Since government-owned Tame airlines resumed flights between Cuenca and Guayaquil July 31 it has sold less than 50% of its seats on the 60-passenger ATR aircraft that cover the route.
“The response has been disappointing but there are reasons for it,” says Carlos Jácome, manager of Cuenca’s Mariscal La Mar Airport.
According to Jácome, only 3,300 passengers bought tickets for the Guayaquil flights during the past three months, filling only 42% of available seats.
“This is obviously not a profitable situation for the airlines but given flight schedules, which don’t fit the needs of business flyers, it is not surprising,” he says. “You can’t operate a sustainable route with only four flights a week that operate only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The highest demand is Monday mornings and Friday afternoons.”
He added that demand also suffers from the large number of flight delays and cancellations.
“To rebuild demand for Cuenca-Guayaquil, we need more frequency and better service,” Jácome says. “We need new companies to enter the market so we can generate real competition.”
Tame suspended service between Cuenca and Guayaquil from April 17 to July 30, claiming that it lost money on the route. It resumed flights only after former Cuenca mayor and Ecuador’s new minister of public works, Paul Granda, interceded. His agreement also involved an undisclosed financial contribution to Tame from business owners.
Air passengers agree with Jácome but say there are other reasons for low demand. “I can pay $110 or $120 to fly round-trip, Cuenca-Guayaquil, but I can also pay $24 to take the shuttle bus,” says Jorge Miller, a Cuenca business owner. “The bus is comfortable and it takes only an hour longer to make the trip than it does to fly. I go to Guayaquil two times a week so taking the bus instead of the airplane saves me a lot of money. Besides, the bus schedule is always reliable and Tame is not.”