Venezuela's Aeropostal is following the time-honoured model for building a Latin alliance demonstrated by LanChile and Grupo TACA. Nelson Ramiz, owner and president of Aeropostal, is taking stakes in the airlines of nearby countries to form a cross-border group of aligned carriers.

Ramiz holds shares in Aeron Aviation, a US firm that owns at least half of Aerorepublica, Colombia's number two airline. Now Ramiz has bought a minority stake in Sol Air, the two-year-old Honduran start-up that has created a sensation with its low fares between Central American cities and the USA. Finally, according to recent reports, talks between Ramiz and Ecuador's Aerogal have resulted in a minority stake in that airline, bringing the new group to four.

Details of these investments are sketchy because all these airlines are closely held. But Ricardo Mart°nez, general manager of Sol Air, has said that Aeropostal's stake in his airline is 45%. At least part of the payment for these shares is in technology transfers from Aeropostal. The Aerogal deal may also involve use of Aeropostal aircraft rather than cash.

Besides stakes in existing airlines, Ramiz also plans to form a new Costa Rican airline called Aeropostal Alas de Centroam‚rica. He has already formed a company under that name.

The new Aeropostal alliance is still in its early stages, but Sol Air plans to add more Central American and perhaps Caribbean flights to fit into the group's network. The Costa Rican start-up also plans to serve other Central American cities. How Aerogal will fit in remains to be seen, but Ramiz is attracted by Ecuador's central location in the Andean region.

Aeropostal's alliance is driven at least in part by a desire to insulate itself from Conviasa, the new state-owned airline that Venezuela plans to launch as of 5 July.

Source: Airline Business