Chilean ultra-low-cost carrier JetSmart has signed a memorandum of understanding to purchase Colombian domestic carrier Ultra Air.
The Santiago-based carrier said on 16 March that the deal now enters a 30-day due-diligence period, during which Ultra Air will continue to operate under current management.
The move comes just weeks after Colombian discount airline Viva Air ceased operations due to financial difficulty. Numerous Latin American airlines have been jockeying for position to benefit as well.
“We believe in the potential of the Colombian market and we are determined to contribute and add to the development of the tourism and employment in the country,” JetSmart chief executive Estuardo Ortiz says. “We have seen the operational and commercial qualities of Ultra Air and we have reached an agreement on the terms of the purchase of the airline.”
According to Cirium data, Ultra operates five Airbus A320s and serves 13 destinations on 15 routes, all within Colombia. JetSmart says the airline would be a helpful addition to its network as Ultra is focused on domestic routes, and JetSmart currently only operates flights to Bogota, Cali and Medellin from Chile.
“The possible purchase of Ultra Air will empower it to offer more routes, affordable prices and more options to all passengers,” says Ortiz.
Earlier this week, Colombian civil aviation regulator Aerocivil approved 27 domestic routes for JetSmart, and the airline said it was beginning the process of applying for certification in that country as a local carrier. JetSmart said it had been approved to operate flights from the following Colombian cities: Bogota, Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, Cali, Cartagena, Medellin, Cucuta, Monteria, Pereira, Pasto, San Andres and Santa Marta, and intends to build a base in Bogota.
That announcement came two weeks after Viva Air suspended operations, leaving passengers stranded across its network. Viva had been trying to obtain clearance for a merger with Colombian heavyweight Avianca, which had resulted in regulatory scrutiny – the duration of which Viva blamed for its decision to stop flying. Colombia’s transportation superintendent has now taken control of Viva and seeking to submit it to a business-recovery process.
In recent weeks, both LATAM Airlines Group and JetSmart also expressed interest in acquiring financially strapped Viva.
JetSmart operates 23 Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft, with 106 more on order and scheduled for delivery by 2030. The carrier services 79 routes across Latin America and has operating certificates in Chile, Argentina and Peru.