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From Legacy to Low-Cost: Avianca Revamps Interiors on 100+ Aircraft

The new interiors of Bogotá-based airline's 104 Airbus A320 aircraft allow for 20% more capacity

by Lauren Smith

July 18, 2023

Photo: New Premium seats onboard Avianca's Airbus A320 fleet. Courtesy of Avianca

Colombian flag carrier Avianca has overhauled the interiors of more than 100 Airbus A320 jets, increasing their capacity by a fifth as it repositions itself as a budget airline following its bankruptcy.

Bogotá-headquartered Avianca filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in New York in the spring of 2020 amid the upheaval and travel restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of its post-bankruptcy restructuring, Avianca has adopted a new business model, transforming itself from a full-service legacy airline to a low-cost carrier. It now offers cheaper, more competitive fares at several service tiers and charges for onboard snacks, beverages, and other items.

Photo: Avianca, Airbus A320neo. Courtesy of Avianca.

To enable the change, the airline has refurbished the interiors of 104 Airbus narrowbody jets to accommodate more passengers.

The retrofit was completed in just two years, adding 180 new Recaro seats to each plane, which is 20% more than the previous capacity. The seats are arranged in Premium, Plus, and Economy classes.

The Premium seats have a 2-2 configuration with central consoles for more space between travelers, power sockets, USB ports, and a recline feature.

Photo: New Premium seats onboard Avianca’s Airbus A320 fleet. Courtesy of Avianca

The Plus seats, located between rows 4 and 14, have independent headrests with six positions, stands for personal electronic devices and USB ports, and can be reclined. Meanwhile, economy seats offer stands for personal electronic devices integrated into the tray table along with USB ports, but are the narrowest and simplest.

Avianca has also gained space for more seating by installing Airbus’s SpaceFlex, a module for optimizing the aircraft’s rear, combing galleys and lavatories.

Photo: New Economy Class seats onboard Avianca’s Airbus A320 fleet. Courtesy of Avianca

Avianca says that the overhaul will enable it to “offer more competitive prices, transport more passengers per aircraft, contribute to the decongestion of some airports, and reduce CO2 emissions.” It estimates that the new configuration will reduce the carbon emissions of each carried passenger by 15.35%, bringing the airline closer to its sustainability goals.

Adrian Neuhauser, Avianca’s president and CEO, said: “Without a doubt, the reconfiguration of our fleet makes us more efficient and competitive, brings us ever closer to what we set out in our business plan, and also leads us to achieve the goal of being an Avianca for everyone.”

“Having this number of aircraft retrofitted and returned into service in a two-year time frame during a supply chain crisis is an outstanding achievement,” added Yohan Closs, vice president of Services for Airbus Latin America & the Caribbean.

Photo: New Economy Class seats onboard Avianca’s Airbus A320 fleet. Courtesy of Avianca

Avianca achieved rapid renovations by employing the skills of more than 1,500 technicians from its in-house MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul) department.

However, the revamp of Avianca’s interiors and broader business model has been polarizing, with some passengers missing the elevated service of its previous iteration and bemoaning the more stripped-back, compact cabins.

Meanwhile, Avianca is pushing ahead and incorporating new A320neo jets into its fleet. The planes will initially operate with different interiors but will revamp in 2023 to standardize cabins across Avianca’s entire fleet.