Por: Gisella Canales Ewest/ CALIFORNIA/ EE.UU.
- Central America in general has become a good choice for airlines, whereas Nicaragua stands out for both passenger and freight
Los Angeles is the second most-visited destination to which Nicaraguan traveling to America go -after Miami, but until ten days ago Nicaragua had no direct connection with the city.
Since last June 5th, Managua is one of 18 international non-stop flights of Delta Airlines departing from Los Angeles International Airport, where the company has invested about $229 million as part of its expansion plan, where Central America occupies an important position.
Jose Antonio Torres, general manager for Delta Central America, explained that during the last three years, growth in demand has prompted an “explosion” in seat capacity to the region, especially in the last year, when capacity has grown by thirty percent.
“Nicaragua has begun to make a very important for the tourism sector in Central America position.” Jose Antonio Torres, general manager for Central Delta.
“Right now Delta is the largest airline in Central America that is flying to the United States (…). And we have done very well, we are very happy with the results, “says Torres.
The expansion between Central America and Los Angeles “began with the flight from Guatemala, we continued this expansion with the flight from San José, then from there we went to Liberia, Costa Rica, then to San Salvador and a few days ago the flight from Managua to Los Angeles,” explains the regional manager, who claims that Delta “is the US airline with the most flights to Los Angeles from Central America,” for which we have increased sales teams, have hired more staff in the various countries, and invested in marketing campaigns, among other measures.
“Central America is the only area of the portfolio in Latin America where Delta has no partner, an alliance with another airline, Delta decided then yes we will do by ourselves, but we will do it very well,” added the official.
In this process, the airline has adapted so that the flight crews and terminals have staff who speak Spanish and its terminals at US airports have also added signage translated in Spanish.
Why the interest in the region? Torres, general manager for Central Delta Airlines, and Abimael Ortiz, regional director of sales and Delta Cargo operations for Latin America and the Caribbean, argue that the isthmus is an attractive market for growth in demand.
It is estimated that thirty percent of flights between Central America and the United States are billed from the region.
ALSO FREIGHT AND TRANSPORT OF MERCHANDISE
In the case of transport of goods, Ortiz mentioned that the region has sustained four to five percent annual growth, because the planes they use are “perfect” for the type of products that is flown to Central America, where Nicaragua is among the most dynamic countries recently.
Through Delta Cargo, as mentioned by Ortiz, Nicaragua sent to the United States primarily cigars, sea cucumbers and clothing. Even during the inaugural flight Managua-Los Angeles the plane was carrying 1,300 kilos of merchandise, above the regional average of 1,200 kilos per flight.
That first flight was also a success for the transfer of passengers, as it had an occupancy rate of 85 percent.
“Nicaragua is a very important country for Delta, has grown in profitability in its offer and is one of the routes where we have increased the supply, we brought in a larger plane from Atlanta. Seeing the very positive trend we have seen in Nicaragua over the past two years we have decided to bet with the opening of flights to Los Angeles, “said Torres.
Although it started with a weekly flight between Managua and Los Angeles, it is projected to increase the frequency to two, then three times a week, and ultimately, into a daily flight. “It started conservatively because it is a market that traditionally has not been profitable for other airlines,” he said.
Delta Airlines has invested more than $ 229 million in a terminal of Los Angeles International Airport. La Prensa / Courtesy of Delta Air Lines
According to the Index of Travel and Tourism Competitiveness 2015, compiled by the World Economic Forum, the aviation infrastructure of Nicaragua was evaluated with 1.91 points out of 7, one of the most lagging indicators. However, regional manager for Delta, “the Managua airport infrastructure meets the needs” of the airline and “is on par with other airports in Central America.”
Torres, however, suggests that alongside the recently announced expansion of the runway of the International Airport of Managua, that investments be made in the areas of customs, immigration (to leave the country) and Security, as well as airline counters .
Recently the Administrative Company of International Airports (EAAI) for the Managua Airport announced it will invest between six and ten million dollars to expand the runway of the international airport, which would lengthen from 2.440 meters to 3.240 meters. The terminal is also expected to expand.
80% of passengers flying from Managua to Los Angeles have Los Angeles as their final destination, 15 percent use this destination as a connection to other US cities and five percent as connection to Asia.
THERE IS CONFIDENCE
The president of the National Chamber of Tourism (Canatur) and president of the Association of Airlines, Sylvia Ramirez Levy believes that Nicaragua is experiencing a boom in air connectivity, demonstrating the confidence of airlines.
“The dynamics experienced by the country in terms of air connectivity is certainly an effort of years which seeks to facilitate the conditions for tourists and businessmen and even family to come to the country and found no obstacles,” said Ramirez Levy.
He also explained that the opening of direct flights to Nicaragua helps position in the minds of foreigners, who for many years had not taken into account this destination. Yohany LOPEZ
The US airline Delta opened the remodeling of Terminal 5 at the Los Angeles International Airport, whose investment reached 229 million dollars last Wednesday. The works span the ticketing area, Sky Priority, the installation of four new checkpoints security, new carousels for international baggage claim, among others.