Central American airline TACA may have
been playing up its 75 years of history over the past year, but its
focus is on future growth. The carrier has added aircraft to its
fleet, beefed up its Peruvian affiliate and changed its primary
U.S. airline partner.
TACA has come a
long way from its humble roots as a local carrier, founded by a New
Zealander named Lowell Yerex to fly cargo into Central
Over the decades,
the airline has gone through periods of growth and downsizing. But
today, the company is definitely in growth mode.
the company's commercial vice president, said that TACA wrapped up
2006 serving 3.5 million passengers, bringing total sales for the
year to $800 million. Load factors range from 70% to 85%, according
The company now
has more than 6,000 employees and operates daily flights to 34
cities in 19 countries.
One out of five
Today's TACA was
born when five Central American national carriers -- El Salvador's
TACA, TACA de Honduras, Nicaragua's Aeronica, Guatemala's Aviateca
and Costa Rica's Lacsa -- were integrated under one
TACA to confront difficult conditions and fierce competition in the
aviation industry," Ortiz said.
survived one of the greatest crises in this sector's history: that
of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S. TACA even
managed to expand its routes and renovate its fleet, thereby
becoming one of the airlines with the newest fleets across the
Americas, and to position Aeroman (the airline's maintenance and
engineering division) as one of the maintenance, repair and
overhaul facilities offering services to other airlines, such as
JetBlue and America West."
division, TACA Peru, was founded in 1999 to serve the domestic
Peruvian market and currently reports a load factor of 79%, said
"The Lima hub has
had an outstanding year in 2006, and we expect to continue
improving and growing," he said.
And there may be
additional divisions in the future.
Ortiz was unable
to confirm or deny reports that the company was considering
starting up new divisions in Panama, Argentina and
But he did say
that TACA "currently serves those destinations with different
entities of TACA, and the intent is to continue doing
are always looking for and ready to evaluate any organic or
nonorganic growth opportunities within Latin America," he
To aid its growth
positioning, TACA placed four new Airbus single-aisle A321 aircraft
in service in 2006. And the carrier initiated an alliance with
United Airlines in June 2006, replacing its earlier codeshare
agreement with American Airlines.
agreement, Ortiz said, "significantly [expands] options for
passengers of both airlines to international destinations not
previously served as well as adding new frequent-flyer
opportunities for customers of both carriers."
Growth on tap
growth strategy is linked to its belief that the Latin America
air-travel market has yet to reach its full potential for both
business and leisure traffic, according to Ortiz.
believe that tourism will grow in the region, as more countries are
investing in developing new tourist attractions and investing in
international promotion," Ortiz said.
"In many Latin
American countries, tourism has become the main source of foreign
income and in less than 25 years has surpassed the traditional
agricultural exports such as coffee, banana and others," he
will grow, as well, as many Latin American countries sign
commercial agreements and foreign investment continue to expand
across the region."
So what would
TACA's founding father think if he were alive to see today's much
larger, more modern incarnation of the airline?
"I am sure that
Lowell Yerex never imagined that from founding a cargo company in
Honduras with one Stinson single-engine airplane, 75 years later we
now see -- under the same name, TACA -- five Central American
airlines consolidated into one airline, flying 3.5 million
passengers with a fleet comprised of new A319, A320 and A321
aircraft, with three important hubs," said Ortiz.
To contact reporter Mark Chesnut, send e-mail [email protected].