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Confident Avianca to order 100 A320s

It’s no secret that Latin America is one of the fastest growing markets for commercial aviation, but it still takes a lot of confidence to publicly commit to ordering 100 aircraft as Avianca did yesterday (February 5).

While the carrier has stopped short of placing a firm order, it has signed an MoU for 100 A320neo family aircraft – on top of the 33 A320neos and 51 A320s it ordered just two years ago.

Avianca, formerly Avianca-TACA, was formed in 2010 after the merger of Columbian carrier Avianca and El Salvador’s TACA and has been posting strong financial performances in recent years while it renews its fleet, expands its network and boosts capacity.

In 2013 – the most recent full-year results available – the carrier saw revenues increase eight per cent year on year, passenger numbers increase five per cent and operating profits leap 37 per cent to $281m, with new routes from Bogota to Cancun, Chicago and San Juan.

And things didn’t slow down last year.

In the first nine months of 2014, Avianca’s revenues were $100m up on 2013.

It also took delivery of nine A320 family aircraft – while phasing out ATRs – boosting capacity by a further 5.3 per cent and made its international ambitions clear with a new Bogota-London route.

Currently the carrier has a fleet of 165 aircraft – around 130 of which are Airbus models – and it has a further 200 Airbus jets on order.

Adding 100 A320neos to its fleet is a massive step for Avianca and one that could provide a great opportunity for local MROs to provide services for which the airline’s maintenance team doesn't have capacity.

Speaking to ATE&M last year, Valter Fernandes, TAP M&E Brazil’s VP of operations, confirmed that this was exactly where he thought MROs could win work in the future.

“Fleets are expanding at a pace that [airlines] are not training enough new mechanics or building new hangars to cope with.

That’s good news for us and independent MROs,” he said

The prospective order is also good news for Airbus, further cementing the A320neo's dominance in the Latin American market. If completed, the $11bn order would see the number of A320neo aircraft bought in the region total more than four times that of its rival the 737MAX.

This will perhaps help to lessen the blow of never seeing its first, and currently only, VVIP A380 take flight.

The OEM confirmed this week that it had removed the aircraft, ordered by Saudi Arabia’s Prince Al Waleed bin Talal ben Abdulaziz in 2007, from its orderbook.

The third prototype aircraft has been languishing in a hangar having been sold by Al Waleed and the luxury conversion never completed. It seems the "flying palace" was never meant to be.

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