The lack of infrastructure and its bad roads make air demand in Colombia important, both among large cities and small towns. There is still a long way to go so that the offer can cover all needs.
By Florencia Lucero Heguy
Colombia is divided into three major regions that are the coastal plains located to the north and west of the country, the center formed by the Andes Mountains and its foothills and the east formed by plains. Approximately 40% of its territory is mountainous, the routes are in poor condition, which makes them slow and dangerous. Although ground transportation is not the best option, it is the most economically accessible.
Currently, there is a great aeronautical demand since there are tourist places where there are few flights, agricultural products are transported by trucks and, their useful life is lost on the road due to what they take. It is also important to note that, in the Amazon and Orinoquia, in addition to some parts of the Caribbean and Pacific regions, areas far away from the large cities of Colombia, air transport is vital for their exports and there is no regional air access Or it is very scarce. On the other hand, there are markets for new airlines because there are many tracks that are used partially.
The director of the regional company Boyacá Air Service, Juan José Navia, explained the situation by highlighting that “we must greatly improve connectivity in some areas of the country” and said that “a problem that exists is monopolization, since aviation is covered by three companies that are LATAM, Avianca, Viva Colombia and, regionally, Easyfly and Satena (the latter operated by the Colombian Air Force). This makes the tickets so expensive. ” To these are added small companies such as Searca and those that operate in the Amazon, such as Sadelca, Selva, Air Colombia and Allas.
According to a businessman in the sector, these policies harm the national industry and go against the Colombian private company. The problem that Colombians have is that the tickets are worth 57 dollars from Bogotá to Villavicencio (just 100 kilometers from Bogotá but crossing a chain of mountains, which makes it very slow to arrive by land) where there are no other options for passengers to connect with other cities nationwide and this is due to the shortage of Colombian airlines. Consequently, Navia argues that there is a need for the government to support the generation of new airlines for fair competition and for the passenger to decide which company should exist and which company should move forward and not the reality of not having any more options for those that exist today.
The fleets of the large passenger companies were greatly modernized, the oldest aircraft is not more than 10 years old, but they are airplanes of more than one hundred seats that only cover large cities, leaving medium-sized towns disconnected or whose airports do not have the infrastructure necessary for aircraft of that size to operate. Another problem is in cargo planes. They are aircraft of more than 30 years type Boeing 737-200, 727, type Antonov, or even old Douglas DC-3 that, despite their high cost of operation, are very efficient for their cargo capacity. Access to them is much easier than buying newer airplanes, taking into account that a 727 is achieved at 800,000 or one million dollars, while a much newer one is worth more than 15 million dollars or more.
“We are leading to create Boyacá Air Service that has very efficient and new aircraft, because that is what is needed in the country for runways that are very high, often with difficult access through the ground,” Navia explained and stressed that “For that, STOL-type airplanes are needed for some parts of the country and, on other occasions, light jets for passengers in towns where permanent air service does not exist or does not arrive.” It is important to note that these types of tracks need to be improved.
Colombia, being a very large country, has air demand in almost all its regions, but its main problem in creating a company is the lack of infrastructure of the more than 1500 runways it has. Small companies have the potential to expand, many did and grew a lot, but others, not planning, closed.
Today, many regions of the country can only be reached by air by taking an air taxi or flying with small and precarious companies. Such is the case of most of the companies that from Villavicencio unite the towns of the Amazon, flying mostly airplanes such as Douglas DC-3 or Antonov An-30 or 32. This is partly due to the inability to access financially to the purchase of more modern aircraft and the lack of adequate infrastructure.
In the Amazon region, which covers much of the Colombian territory, the only alternative to the plane is in many cases the ship, which can mean a trip of many days.
In other regions, as in the case of the department of Boyacá, which has no regular air connection with the rest of the country, it can be reached by land, but by mountain roads that make travel very slow. That difficulty conditions the development of many parts of the country.
In small towns, where the plane does not arrive, companies such as LAN, Viva Colombia, Avianca and Easyfly could cover some of those territories, but due to infrastructure they would have to improve the theme of airports, a better fire service, terminals and that the Fuel is a bit cheaper. In Colombia, fuel was always a big problem, especially in isolated areas such as Leticia and Puerto Carreño because it is more expensive and many companies prefer to operate with the fuel from Bogotá, which reduces the capacity of the aircraft to get more payload. If you had a cheaper fuel, the costs of the tickets and, at the same time the operation, could be more viable.
With a good investment policy to improve the infrastructure of tracks in the interior, regions could be integrated, covering the entire national territory through small companies and providing both the population of remote places and SMEs with an accessible service.