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New Posada-led Colombian low-cost carrier plans October launch

Colombian start-up La Nueva Aerolinea (LNA) expects to select an aircraft type within the next few weeks at is works towards launching services in October.

LNA, headed by ex-Avianca chief executive Juan Emilio Posada, secured in August 2010 an initial batch of domestic traffic rights from Colombian authorities. The company has since been working on the early phases of the certification process, finalising a business plan and securing capital from additional private investors.

"We are proceeding and expect to be flying commercially in October," Posada told ATI sister publication Airline Business in a recent interview. "That is our aim."

The company is now reviewing proposals from leasing companies for various members of the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 families, including 737 Classic and NG models. Posada says a decision on which aircraft type to acquire should be made "a few weeks from now".

Posada says LNA needs to select an aircraft type soon in order to move forward with the process of building manuals, an important step in securing certification. LNA is currently looking to recruit a chief pilot to help oversee this process.

The airline plans to launch with three aircraft operating on six domestic trunk routes connecting its Bogota hub with Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, Cali, Cartagena, Medellin and Santa Marta. Posada says two aircraft will be added by the end of the first year of operation.

Posada is open to acquiring used or new aircraft. He says which aircraft are ultimately acquired depends on what kind of pricing LNA is able to secure. "It's a typical low cost carrier decision - we'll be opportunistic at all times," he says.

LNA, which simply means "the new airline" in Spanish, is only the temporary project name. A formal name for the airline will be decided later as part of a contest the company plans to run using its website and Facebook page.

Posada led Avianca from 2002 to 2005 and prior to that spent 10 years overseeing ACES. He founded LNA with three partners, who are now working full-time on the project along with Posada, five other employees and several consultants.

Posada is building the new airline as a pure low-cost carrier. Aires became Colombia's first low-cost player when it launched in early 2009 a 737-700 low fare operation on domestic trunk routes alongside its pre-existing Bombardier Dash 8 regional operation. But Aires' new owner, LAN, is expected to reposition the carrier within the next few months and drop the low-cost model Aires adopted in 2009.

"Through the acquisition of Aires by LAN, Aires will most likely be a LAN type of carrier - which leaves us a clear path to really develop the only true low cost carrier in the country," Posada says.

He points out that unlike Aires, which started as a legacy regional carrier, LNA is being built from scratch as a low-cost operator.

Some have questioned whether the low-cost model can work in Colombia, pointing to Aires' financial problems prior to its sale to LAN. But Posada believes the model can only work in Colombia's fast growing domestic market when starting with a clean sheet and a true low-cost DNA. "All the [existing Colombian] carriers have a different DNA," Posada says.

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