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Sky Airline was established in 2001 providing passenger and cargo services in the Caribbean. The carrier commenced its Chilean operations in Jun-2002, with services from Santiago. Sky Airline was founded by Jürgen Paulmann, the brother of Chilean retail billionaire; Horst Paulmann. Sky Airline adopts a ‘hybrid carrier’ model, operating with the cost structure of a low-cost carrier, but provides a product closer to a full-service offering. Sky Airline is based at Santiago International Airport and operates scheduled domestic and international services to countries throughout South America, including Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Peru. The carrier also provides select charter services. Sky Airline cooperates with Avianca via a codeshare agreement on services to Columbia and Peru.
Location of Sky Airline main hub (Santiago International Airport)
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The Chile-Brazil market is poised for rapid growth as competition has intensified, leading to an over 50% increase in capacity. Brazil’s Gol and Chile’s Sky Airline have both launched services on the Santiago-Sao Paulo route, breaking the monopoly of LATAM Airlines Group.
Gol and Sky have both been pursuing international expansion and could add other Chile-Brazil routes in 2015. LATAM is still the only non-stop operator between Santiago and Rio de Janeiro and is also planning to launch in late 2014 Santiago-Porto Alegre, a route previously served by Gol.
Sao Paulo is only the fourth international destination for Sky while Santiago has become the 15th international destination for Gol. There are more opportunities for both carriers in the international market but competing with powerful LATAM could prove challenging.
Growth in Chile’s domestic market slowed slightly in 2013 compared to previous years but was again in the double-digits at 14%. Traffic expansion on the country’s domestic routes remain among the fastest growing in Latin America as Chile’s economy has remained relatively stable during the last couple of years compared with more dramatic fluctuations within Mexico and Brazil.
The only legitimate challenger to LAN’s domineering position in Chile – Sky Airline – grew its positioning in the Chilean domestic market during 2013, and improved its load factor. But its loads remain well below the market average, which puts the privately-owned airline in a tough position to become a viable challenger for LAN.
The slowdown in Chile’s domestic growth in 2013 reflects the growing maturity of the market and the country’s relatively small domestic population of 18 million (versus 119 million in Mexico, 201 million in Brazil and 48 million in Colombia). Compared with other high-growth markets in Latin America, a larger number of Chile’s residents already travel by air, making it difficult to tap large numbers of first time flyers to stimulate the market.
Chile’s domestic passenger market grew by 16% in 1H2013, making it once again one of the fastest growing in Latin America. Chile’s domestic market has now nearly doubled in size since 2009 with annual growth of nearly 20% in 2010 to 2012.
LATAM Airlines Group subsidiary LAN continues to dominate Chile’s domestic market, accounting for 75% of the 4.6 million total domestic passengers in Chile during 1H2013. LAN’s domination of the market is scaring away potential new entrants, including LCC groups such as Viva.
Chile and Russia are now the only top 25 domestic markets in the world that are not served by a single LCC. Russia is expected to see a return of LCC activity within the next year, leaving Chile alone on this undistinguished list.
Chile has recorded 17% passenger growth for the second consecutive year, making it the fastest growing market in Latin America. The rapid growth in Chile is somewhat surprising as it is one of the more mature markets in Latin America and the market is dominated by one player, LAN, which can have a stifling impact on competition. But the small country of 17 million continues to support rapid increases in travel propensity, which is already the highest in Latin America, driven by a strong economy and Chile’s unusual geography.
After recording flat traffic figures for 2009, Chile’s aviation market has grown by 57% over the last three years to 15.2 million passengers, according to Chilean Civil Aeronautics Board data. Growth in 2011 and 2012 was an impressive 17% while 2010 ended with 11% growth despite the impact of a devastating earthquake which struck Santiago in Feb-2010.
The spotlight in Latin America this year will primarily be shone on LAN and TAM as the two airline groups complete their landmark merger and begin the integration process. But it is also a key year for Avianca-TACA, which completed their merger in early 2010 and has completed about 90% of its integration process.
The integration of Avianca and TACA will be wrapped up this year as the carrier formally joins the Star Alliance, completing two major milestones for the fast-expanding airline group. Several major decisions also loom for the group in 2012 related to its corporate structure, branding and fleet.
Structurally, a decision will likely be made by the end of this year on whether to bring Avianca Brazil into the publicly traded holding company Avianca-TACA. The Brazilian carrier is still owned by the Synergy Group, the holding company controlled by the Efromovich family which also owned Avianca prior to its merger with TACA (the Efromovich family now has a majority share in Avianca-TACA Holding). As a result, Avianca Brazil remains separate although it has a co-branding arrangement with Colombia-based Avianca.
The rivalry in Latin America between leading airline groups LATAM and Avianca-TACA has increased another notch following the establishment of a new alliance between Avianca-TACA and Chilean carrier Sky Airline. While relatively small, the tie-up forged this week between leading Colombian carrier Avianca and Sky could be a precursor to further consolidation in the region. Such consolidation will almost certainly follow alliance lines as LATAM, which will be formally established in late 1Q2012 once LAN and TAM complete their merger, is poised to opt for oneworld while Avianca-TACA is now in the process of joining Star Alliance.