Airport authorities will meet again this week with Viva Colombia in an attempt to keep the low-cost carrier operating in Panama.
Tocumen, S.A., is willing to offer better conditions to the airline which operates two routes from Colombia to the Panama Pacifico airport, administered by Tocumen, but the airline has indicated that the increase in the exit tax is affecting its business plan of offering flights at affordable prices reports La Prensa
In a weekend statement, Tocumen said it could offer better hours, cheaper rates and promotions in Panama Pacifico, as well as Rio Hato and Colon. However, in the past Viva Colombia, the company has expressed interest in being allowed to move its operations to Tocumen International.
Carlos Duboy, manager of Tocumen, S.A., has said that this alternative is not viable in the short term due to saturation at “The Hub of the Americas” and that it would be necessary to wait for the new passenger terminal to enter operations.
Duboy met on Friday, May 4 with Carlos Mesa, Vice President of Airports of Viva Air, operator of Viva Colombia, and agreed to hold a second meeting to continue looking for alternatives to keep the connections from Bogotá and Medellín in force. The airline has been operating since August 2014 and, to date, it has carried more than 360,000 passengers to Panama, a major boost to tourist arrivals.
In response to Viva Colombia's arguments that the $15 to $ 35 per passenger increase in exit tax has affected its operations, Tocumen claims that Wingo, a low-cost subsidiary of Copa Holdings, also has its operations in Howard's old military base, and has "been increasing routes, frequencies, and number of passengers."
"Since the arrival in Panama of low fares and the timely and quality product of Wingo in 2016, passenger traffic between Bogotá-Panamá and Medellín-Panamá grew by 85% and 57%, respectively," said Catalina Bretón, General leader of Wingo.
The planned cancellation of flights to Panama is in addition to other cuts that Viva Colombia has been developing since the middle of last year when it suspended its operations to the cities of Cali and Barranquilla, and cut frequencies to Medellín, among others.
A note sent by Tocumen indicated that Mesa said during the meeting with Duboy, that the company is rethinking its commercial strategy, where the focus is to operate in smaller cities with very low-cost regional airports. Tocumen says that the rates of the Panama Pacifico airport are 50% below the tax charged by similar terminals in the region.
Let capitalism, not cronyism, determine what consumers want. I know, it's a long shot.
Hopefully Sr Mesa will follow through on their plans to operate out of the smaller regional airports. Direct flights from David, Santiago, Chitre etc to Medellin and Bogota would be a successful as most of us in the interior will prefer that over traveling to Panama City just to take a flight.