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TAME seeks codeshare partners amid turnaround

Ecuador's state-owned airline TAME wants to begin codesharing with foreign carriers, as part of a plan to turn around the loss-making airline.

The Quito-based carrier's search for partners comes as the Ecuadorian government embraces open skies in a move to drive more international passenger traffic to the South American country.

"We are open to establish codeshare ties with any airline that would like to transfer their passengers onto domestic flights in Ecuador," TAME president Ignacio Vallejo tells FlightGlobal in an interview in Quito. The airline is not currently in any active talks with other carriers, he says.

Vallejo, who joined the airline in late 2017, is overseeing a turnaround plan at TAME which lost $60 million in 2017. The overhaul includes a fleet modernisation and a renewed focus on strengthening TAME's domestic network.

Earlier this year, Ecuador's president Lenin Moreno committed to an open-skies policy to encourage more foreign airlines to fly to the country. The approach departs from previous governments which had sought to protect the country's airlines from foreign competition.

Vallejo welcomes the new open-skies stance, saying: "It benefits us because more passengers will arrive, giving us more opportunities for internal connectivity. Competition from other airlines will also help us improve."

TAME operates to 12 destinations in Ecuador and five cities in Colombia, Peru and the USA, FlightGlobal schedules data show.

The airline has a fleet with an average age of 23 years, but it hopes to bring this down to seven years. It plans to consolidate its short-haul operations around the ATR turboprop and its mid to long-haul operations around the Airbus A320 family and A330.

Plans are in the pipeline to sell two Embraer 190s and three ATR 42-500s by year-end, says Vallejo. The airline is looking to lease younger aircraft, with Vallejo forecasting a need for two ATR 72-500s, three ATR 42-500s and six A320 family aircraft. The airline hopes to sign lease agreements by year-end, he says.

On the widebody front, TAME could potentially lease up to two A330s depending on international expansion plans. Its sole A330, a leased aircraft that is more than 17 years old, will leave the fleet, says Vallejo. He sees potential for new international destinations such as Buenos Aires and Madrid, but he stresses that the airline's immediate focus will be its domestic network.

TAME will likely boost frequencies on domestic routes from Quito to Guayaquil, the Galapagos Islands and Santa Rosa, says Vallejo.

The airline is hoping to break even this year, and make a profit in 2019, he adds.

TAME is the market leader on domestic flights in Ecuador, operating almost 39% of all domestic capacity flown in the country in the past 12 months, FlightGlobal schedules data show. Avianca Ecuador and LATAM Airlines Ecuador were in second and third place, respectively.

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