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Tame adds Cuenca flights but concerns grow about airline’s lack of competitiveness

Tame announced Tuesday that it will add two more flights to its Cuenca-Quito route beginning this month. The airline said the new flights were part of its plan to improve national service while reducing the number of international flights.

A Tame jet at the Cuenca airport.

In February, Tame suspended flights to Bogota and Lima, saying they were operating at a loss. In the same announcement, the airline said it would add seats and flights to its national flights, particularly those serving Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca and Manta.

The new flights to Quito will operate Tuesdays and Thursdays with a departure time of 9 a.m.

Some National Assembly members and former government officials question Tame’s long-term viability with at least one suggesting that the recent agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) could signal the end for the government-owned airline.

“Tame is a good example of a project that the government should not be involved with,” says Jorge Perez, a former finance minister. “The commercial airlines are much more efficient and this is obvious in their ability to attract more customers. [Former president Rafael] Correa threatened to close or sell the Tame because of the large operating subsidy on more than one occasion but didn’t follow through.”

Perez says the numbers tell the story of Tame’s lack of competitiveness. “In Cuenca, Latam operates its flights at 90 percent capacity while Tame is at 60 percent or lower,” he says. “People know that Latam is a better operated airline in terms of reliability and safety.”

He adds that Tame could be casualty of the loan agreement with IMF. “It was not mentioned specifically but during negotiations a main topic of conversation was ending government subsidies and this involves more than just fuel. The IMF staff said that Ecuador is wasting money on operations that could be handled better by private vendors or owners.”