Despite warnings from industry observers that Venezuela's future calls for fewer rather than more airlines, new carriers continue to line up to fill the hole left by the demise of flag carrier Viasa. TAAN (Transporte Aereo Andino) is the latest planned start-up, and one of three carriers seeking operating certificates with plans for domestic and, possibly, Caribbean service.

According to Miami-based AvNews, TAAN plans to operate with two or three turboprops. It differs from other hopefuls in that it flew scheduled service several years ago. Venezuela already has seven carriers that operate domestic routes only. Of these, only Laser flies jets. Santa Barbara Airlines, based in Maracaibo, and Lai, in Barinas, operate ATR turboprops, but the other four fly a mix of smaller turboprops, plus several Antonov An-2s and McDonnell Douglas DC-3s.

Venezuela's four international carriers also fly domestic routes and they dominate such key city pairs as Caracas-Maracaibo. Aeropostal claims that it carries between one third and two thirds of all traffic on Venezuela's eight largest city pairs.

This leaves domestic-only carriers at a distinct disadvantage, surviving mainly on thin interior routes. Rutaca, for instance, only has one route and three weekly flights to and from Caracas. These marginalised airlines have "zero" chances of surviving on their own, says the Latin American vice-president of a Miami aviation consultancy. He says their key to survival is to become feeders for larger partners. Avensa's chief executive, Henry Lord Boulton, echoes this. "We have too many airlines operating domestically. Some airlines will consolidate their positions. Those that do will survive," he says.

Source: Airline Business