Avianca has decided to keep an Airbus A330 featuring its new lie-flat business class product on one of its Bogota-New York flights and is planning to next introduce A330s on its Bogota-Barcelona route.

Avianca in April introduced one of its four new A330s on a daily Bogota-New York JFK rotation. The carrier's managing director for North America and Asia, Rolando Damas, says originally the switch was temporary but Avianca has since decided to keep the A330 on the route.

"The idea originally was to have it temporarily in New York and then move it to South America - Sao Paulo - but with the crisis New York is more profitable so we'll keep it on New York permanently," Damas tells ATI.

Avianca took delivery of the first of at least 10 new A330s last year as part of a major fleet renewal programme. Avianca's A330s are equipped with 30 lie-flat business class seats and the eX2 in-flight entertainment system from Panasonic Avionics.

Avianca initially used its first A330 last year between Bogota and Miami but Damas says this was done to meet route proving and pilot training requirements. After three months the first aircraft was moved to Avianca's Madrid services. Madrid is Avianca's most important long-haul market and is served daily from both Bogota and Cali.

Damas says Avianca is also now using A330s for two of its seven weekly Bogota-Sao Paulo frequencies and all four of its Bogota-Buenos Aires weekly frequencies. He says Avianca next plans to introduce the A330 on its Bogota-Barcelona route, which is now operates three times per week with a 767. This is expected to occur in September, following delivery of Avianca's fifth A330.

As part of a delivery schedule which was accelerated late last year, a sixth A330 is also scheduled to be delivered by year-end.

Avianca also is now replacing at a steady pace its Boeing 757s and Boeing MD-80s with new Airbus A320s. Avianca still uses 757s on several of its US routes but over time these will be shifted to A320s.

Damas says Avianca has already switched from the 757 to the A320 for its Cali-Miami and Barranquilla-Miami flights while Cartagena-Miami and Bogota-Washington Dulles were launched using newly delivered new A319s. He says Avianca also now uses A319s for its New York-Medellin service and a second Bogota-New York frequency which is operated five times per week.

Damas says the next US route in line to receive a new Airbus narrowbody is Miami-Medellin, which will transition from the 757 to A320 in September. He adds Fort Lauderdale-Bogota will follow "definitely by the end of the year". Damas also expects one of Avianca's two daily Miami-Bogota frequencies to be switched from the 757 to A320 sometime next year.

The MD-80s, which previously were used on US routes but are now primarily used domestically, will be phased out entirely by the end of this year. But Damas says it will be a few years before the 757s and 767s are entirely out of the Avianca network.

"It will take some time because not all these aircraft come at one shot," he says.

But he adds those 757s and 767s which Avianca plans to keep another two-to-three years have been retrofitted with new business class seats.

Damas says there is no timeframe yet for switching from the 767 for its second daily Miami-Bogota frequency or Avianca's four times per week Miami-Los Angeles flight. He says Los Angeles will likely be the last route with the 767 because the A330 is too big and Bogota's high altitude precludes using an A320 or 757.

Avianca is only using its new A330s as an interim 767 replacement until the 10 787s it has ordered are delivered. Avianca was initially scheduled to begin receiving 787s in the second quarter of 2010 but Damas says the latest information from Boeing was for deliveries to begin in the second quarter of 2012.

"Maybe it will be the last quarter of 2011 but with all the delays happening with that airplane I'm not sure," Damas says. "But we will be the first one in Latin America [operating 787s] whenever that happens."

Although Avianca's parent, the Synergy Group, also has ordered A350s Damas says "for now the 787 is still a go for Avianca. They are not cancelling the order."

He adds the Synergy Group, which owns both Avianca and Brazilian carrier OceanAir, has not yet decided where the A350s will be used.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news