The Ministry of Transport denounces Viva Air and complicates a merger with Avianca | The USA Print

The crisis of the low-cost airline Viva Air does not end. The Colombian Minister of Transportation, Guillermo Reyes, has announced that he will file a criminal lawsuit against the battered company Paisa for alleged crimes of aggravated fraud in mass mode and deceptive offer of products and services. The criminal action of the head of the portfolio is based on the fact that Viva collected, before the cessation of operations announced on February 27, a sum that would reach 272,000 million pesos for services such as the “sale of tickets, ticket holders, or reception of travel agency payments”, which were never provided.

The news adds to the chronicle of a turbulent quarter for Colombian air transport, with images of passengers, some on the verge of lack of control, due to the damage caused after the sudden stoppage caused by the sudden stoppage of an airline that came to occupy eighth place. among the best low-cost airlines in South America, according to the classification prepared in 2022 by the prestigious World Airline Awards.

“Viva maintained its commercial channels for the sale of its services until a few hours before closing operations, evidenced by fraud on the part of the company,” declared Minister Reyes. And he added: “And the airline, knowing that it could not fulfill its users, kept them in error, generating expectations regarding their flights that could not materialize.”

The Minister of Transportation, Guillermo Reyes, testifies before the media at the end of the meeting on the situation of Viva Air on March 1.Cristian Garavito (Colombian Presidency)

A blow that also comes at a particularly critical moment. The Civil Aeronautics, market regulatory body attached to the Ministry of Transportation, had to issue a resolution on the feasibility of the merger project between Avianca and Viva. A somewhat bizarre process and one that the Superintendency of Industry and Commerce, which also has auditing powers, has already objected to for having evidence that the transaction was completed since April last year without having the approval of the authorities.

The Ministry’s demand underlines that Viva Air has not reimbursed any of those affected, which is a violation of the economic assets of customers. This is a series of accusations that condition a decision by Aeronautics, which various observers were waiting impatiently to mitigate the state of anxiety that exists in the sector and begin to clarify the fate of some 2,500 direct employees of the company founded in 2009.


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Minister Reyes assured that the final decision on the merger should be announced no later than Thursday, March 16 (sources from EL PAÍS maintain that it will be on Friday). Another of the conditions that has generated not only reservations, but also great reluctance on the part of eight airlines that have tried to avoid the merger with Avianca until the last moment, is the evidence that the company resulting from that union would have a great dominance of the market. local.

The collapse of Viva, which has a subsidiary in Peru, has its roots in the suspension of its operations due to the pandemic. For now, the announcement made by the company at the beginning of February that it was taking refuge in the bankruptcy law designed by the Government of Iván Duque to refloat businesses crushed by the health crisis has been of little use. From the words of Minister Reyes, it can be intuited that it would not be unreasonable to contemplate a final collapse that had been avoided at all costs: “Without dependencies, offices, presence at airports or planes, one can hardly believe that they are going to operate again” .

The Ministry of Transport verified that the number of reservations issued and confirmed by the company in that diffuse limbo between the cessation of operations and the official announcement of the measure, amounted to 466,604, a figure that is equivalent to 729,535 affected routes. After the sudden appearance of other suitors, interested in taking over the majority of shares and refloating Viva, such as the Chilean companies Latam and JetSmart, the last fringes of this section revolve around the fate of the large commercial operation, which has remained a little overshadowed in the press reports, and which constitutes the true dynamo behind all this history.

This is the announced new Grupo Abra, another marriage sealed in April of last year between Avianca, the flag carrier of Colombia with financial headquarters in the United Kingdom, and Gol, the airline by size of Brazil. A pact publicized since then as a measure to compete with Latam, the great regional giant. At that time, Avianca already made it clear in two official statements that Viva Air was included in that union.

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