While it works on completing the processes to receive its certifications to fly, Ecuatoriana Airlines has set the month in which it will tentatively start operating in Ecuadorian territory: July.
By July, the company expects to have its initial crews ready to begin its flights. The company will start hiring in April and training in May.
The airline’s executives have initiated contacts with local municipalities, government authorities, and chambers of commerce to provide data on the destinations they plan to operate between.
Michael Davidson, Public Relations Manager for Ecuatoriana Airlines, said that the company is working on its corporate identity, logo and brand, which will be released soon.
The firm will also hold a first roadshow for investors in Quito at the end of January and will activate a membership program of the Ecuatoriana Airlines Founders Club at the end of January.
With this program, it hopes to attract 10,000 members, who will have three levels of participation: $1,000, $2,500 and $5,000. “All three tiers will have extraordinary benefits that no other airline offers and will not be available to the public,” according to Davidson.
Ecuatoriana Airlines already has 30 routes approved by the National Aviation Council. In addition to the permits for scheduled flights, authorizations for charter flights were also issued.
Among the regular routes that this company plans to fly are Quito-Cuenca-Quito, Guayaquil-Quito-Guayaquil, Esmeraldas-Guayaquil-Esmeraldas, Santa Rosa-Guayaquil-Santa Rosa, Quito-Manta-Quito.
The entry of Ecuatoriana happens in maybe one of the worst environments for aviation in decades, as the crisis unleashed by COVID-19 continues to expand, and as passenger traffic continues to remain stagnant.
Airline withdrawals may have helped speed permit approval of Ecuatoriana
With that said, the timing may have been helpful for the company in getting the approvals it needed to launch the new airlines.
In September of last year, the National Aviation Council (CNA) accepted the company’s application to obtain the permits to operate in the domestic market.
That application listed 30 national routes and frequencies that the new airline intends to operate; many of these routes have lost coverage from other airlines during the pandemic.
When Ecuatoriana submitted its application, Pablo Galindo, the Undersecretary of Air Transportation, said that from the time the request was submitted until the Council met to analyze the granting of frequencies, a month could pass, depending on the reports.
Then, if the Council approved the frequencies, the operator would have to obtain the Air Operator Certificate (AOC) from the Civil Aviation Directorate, a document that would qualify it for operations in Ecuador.
To obtain certification, the company needs to complete five phases: pre-application, formal application, documentation evaluation, inspection and demonstration, and certification. In phases 3 and 4, the analysis of procedures, verification of what is described in the certification manual are carried out through a demonstration flight.
Galindo indicated that the whole process could last from eight to ten months and that would depend on the airline.
It’s during this certification process, that most companies drop out and give up on continuing with their project. In the last two years, for example, two companies have tried to enter the domestic market without being able to arrange flights.
Fernando Fiallos, a specialist in aviation law, said that there are companies that give up their projects because this is a business that is not easy, and has strong capital demands. “It’s a risky business, it has low returns and it’s a highly regulated industry,” he said.
Even strong airlines that have flown for years have faced their own problems with operating during the pandemic. While some airlines are still trying to operate, others are going to postpone plans. Air France has suspended its operations in Quito for one year. The Civil Aviation Council decided to allow the company to suspend all the routes that the company kept authorized, including Paris-Quito-Paris. The airline guaranteed to operate three weekly frequencies on the Paris-Quito-Paris route starting again in October of this year.
Viva Air, which has permits to operate some routes in Ecuador, withdrew, for now, its intention to fly from Medellín to Quito and Guayaquil. The Aviation Council approved the temporary suspension of the routes for twelve months, starting last September 15. The company had already suspended its permit to fly the Bogotá-Guayaquil-Bogotá route.
Quick operators permit approval
Only eight months since its creation, on November 4, 2020, Ecuatoriana Airlines airline received the approval of the application for an operating permit from the National Council of Civil Aviation of Ecuador (CNAC). This was one month after it submitted its application to operate in Ecuador.
With their permit in hand, the executives of Ecuatoriana Airlines announced that “they have the objective of starting in the shortest possible time, but strictly following the local aeronautical regulation, a disruptive, different project that will revolutionize the aviation of Ecuador thanks to the professional advice of important companies in the United States.”
The airline pointed out that once the operating permit was received, it would go thru the certification process to demonstrate the organizational, technical and professional capacity of the team in charge of the process.
“Finally, we want to emphasize the importance of air service for the economic development of the country, tourism and sources of employment that this industry generates, so we reiterate our commitment to Ecuador to be able to take off together in the coming months,” said the firm that was constituted in March 2020 with a subscribed capital of $16,000.
This of course, raised the question of who was financing the airline. Michael Davidson, the airline’s Public Relations manager, said that the investment for the new business is purely private and comes from investors from the United States and Ecuador.
So, who’s behind Ecuatoriana?
Created in March of 2020 as Ecuatoriana Airlines Ecuador SA, the Quito-based company—whose name is similar to the failed Ecuatoriana de Aviación—was registered to carry out air transport activities related to the transport of passengers, animals or cargo and others [it is also registering as a “C” Corporation in the United States].
The shareholders of Ecuatoriana Airlines Ecuador SA include Eduardo Delgado Martillo and Ann Marlene Martillo. Delgado Martillo, the largest shareholder, is the general manager and is related to other firms such as International Ecuatorian Airlines (Laeisa) and Hats Hotel Aerolínea Transporte. In Laeisa, Eduardo Larrea, former director of the Civil Aviation Directorate DAC, was listed as president.
The company has also said that is has no relationship with the Ecuadorian Government and with Tame EP, or with political parties. Davidson made clear that, “the routes that Ecuatoriana Airlines has requested from the CNAC, are routes over which the Ecuadorian State has authority and which are not owned by any other airline. “Davidson also clarified that “Ecuatoriana Airlines has no relationship whatsoever with former collaborators of previous administrations of the General Directorate of Civil Aviation (DGAC).”
“The management team has a long history in the aviation industry and our advisers in the United States have extensive proven aviation experience leading major airlines globally,” added Davidson.