Colombia’s Ultra Air forced to suspend operations despite additional capital

Medellin, Colombia - April 19, 2022: Ultra Air Airbus A320 airplane at Medellin Rionegro airport (MDE) in Colombia.
Shutterstock / Markus Mainka

Colombian low-cost carrier Ultra Air announced that it suspended operations with immediate effect, despite the airline receiving an additional capital injection just a few days prior. 

According to the carrier’s website, the airline will suspend “commercial operations in Colombia” from March 30, 2023. Ultra Air’s situation has been precarious since Chile-based JetSmart dropped its plans to acquire the former on March 22, 2023. 

JetSmart and Ultra Air signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on March 16, 2023. However, just six days later, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Chilean airline, Estuardo Ortiz, said that the airline had backtracked on its decision to acquire the Colombian carrier and instead would be focusing on “meeting the requirements of our certification process [in Colombia], working closely with Civil Aeronautics, who have performed with the highest level of professionalism”.  

Reacting to Ultra Air’s financial woes, the Colombian Superintendencia de Transporte, an agency within the country’s Ministry of Transport, attempted to take control of the situation, closely monitoring Ultra Air’s liquidity and ability to conduct flight operations on March 23, 2023. 

On the same day, Ultra Air suspended the sale of tickets on its website, resuming bookings on March 27, 2023, after receiving additional capital from its shareholders to cover liabilities. 

At the same time, the Colombian aviation market saw another airline, Viva Air, suspend its operations in February 2023. Blaming the slow decision-making from Colombia’s aviation authorities regarding its merger with Avianca, Viva Air indicated that its suspension was an interim measure. 

While the authorities eventually approved the merger, Avianca announced that it was evaluating the situation because Viva Air did not have the same route network, fleet, or personnel before it suspended operations. 

Avianca has offered Ultra Air customers protection against the low-cost carrier’s abrupt suspension of operations, seeking to “to preserve the stability of the Colombian air system”. Avianca also extended the period of when it will offer protection to Viva Air’s passengers to April 1, 2023, also offering a special “fare” for Ultra Air and Viva Air travelers until April 9, 2023. 

Ultra Air had a fleet of six Airbus A320 aircraft, operating domestic routes within Colombia. Viva Air operated nine Airbus A320 and 10 A320neos prior to its suspension of operations in February 2023.  

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