ALTA: Airlines seek greater control at airports

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Latin American airlines are eager to gain greater control of airports, and are also calling for technology upgrades.

There appears to be a consensus that technology needs to be used to ease flying for travellers, making airports places that people want to arrive early at and enjoy. Airports are "monsters for the passenger", says Enrique Cueto, chief executive of LATAM Airlines Group, citing onerous security screening protocols and long waits. He, echoed by other executives, says technology could be used to ease and speed up these processes.

Control is also on the wishlist. "What I dream about is to have our own airport," says Fabio Villegas, chief executive of Avianca. "Our own advantage. One that we can make grow like Lego pieces as we need it."

But he has no complaints about the recent expansion of Bogota El Dorado International airport, despite comments by Avianca executives that the new terminal has had higher passenger numbers that it was designed for since opening in October 2012.

Aeromexico would also like control of an airport in Mexico, something that is currently barred by regulators, says Andres Conesa, chief executive of the carrier.

"What I want is the Panama airport: that’s what I want for Mexico," he says, referencing Copa Airlines’ home base at Tocumen International. "It’s a great example of a really good airport."

Marco Antonio Bologna, president of TAM Holdings, notes a need for improved transportation access to Brazil’s airports. Sao Paulo Guarulhos, the carrier’s primary base, is known for two- to three-hour drives from the city centre, despite being only about 30km distant.

"The airports should be integrated with intermodal transportation networks," he says.

A new terminal at Guarulhos which will boost passenger capacity by 12 million to 42 million annually is scheduled to open in May 2014.