How Viva Air Has Won Despite COVID-19

The Colombian ultra-low-cost carrier Viva Air has had an outstanding 2021, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. It has already surpassed its pre-pandemic traffic levels, has doubled its international network, and is becoming one of the top three players in Colombia, forcing both Avianca and LATAM to adapt their strategies and reduce costs. But, how has Viva done it?

Viva Air A320
Currently, Viva Air is carrying 40% more passengers than in 2019. Photo: Viva Air

The ULCC movement has proved effective

In the Latin American region, we see at least four low-cost carriers bouncing back from the COVID-19 pandemic. There are Volaris and Viva Aerobus in Mexico, JetSMART in Chile (with its latest Airbus order during the Dubai Airshow), and Viva Air in Colombia.

The ultra-low-cost movement has proved effective, and it is coming out stronger of this pandemic, said Félix Antelo, Viva Air’s CEO, during Simple Flying’s Future Flying Forum. He said,

“It has to do with our model (our success this year). We knew that the ULCC and LCC models were going to come out stronger from this pandemic. We knew it from the start because this happened in previous crises. The customer that was going to return first was the passenger that flies for tourism, the VFR customer, and that corporate traveler was going to be the last to come.” 

Moreover, Viva knew that the domestic market was bouncing back faster. When the pandemic broke loose in South America, 90% of Viva’s seats were deployed in the Colombian and Peruvian markets.

Viva Air Félix Antelo
Félix Antelo has been helping Viva Air navigate through the COVID-19 crisis. Photo: Viva Air

How has Viva recovered?

According to Colombia’s Civil Aviation Authorities, Viva Air has had 3.9 million passengers between January and October 2021. That number is an 11% growth compared to the travelers it served in 2019.

If we compare October 2021 versus October 2019, we see Viva has had a fantastic recovery. This year, the company carried 502,617 passengers, a 40% growth compared to the 358,561 travelers it had during the same month prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a keynote interview at Simple Flying’s Future Flying Forum, Antelo added,

“If you fast-forward, one year and a half after the COVID-19 pandemic, we are a company which is going to be 30% bigger than in 2019. On average, this last quarter, we’re going to fly 60% more seats than in 2019.”

Viva Air Colombia
Viva is bigger than it was pre-COVID. Photo: Viva Air

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Recovery via new domestic and international routes

Viva Air has been opening many new domestic and international routes throughout the year. Currently, the company has opened 31 domestic routes in Colombia and doubled its international connectivity by launching new flights to Mexico City, Cancun, and Orlando.

Additionally, Viva Air has recently announced an interline agreement with Mexican low-cost carrier Viva Aerobus. This alliance could very well end up being a full codeshare agreement in the future, although it is too soon to tell.

Nonetheless, Viva Air’s management has also taken a few other measures to keep growing and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have an obsession with having, by far, the lowest unit cost in the region, and we will keep working towards that. Obviously, scale helps to maintain low CASKs. Next year we’re going to grow almost 50% in terms of fleet, and that is obviously helping us keep bringing our costs down.”

Finally, Viva also improved the passenger experience, and it has the best punctuality in Colombia and Peru. It also invested in restyling its brand, website, and app.

Do you believe Viva Air’s bounce-back has been impressive? Let us know in the comments below.