Avianca Holdings plans to establish a codeshare agreement with Brazilian LCC GOL, a development coming a month after the Colombian carrier’s codeshare with Azul Brazilian Airlines was announced.

The move, announced by Avianca president and CEO Anko van der Werff at the ALTA Airline Leaders Forum in Brasilia, comes as Avianca streamlines its business from an accelerated growth model to one of profitability and competitiveness.

Avianca announced its transformation plan in February following a dismal performance in 2018 in which the carrier reported a $1.1 million net profit for the entire year, down 99% from an $82 million net profit the prior year.

The transformation plan coincided with the departure of Avianca Holding’s previous CEO Hernan Rincon in April and was energized by the appointment of Anko van der Werff, previously Aeromexico’s chief revenue officer, as Avianca’s new president and CEO in July.

Earlier in October, Avianca secured an agreement with shareholders United Airlines Holdings and Kingsland Holdings for a loan of up to $250 million, subject to the conclusion of Avianca’s debt-reprofiling plan—a major element of the Avianca 2021 transformation plan—as well as the closing of the carrier’s exchange offer for its $550 million bond due in 2020.

Speaking with reporters at the ALTA Forum, van der Werff said, “Half-jokingly, the best news about 2019 is that it’s almost over. We’ve had a very hectic year but for us it’s time to turn the page.”

Van der Werff outlined the progress the company has made toward the bonds exchange, saying in the last week up to 88% of Avianca’s bondholders had agreed to extend their short-term bonds to long-term. “That was very critical for us. We had a bond that was due next May, $550 million, of which now only $65 million is not committed,” van der Werff said. “We feel very confident that with that and the other elements of our turnaround plan, we will unlock soon the additional funding by our stakeholders United Airlines and Kingsland.”

Avianca’s streamlining efforts over the year—it has returned 24 aircraft, suspended 25 unprofitable routes and sold several non-strategic assets including subsidiary carriers SANSA from Costa Rica and La Costena from Nicaragua—are allowing management to “go back to basics of running an airline,” van der Werff said.

“The first thing we’ve had to do was improve our on-time performance,” he said, “and we’re now in the low 80s [80% in 2019 vs. 60% in 2018], which is a good level, it ranks us roughly in the top 15 airlines in the world.”

In December, the airline is set to expand its inter-regional network with a new Bogota-Asuncion route and the restart of Bogota-Montevideo flights. The Azul and GOL codeshares will allow Avianca to re-establish access to the Brazilian domestic market, following the collapse of Avianca Brasil earlier this year. Van der Werff said Avianca will open at least four new South American destinations in 2020, including additional service to Brazil, but did not offer further specifics. Avianca currently flies routes from Bogota to both Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and from Lima to Sao Paulo and Rio.

Challenged by a reporter on whether the Avianca brand will be able to successfully re-establish a presence in Brazil, Van der Werff insisted Avianca Holdings did not bear responsibility for Avianca Brasil’s bankruptcy and subsequent hardships for that company’s employees and customers.

“Avianca Holdings and Oceanair [which operated as Avianca Brasil] are two completely different companies,” van der Werff said. “We understand that people maybe are confused to see the same names for different companies, but there was a different administration, with different financial reports and systems, with different people, managing completely different businesses. Whatever one company does to put itself in trouble, that is not something that other companies can be responsible for.”

Mark Nensel, mark.nensel@informa.com