Avianca, one of Latin America’s largest airlines, is emerging from bankruptcy protection after winning court approval for its reorganization plan a year and a half after the Covid-19 pandemic decimated the region’s air carriers.

Avianca, which is headquartered in Bogota, said it is exiting the restructuring process after raising fresh investments of $1.7 billion. It also comes out of bankruptcy with “significantly” reduced debt and more than $1 billion of liquidity, the company said in a regulatory filing.

Over the next three years, the 102-year-old company expects to expand to almost 200 routes in Latin America and the world. By 2025, it plans to have a fleet of more than 130 aircraft “with reconfigured, lighter-weight new-generation seats, which will allow Avianca to reduce the carbon footprint of its operations,” according to the statement.

Avianca filed for Chapter 11 protection in May 2020, after Colombia and other Latin American governments sealed borders and restricted flights in an attempt to control the spread of the coronavirus. Within weeks, two other major carriers in the region, Latam Airlines and Grupo Aeromexico, also filed for court protection.

The companies are starting to emerge from bankruptcy in an industry that has been upended by the pandemic. Traffic has slowly rebounded, but remains below pre-pandemic levels, forcing airlines to reduce fleets, lay off employees and cut costs. Some governments have added new travel restrictions to contain the spread of the omicron variant, the first cases of which were detected in Latin America this week.

Renewing Seats

Avianca said its new business model “includes the best attributes of low-cost airlines,” including a variety of fares. It will spend some $200 million in the next year renewing seats on its fleet of A320 aircraft. It plans to continue flying Boeing 787 Dreamliners on long-haul flights.

A new holding company, Avianca Group International Ltd., will be domiciled in the U.K. and will consolidate the group’s investments in all of its subsidiaries including Aerovias del Continente Americano, its Colombian subsidiary, and TACA International, its Central American operation, it said.

Companies often have a corporate home that is separate from where their main operations take place. Prior to the bankruptcy, Avianca was incorporated in Panama and operated out of Colombia. The airline’s current centers of operations will remain, the company has said.