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2024 Aeronautical Optimism Surges with Low-Cost Airline, Expanded Routes to Panama and Madrid

Published on January 08, 2024

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Jetsmart Airlines will start flying in Ecuador in March and Copa and Iberia will add more weekly frequencies.

As the aviation industry in Ecuador gears up for 2024, a flurry of developments promises to reshape the landscape of air travel in the country. March 2024 heralds the arrival of a ‘low-cost’ airline that will commence operations on the Quito-Lima route, providing travelers with a more economical option. Moreover, by the year’s end, a low-cost carrier is set to embark on internal flights, further diversifying choices for domestic travel.

The aviation sector, which experienced a notable downturn between 2020 and 2021 due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, is now gradually recovering. In 2023, several airlines announced new routes, but the year also saw the suspension of operations by Equair due to financial losses.

Compelling statistics from the Ministry of Government, compiled by the Ministry of Tourism, reveal a noteworthy surge in international arrivals. Between January and November 2023, 1,015,749 passengers entered the country on international flights, surpassing the total entries for 2022. The government’s ambitious target for 2024 is to achieve or exceed 1.6 million international arrivals, as articulated by Minister of Tourism Niels Olse. Simultaneously, 1.2 million people departed the country on international flights until November 2023, marking the highest number of departures since 2016, influenced in part by increased emigration.

According to Holbach Muñeton, the President of the National Federation of Provincial Chambers of Tourism of Ecuador (Fenacaptur), the reduction in the Eco Delta and Ecuador Potencia Turística rates, effective since June 1, 2023, has played a significant role in bolstering the competitiveness of the Ecuadorian market. The Eco Delta tax charge, applicable to Ecuadorians traveling abroad, now stands at 5% of the net rate of the service, with a maximum ceiling of $50. On the other hand, the Tourist Power rate, applicable to foreigners visiting Ecuador, amounts to 5% of the net value of the air ticket, with a capped maximum of $10. Holbach says that these adjustments have contributed to the attractiveness of international air travel from and to Ecuador.

Currently, three airlines operate in Ecuador’s domestic market, while the international market is served by 15 airlines. Among the anticipated developments in the airline market for 2024 is the advent of a new ‘ultra-low cost’ airline for internal flights, aiming to reduce the prices of national air tickets. Minister Olse envisions this addition contributing to enhanced affordability and accessibility for domestic air travel.

Domestic air travel to cost less

JetSmart, a Chilean ‘low-cost’ airline, is poised to make its presence felt in Ecuador. A creation of Indigo Partners, a seasoned private investment fund with over two decades of experience in developing ultra-low-cost airlines globally, JetSmart is set to inaugurate the Lima-Quito-Lima route on March 6th, offering three weekly frequencies. By April 2, 2024, it will inaugurate the Guayaquil-Lima route, offering three weekly frequencies on each route with a capacity of 186 passengers per flight. JetSmart plans to facilitate connections with internal flights in Peru, expanding travel options for passengers. The airline’s competitive edge lies in ticket prices expected to be 25% to 30% lower than those of other carriers.

Spanish carrier Iberia is set to increase frequencies on the Madrid-Guayaquil route from three to five times per week, starting in June 2024. This follows a prior increase in frequencies on the Madrid-Quito route in October 2023. Ecuador’s active participation as a FITUR Partner in the Madrid International Tourism Fair from January 24 to 28, 2024, will further solidify ties and showcase the country’s new brand on the international stage.

Copa Airlines, a stalwart in the Panamanian aviation scene, responding to robust demand, will increase frequencies on the Manta-Panama route from three to four weekly flights starting March 6, 2024. This decision stems from a thorough analysis of occupancy indicators, with reported rates exceeding 87% in November 2023.

Latam’s strategic partnership with Delta, announced in 2019, is expected to materialize in 2024, presenting Ecuadorian travelers with enhanced connectivity options between North and South America. This collaboration promises benefits such as mutual exchange of frequent flyer miles, access to VIP lounges, and a broader network of routes.

Avianca, looking to strengthen its market presence, announces plans to add more aircraft to its fleet in the future. The airline, which implemented a post-pandemic strategy to reconfigure planes and increase seat capacity, aims to remain competitive, especially against low-cost carriers.

As Ecuador’s aviation sector anticipates a transformative year in 2024, these developments underscore the industry’s resilience and adaptability. The strategic initiatives by airlines, coupled with government goals for increased international arrivals, signal a positive trajectory for the country’s air travel and tourism sectors.


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