Medellín, Colombia — President Gustavo Petro has ordered the use of Colombian Air Force (FAC) planes, including the presidential aircraft, to transport passengers affected by a growing national airline crisis.
Ultra Air, a low-cost air carrier, has become the latest airline to go bust, following Viva Air earlier this month.
In a tweet, Petro stated that he would suspend his trips to free up the aircraft for the transportation of affected passengers:
“In view of the emergency caused by the cessation of operations of the airlines Viva Air and Ultra Air, I have ordered that all FAC planes, including the presidential plane, be used from this moment to transport the affected passengers,” he wrote.
The president decided to suspend his trips so that his aircraft could be used amid the crisis.
“Together with the team from the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aeronautics, we will evaluate the measures to be taken to deal with the air emergency,” he added.
Petro’s order comes after other measures were implemented to alleviate the crisis, such as relocations and preferential fares offered by airlines Latam and Avianca.
SuperTransporte, Colombia’s transport superintendency, ordered Ultra Air to reimburse missed flights and aid in the relocation of affected passengers to other airlines.
It also demanded special plans be made for passengers from San Andres and Providencia, islands off the coast of Nicaragua that belong to Colombia.
Ultra Air’s downfall
Ultra Air confirmed on Wednesday that from Thursday onwards, all flights were cancelled.
“We deeply regret to inform all our customers, suppliers and authorities that we will not be flying any of our scheduled routes as of this Thursday,” the company said.
While the company had reduced its operations to only three aircraft just days prior, Portafolio reported that the airline’s financial situation worsened. They say that from 3:00 pm on Wednesday the airline became unable to sell tickets.
Ultra Air claim that the airline’s finances were affected by unstable fuel prices and exchange rates, and that Viva Air’s downfall was the tipping point for the airline. After the latter suspended operations, suppliers were put on alert, and began demanding immediate payments which Ultra Air could not afford.