peru expects to launch the route with two to three flights per week "probably in July of this year".

He also says Star Peru is looking at serving Leticia in the Amazon region of southeast Colombia with Iquitos, which is located in the Amazon region of northeast Peru. This route would be served three times per week but Kasianov says there is "no specific date" for starting the service. Leticia currently is only served on a scheduled basis from other cities in Colombia.

The new Ecuador and Colombia services are part of a new strategy at Star Peru to expand into point-to-point short-haul international routes. Star Peru operates a fleet of nine BAe 146s, which limit the carrier to operating relatively short sectors.

The carrier currently serves 15 domestic destinations, primarily from its Lima base. But internationally it is looking at routes from other Peruvian cities, where it sees a niche for links to neighbouring countries.

While Cuzco in southern Peru has a few international routes, Chiclayo and Iquitos currently does not have any scheduled international passenger services. Star Peru is also the only carrier operating scheduled international services to Rio Branco, which it serves twice per week.

Kasianov says there is enough demand for additional flights to Rio Branco but for now it is too difficult to secure authorisations for additional frequencies. He says securing the required approvals from ANAC and Brazilian airport operator Infraero for the initial two weekly flights was also challenging. He complains that Star Peru is now required to operate in and out of Rio Branco in a 90 minute window, which means it has to cancel flights if there is a delay due to maintenance or even weather.

"There are a lot of complications from ANAC and Infraero in Brazil. We can use more frequencies but there is some complication from there side. It's really bureaucratic. We'll stay at two times per week for now," Kasianov explains.

Rio Branco has regular domestic services from Brazilian carriers GOL, TAM and TRIP. Kasianov says if Star Peru is able to expand its Rio Branco service he potentially sees a market for passengers switching to domestic services operated by these three carriers because fares on direct routes connecting Peru and Brazil are very high.

But Kasianov adds that another barrier to more Star Peru flights to Brazil are high local costs, complaining airport fees are 10 times as much in Rio Branco compared to Cuzco and the cost of fuel is double.