Government-owned Tame Airlines has ended its daily service between Cuenca and Guayaquil, claiming the route is not profitable.
“The route has not generated the demand we expected and the cash flow necessary to cover operational expenses,” the airline said in a brief statement Monday. The airline added that the decision to end service is not necessarily permanent and it will consider resuming service on a non-daily basis.
Tame also announced that was ending service to Latacunga.
The termination of flights has prompted a flurry of meetings between tourism and Cuenca city government officials but it is unclear what can be done to reverse the decision. Tame has been losing money for years and is currently seeking a majority commercial partner.
Tame is not the only airline to abandon the route. Latam and AeroGal also ended service in recent years.
Azuay Province Governor María Agusta Muñoz plans to meet this weekend Tame officials to learn more about the service suspension. Regional tourism director María Angélica León will also attend the meeting, saying she is concerned about the impact on the hotel and tourism industry in Cuenca.
Some transportation experts argue that the Guayaquil-Cuenca air service is no longer practical. “It’s really a ground shuttle service route considering the short drive-time between the cities,” says Carlos Estes, a Quito consultant for tour agencies. “Air service was needed 10 years ago when it took five hours to drive between the cities but with the improved highway it only takes only three. Today, you have the new 16-passenger mini-bus service, which runs hourly, not to mention the informal vans.”
Tame says it will maintain its Quito-Cuenca service, which it says is profitable.