Avianca S.A. (Spanish acronym: Aerovías del Continente Americano, formerly Aerovías Nacionales de Colombia) has been the national flag air carrier of Colombia since 1919, making it the second-oldest airline in the world today, behind Netherlands-based KLM. Avianca was founded in Barranquilla but its main operation base and headquarters are in Bogotá, D.C. adjacent to El Dorado International Airport. Avianca belongs to South American conglomerate Synergy Group and the National Federation of Colombian Coffee Growers.
Avianca operates six subsidiary airlines: Helicol, SAM and Tampa Cargo in Colombia; OceanAir in Brazil; VIP in Ecuador; and Capital Airlines in Nigeria. It has three important business units: Avianca Cargo (include Avianca Deprisa), Avianca Services and Avianca Tours (formerly DesKubra). Avianca is also planning the establishment of a new airline in Paraguay, which presumably would be called OceanAir Paraguay. Avianca is attempting to take control of the ecuadorian airline Aerogal.
The airline traces its history back to December 5, 1919, in the city of Barranquilla, Colombia. Germans Werner Kämerer, Stuart Hosie, Alberto Tietjen, and Colombians Ernesto Cortissoz (the first President of the Airline), Rafael Palacio, Cristóbal Restrepo, Jacobo Correa, and Aristides Noguera founded the Colombo-German Company called Sociedad Colombo-Alemana de Transporte Aéreo, or SCADTA. The company accomplished its first flight between Barranquilla and the nearby town of Puerto Colombia aboard a Junker F13 wherein 57 pieces of mail were transported; the flight was piloted by German Helmuth Von Krohn. This and another aircraft of the same type were completely mechanically constructed monoplanes, the engines of which had to be modified in order to be able to efficiently operate in the climatic conditions of the country; there were nine aircraft in the fleet with a total range of 850 km (525 Mi) and could carry up to four passengers and two crewmen. Due to the topographic characteristics of the country, and the lack of airports at the time, two floats were adapted to the Junkers aircraft in order for them to accomplish water landings in the rivers of different towns. Using these floats Helmuth Von Krohn was able to perform the first inland flight over Colombia on October 20, 1920, following the course of the Magdalena River; the flight took eight hours and had to make four emergency landings in the water.
Soon after the vision of the founding group had become a reality, German scientist and philanthropist Peter von Bauer became interested in the airline and contributed general knowledge, capital, and a tenth aircraft for the company as well as obtaining concessions from the Colombian government to operate the country's airmail transportation division using the airline. This new contract allowed SCADTA to thrive in a new frontier of aviation. By the mid 1920s, SCADTA, having overcome many obstacles, inaugurated its first international routes that initially covered destinations in Venezuela and the United States. Regretfully, in 1924, the aircraft that both Ernesto Cortissoz and Helmuth Von Krohn were piloting crashed into an area currently known as Bocas de Ceniza, in Barranquilla, causing their deaths. Despite this tragedy the airline continued to thrive under the guidance of German Peter von Braun until the early 1940s where circumstances related to the outbreak of World War II forced him to sell his shares in the airline to the U.S. owned Pan American World Airways.
On June 14, 1940, in the city of Barranquilla, SCADTA, under ownership by United States businessmen merged with Colombian Air Carrier SACO (acronym of Servicio Aéreo Colombiano) forming the new Aerovías Nacionales de Colombia S.A. or Avianca. Five Colombians participated in this act (Rafael María Palacio, Jacobo A. Corea, Cristobal Restrepo, Aristides Noguera), and German citizens Alberto Teitjen, Werner Kaemerer, and Stuart Hosie, while the post of first President of Avianca was acquired by Martín del Corral. There had been decades of dedicated work and contribution to Colombia's development through actions among which the following may be highlighted:
In 1994, a strategic alliance was established to merge three of the most important enterprises of the aeronautical sector of Colombia: Avianca, the regional carrier SAM and the helicopter operator Helicol, which brought life to Avianca’s new system of operations. This system offered specialized services in Cargo (Avianca Cargo) and postal services as well as the most modern fleet in Latin America made up of: Boeing B767-200, Boeing B767-300, Boeing B757–200, McDonnell Douglas MD83, Fokker F50 and Bell Helicopters. This new system covered the following destinations:
By 1996, Avianca Postal Services evolved into Deprisa, providing express mail services through its products Deprisa and Deprisa Empresarial, Traditional Mail, Certified Mail, shipment Airport-to-Airport, and P.O. boxes.
On December 10, 1998, Avianca announced the inception of a new "connections center" in Bogotá offering around 6,000 possible weekly connecting flights and an increased number of frequencies, schedules, and destinations, taking advantage of the privileged geographical location of the country’s capital for the benefit of Colombian and international travellers between South America, Europe and North America.
In addition to its Avianca Connection, and alliance partnerships, Avianca offers frequent flyer partnerships with the following airlines:
Summa Alliance (2002 - 2004)
After a rigorous and complex process the worldwide aviation industry came through after the September 11 Terrorist Attacks in the United States, Avianca, the regional carrier SAM and its major rival ACES joined efforts to create Alianza Summa, which began merged operations on May 20, 2002. These three airlines decided to strategically merge their strengths to offer a more efficient service with concerns to quality, quantity, security, and competition in a new struggling marketplace. However, adverse circumstances within the industry and markets forced the alliance to disband, and airline shareholders decided to initiate the liquidation of Alianza Summa in November 2003, to focus in streghtening the Avianca trademark. These decisions resulted in the liquidation of ACES altogether, and the acquisition of SAM as a regional carrier under Avianca's system.
American Continent Airways (2004 - Present)
On December 10, 2004, Avianca concluded one of the most important and ambitious reorganization processes undertaken after filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection by obtaining confirmation of its Reorganization Plan which was financially backed by the Brazilian consortium OceanAir/Synergy Group and the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, allowing the airline to obtain funds for US$63 million dollars in the 13 months following withdrawal from C-11.
The Plan, which counted with the support of 99.8% of the voting creditors and which obtained the majority endorsement of the Creditors Committee, will enter into force once the Company emerges from bankruptcy. In accordance with United States laws, the administration has the trust obligation to consider any other investment proposal until the final term expiration stipulated. Notwithstanding, such offer, besides being better than the one that has been approved by Avianca’s domestic and international creditors and confirmed today by the Court, must be final, i.e. fully financed and backed with non-reimbursable cash deposits or equivalent mechanisms. Likewise, such proposal must be binding. As known, the only investment that complies with these requirements is that of OceanAir/Synergy Group and the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, which already makes part of the Reorganization Plan already voted favorably by the creditors and confirmed by the Judge.
Synergy Group is an evidenced credit-worthy Brazilian entrepreneurial conglomerate. Its strength lies in the oil sector, building, installing, and offering maintenance to offshore oil platforms; it is currently carrying exploration work in Brazil, Ecuador, and Colombia. Other businesses include the extraction of gas in the United States; naval construction, telephony infrastructure, hydroelectric power plants, communications and a hydrocarbons marine exploration company which extends throughout nine countries with more than 5,000 workers.
It also owns and operates OceanAir, which services around thirty cities in Brazil, as well as VIP, an airline in Ecuador, Taxi Aero, a charter airline in Brazil, and the recently acquired Wayra in Peru, as well as Turb Serv dedicated to the maintenance of turbines.
Avianca's hub is Bogotá El Dorado International Airport. Its focus cities are Medellín, Cali, Cartagena and Barranquilla, as well as Miami, where Avianca has an important number of operations and passengers.
Avianca additionally applied to the Aerocivil for service to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, with one daily flight, and for 7 new weekly frequencies to Mexico City, upgrading its service to the city to two daily flights. These services were granted by the Aerocivil on March 10, 2008. Avianca will also operate a daily flight to San Andres (ADZ) from Medellin and Cali. Avianca has also been granted service to Orlando, FL, USA but the airline has not yet announced a start date for the service.
Codeshare agreementsPresently, Avianca has codeshare agreements with:
Avianca VIP Lounges
Avianca has VIP lounges at the following airports:
Avianca Tours is Avianca’s commercial division specialized in the design and offer of tourist packages for destinations in Colombia and abroad.
Avianca Tours offers plans to:
FleetThe Avianca fleet consists of the following aircraft (as of 29 September 2008) :
Awards and nominations
Incidents and accidentsThe airline suffered a few incidents during the 1980s and early 1990s. Many were caused by warring gangs, under the assumption that a member of a rival gang was aboard. The deadliest of those incidents was Avianca Flight 203, which was bombed in 1989 following orders from Pablo Escobar to kill a politician. In the aftermath, it was found that the politician had not boarded the plane. Only one successful bombing has occurred in the airline's history, while most other gang related incidents were related to hijackings, or shootings on board. In most hijackings, all passengers and crew members unaffiliated with the hijacker's cause were immediately released.
Other incidents include:
Private bus services in the United StatesIn the United States Avianca operates a private bus service from John F. Kennedy Airport to Union City and Elizabeth in New Jersey.