The co-founder of Ryanair is selling his company Irelandia Aviation’s 49% stake in budget Mexican carrier VivaAerobus to focus on expansion in central and South America.
Declan Ryan said the deal for majority shareholder IAMSA to take full control of the Mexican carrier was awaiting regulatory approval.
“We’ve been in Mexico 10 years, we adore the country,” said Ryan, who is managing partner of Irelandia, told the Financial Times.
“But we think the new frontier is the whole of central and South America, and that’s what we’re concentrating on... to be frank, the Viva brand could be throughout South America.”
Low-cost carrier developer Irelandia helped create brands including Allegiant in the US and Tiger Airways in Asia.
Irelandia took majority control of VivaColombia earlier this year, and Ryan singled out Colombia as a source of strong growth.
“Our focus for the next 20 years is the region down here,” he said. “I think the market’s growing. We can do double digit growth in passenger volume, and then some.”
Ryan said he had “no doubt the Viva brand can go to 100 airports. It won’t be as big as Ryanair because the access to disposable income is not the same, but it’s still sizable”.
He added: “One rule of thumb is that if you can afford a handset, you can afford a low-cost airfare.”
Since VivaColombia’s inception in 2012, the Colombian market had grown by 40%.
The airline broke even in the first year and was making money in the second year, a full year ahead of what is normal in the industry, Ryan said.
“As we saw in Europe and the US, if the fares are at the right level, people will take the flights,” he added.
While Colombia will be a hub, another key focus will be Argentina, with opportunities also in Costa Rica, Panama and Venezuela.
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