"We did an analysis and the numbers didn't add up, so we decided to suspend flights for Aeroperlas." With over 40 years of operation in Panama, the company had mobilized 117,043 travelers in 2011, but was surpassed by Air Panama, which transported 172,154 passengers.
The Civil Aviation Authority (AAC in Spanish) has not received a request by any other group that wishes to take over the flight frequencies abandoned by Aeroperlas.
The expectation is that once the Enrique Jiménez airport in Colón and the terminal in Río Hato become operational, local groups will show interest in operating the routes towards the Colón Duty Free Zone and the Pacific beaches.
Despite the departure of Avianca-Taca's subsidiary, the internal traffic of passengers has recorded a 4.4% growth through September.
Reports by the AAC indicate that in the first nine months of the year 212,150 people were mobilized, some 8,958 additional passengers compared to the same period in the previous year.
Bocas del Toro, David, Contadora Island and San Blas are the destinations that capture the majority of passengers departing from the Marcos A. Gelabert airport in Albrook.
With the abandonment of Aeroperlas, frequencies were lost to important tourist spots like Pedasí, a route that is not traveled by Air Panama.
Tour operators who were consulted on this issue indicated that the loss of Aeroperlas and the lack of a second company in the market has complicated the transportation of tourist groups to countryside destinations.
Such is the case of Guna Yala, particularly the township No. 2 Ailigandí, where 45 rooms are available in small hotels, mostly offered by families who have joined forces to provide accommodation for tourists.
Mariela De la Ossa pointed out that Air Panama uses an 18-passenger plane, which complicates bringing in large groups of tourists to the area. Besides the visitors, the people who live in the area also seek transportation by plane, leaving little space to reserve a seat.
During the off season the problem is less critical, but the situation worsens at times of high demand, said the businesswoman. The company has stated that it will provide an aircraft with more capacity, but the promise has yet to materialize.
As for the promotion that the Panama Tourism Authority had with Aeroperlas, offering low airfare upon the purchase of a package for three days and two nights, Air Panama filled the vacancy left by its ex-competitor.
Increase in tourist arrivals in the first eight months of the year
Average cost of a roundtrip plane ticket for Bocas del Toro