JetSMART ready to enter the Colombian domestic market

While Viva Air and Avianca merger is still to be approved, JetSMART might swoop in to buy the Colombian low-cost carrier
Markus Mainka /

JetSMART is in the process of obtaining an air operator certificate (AOC) from the Colombian aviation authority, Aerocivil.  

The move comes in the wake of the demise of the country’s main budget carrier, Viva Air, which stopped flying in February 2023.  

JetSMART had been one of the bidders for Viva Air’s business, when its owners, Irelandia Aviation (a firm controlled by the Ryan family, of Ryanair fame) put the ailing business up for sale. Another local competitor, Avianca, finally agreed to acquire Viva Air, but the competition authorities’ reluctance to approve the deal led to the suspension of all of Viva Air’s flights and left thousands of travelers stranded across Colombia.  

JetSMART has been operating in Colombia since 2019, although only on international routes linking some Colombian airports to destinations in its home country of Chile.   

Back in November 2022, JetSMART applied to establish a subsidiary in Colombia and begin operating in the domestic market. The carrier’s plan envisaged a base for 12 A320 family aircraft at Bogotá’s El Dorado International Airport (BOG) and the operation of 111 routes across the country.  

The Colombian authorities decided to postpone the decision in late December 2022, after hearing allegations from other interested parties. The regulator alleged they needed to compile more information and expressed doubts that the capacity of the applicant to fulfil the suggested flight program.  

This decision has reportedly been reversed, although it appears that out of 111 routes requested, only 27 will be approved.  

While this process was ongoing, JetSMART had also applied for its Peruvian subsidiary to operate 12 international routes between Colombia and different cities in Peru.  

Based in Santiago de Chile and with subsidiaries also in Argentina and Peru, JetSMART is part of the portfolio of airlines belonging to investment group Indigo Partners, which also controls Wizz Air in Europe, Volaris in Mexico, Frontier Airlines in the United States, and Cebu Pacific in the Philippines.   

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