(CNN Spanish) — Hundreds of travelers protest this Tuesday at several of the main airports in Colombia after they were taken by surprise by the sudden cancellation of flights by the Colombian airline Viva Air.

The company, through a statement and on its ticket sales website, announced this Monday that it is suspending its operations to different national and international destinations.

“Today, Civil Aeronautics issued a communication acknowledging the interests of various third parties regarding Viva’s urgent request to allow its integration with a stronger and larger group of airlines. This decision, unprecedented by the entity, will result in This has resulted in further delays in making a decision, which is why Viva is unfortunately forced to announce the suspension of its operations with immediate effect,” the company stated in the notice.

The economic crisis that the airline is going through had led its managers to ground five of its aircraft since last Tuesday.

Viva Air had accepted the Business Recovery Process a few months ago under Decree 560, which allows companies in financial crisis to declare bankruptcy.

Several airlines, including Avianca, had shown interest in acquiring the company and are awaiting a decision from the Colombian Civil Aeronautics on an eventual integration process to save Viva Air.

A man walks past a Viva Air billboard outside Bogota’s El Dorado International Airport on February 28, 2023. (Photo by JUAN BARRETO/AFP via Getty Images)

In the last few hours, the Civil Aeronautics, the entity in charge of regulating air transport in the country, held through a statement posted on Twitter that will ensure that the rights of passengers are respected, given the avalanche of claims from airline users who ask that the itineraries that were scheduled be fulfilled.

“Given the statements made by Viva regarding its decision to cancel the flights of thousands of passengers who bought tickets with the expectation of flying, the entity, within the exercise of its functions and together with the Superintendency of Transportation, will especially ensure the respect for the rights of affected users”, he stated.

This Monday he told CNN that he is working on a contingency plan to place passengers on other airlines.

Commercial flights between Colombia and Venezuela resume 2:57

On the afternoon of this Tuesday, the president of Colombia Gustavo Petro proposed that the state airline Satena be in charge of transferring passengers who have not been able to travel after the suspension of Viva Air operations.

“Satena, which is currently managed by the Air Force, should operate immediately, at least in defense of its users,” said the president in Bogotá during the Fifth Intersectoral Commission for Comprehensive Care for Veterans.

According to the president, the situation of Viva Air, the rupture of a highway that leads to the city of Pasto and the opening of relations with Venezuela could serve as a “stellar moment where the company could grow.” “However, of course, the capacity is not enough to take on these types of challenges,” he added, lamenting that this prevents him from becoming the “biggest airline in Colombia.”

The consequences

Many people remain on the ground not only in Colombian airports but also abroad, such as the Jorge Chávez airport in Peru, where travelers await an answer so they can return to their places of origin.

On social networks such as Twitter, those affected have published videos in which they show that they have even had to spend the night in the corridors of airports due to the impossibility of being able to travel on the low-cost airline.

In the statement in which Viva Air announced the measure to suspend flights, it is stated that thousands of jobs are at risk due to the difficult economic situation that the company is going through and the uncertainty of a possible integration with another airline.

“After more than seven months of delays by the entity, Viva has presented numerous evidences to the Colombian Government to demonstrate that it is in a critical financial situation, ensuring that the only way it can continue flying is for the Civil Aeronautics to allow Instead, its decision today puts into question the future of low-cost air service in Colombia and jeopardizes the jobs of more than 5,000 Colombians, who directly and they indirectly depend on Viva”.

The directors of Viva Air also referred to Aerocivil’s decision to listen to the position of third parties interested in acquiring the company.

“Giving strict and timely compliance with the terms provided for this procedure, the option to rule on the arguments of third parties was opened to the interveners, as well as the opportunity to present conditions or remedies that could allow the integration without affecting free competition, ensuring always for the interest of the market and especially of the passengers”, warned Aerocivil in a statement about the possible integration of Viva Air with one of the interested airlines.

Political sectors opposed to the Government have questioned that a faster solution has not been reached by Aerocivil. Paloma Valencia, a senator from the Centro Democrático party, said Monday on her Twitter account: “It is incredible that the government could not make decisions to save Viva Air, jobs are lost and many citizens are affected, the end of an era : Viva Air stops selling tickets and will leave planes on the ground”.


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