How Much Did Colombia’s Top Airlines Recover In 2021?

Colombia had one of the best recoveries in the Latin American region last year, as reported yesterday by the country’s civil aviation authorities. In 2021, the airlines operating in the South American country carried 30.5 million passengers, recovering 71% of the traffic levels they had prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, some airlines bounced back faster than others.

Colombia’s recovery

According to data provided by Colombia’s civil aviation authorities (Aerocivil), there were 30,531,412 passengers last year. Domestically, the country had 22.5 million, meaning it recovered 83% of the traffic trends in 2019. Meanwhile, there were 7.9 million travelers internationally, a 56% bounce back from pre-COVID levels.

Angela María Orozco, Colombia’s Transportation Minister, said,

“This balance shows that the air transport system in the country has been gradually consolidating itself. It is important to highlight that the country’s best month was December, when there were 4.02 million passengers, growing by 6% in comparison with the same period in 2019.”

Viva Colombia 2

Viva had the best recovery in Colombia last year. Photo: Viva.

The Latin American region overall recovery

Colombia’s passenger recovery was among the best in the region, and, in December, it had the best overall. Let’s do a quick recap of a few of Latin America’s top aviation markets: Mexico led the region with a 78.8% overall recovery of its 2019 traffic levels (95% in December); Brazil had a 56.5% recovery in 2021 (79% in December); Argentina only recovered 27% of its pre-pandemic traffic levels in 2021 (35.4% in December); Chile had a 39.8% bounce back in 2021 (72.3% recovery in December), and Peru had recovered 42% of its pre-pandemic traffic levels by November 2021 (a 64.1% recovery that month alone).

Other countries like Panama and Ecuador don’t publish their air traffic statistics publicly. According to ICAO’s latest analysis, Latin America could fully bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic this summer in terms of passengers. Nevertheless, ICAO expects the region to lose between US$4.6 and 5.7 billion in passenger revenue in 2022, mainly due to the ongoing impact in the international market.


LATAM grew by nearly 4% in Colombia last year. Photo: Getty Images.

How did the Colombian airlines do last year?

Even though Colombia had a remarkable recovery in 2021, there were stark differences between the country’s top airlines. The main carriers in Colombia are Avianca, LATAM Colombia, Viva, Wingo, Easyfly, and the State’s operator, SATENA.

Avianca was Colombia’s top airline in 2021, carrying 9.6 million passengers last year, both domestically and internationally. Despite being the country’s leading operator, Avianca still remained 43.1% below its pre-pandemic traffic levels.

Meanwhile, LATAM carried 5.8 million passengers in Colombia last year. The South American giant grew by 3.2% compared to 2019, according to Aerocivil.

However, Colombia’s most remarkable story in 2021 was the low–cost carrier, Viva. The airline handled 5.18 million passengers, growing by 18.7% overall, compared to its pre-pandemic traffic levels. Last year, Viva grew exponentially, launching new domestic and international routes across the region.

The regional carriers EasyFly and SATENA 2.0 and 1.1 million passengers in 2021, respectively. Both airlines finished the year with overall decreases of 28.8% and 21.7% compared to 2019.

Do you expect Colombia’s aviation industry to grow consistently in 2022 compared to 2019? What challenges lie ahead? Let us know in the comments below.

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