Business & Economy

Colombia’s Ultra Air required to protect passengers after ceasing operations

Bogota, Mar 30 (EFE).- Colombian authorities on Thursday required Ultra Air to take measures to protect the rights of passengers after the low-cost airline announced it was halting operations.

Reimbursing passengers, booking them on flights operated by other airlines or seeking out other solutions such as hiring charter flights or arranging for ground transportation are some of the measures the Superintendency of Transportation (SuperTransporte) is demanding of Ultra Air.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro, for his part, said that amid the emergency situation triggered by the recent grounding of flights by Viva Air Colombia and Ultra Air he has ordered “all Colombian air force planes, including the presidential jet, to be made available immediately to transport affected users.”

The head of state said he will postpone all of his own scheduled trips so the presidential aircraft is available for use amid the crisis.

Ultra Air, an airline headquartered at Jose Maria Cordova airport in the northwestern Colombian city of Rionegro that only flew domestic routes, said in a statement Wednesday that it would suspend operations effective at 12 am local time Thursday due to the “adverse macroeconomic landscape for the industry,” among other reasons.

The airline said Wednesday it is “unable to continue operating and offers apologies to employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders who are affected by the situation.”

It added that it “reiterates its commitment to work until the last moment to minimize the impact on the people who trusted in this project.”

In response, SuperTransporte demanded that the airline “fully execute, without exception, all the measures set forth in the contingency plan to protect users.”

One of those measures calls for Ultra Air to design a “special plan” for passengers from the Colombian archipelago of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina and to “maintain channels of communication with users to meet their needs.”

Ultra Air operated in Colombia for just over a year, during which time it transported more than 2 million passengers, earned an 8 percent share of the air transport market and created more than 1,200 direct and indirect jobs.

Last Thursday, SuperTransporte imposed administrative requirements on Ultra Air due to the airline’s low liquidity, including measures aimed at ensuring it fulfilled its obligations to passengers and creditors.

A day earlier, Chile-based JetSmart, an airline whose parent company is US private equity firm Indigo Partners, had said it was withdrawing from the memorandum of understanding it had signed two weeks ago for the potential purchase of Ultra Air.

In explaining its move to halt operations, Ultra Air also said “the suspension of operations of the third-largest airline in the country (Viva Air Colombia) put industry suppliers and aircraft leasing companies on alert.”

It noted that they “began to demand immediate payments and even prepayments for supplies and services necessary for their operations, which is unusual in this industry.”

Viva Air Colombia left thousands of passengers stranded when it halted its operations on Feb. 27 amid severe financial problems. EFE


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