ALTA calls for more liberalisation in Central America

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ALTA has called for more liberalisation and better regulatory co-ordination between Central American states to overcome the region's "significant" infrastructure constraints and fully benefit from the growth potential of its airline industry.

This was the key message from the first "Aviation Day Central America", which ALTA jointly organised with IATA in El Salvador in April.

AviancaTaca chairman Roberto Kriete, ALTA's president, said that while the aviation industry has developed so far to satisfy the growing demand for mobility in the region, "we must continue to reiterate the need for communication and dialogue among the airlines, air transport associations and authorities to bring about the improvements that are so clearly necessary".

Increasing airport capacity through privatisation and free competition was a main topic among the attendees. ALTA demands that hub operators must be independent from regulators, while the authorities should, in turn, take a "strong" market-oriented stance to support the hubs' planned privatisation.

The airport operators should, meanwhile, be held accountable against measurable standards of quality, cost-efficiency and competitiveness, which are to be determined through the service contracts with the airlines.

ALTA calls on governments to prioritise the infrastructure build-up and include metrics about airport performance in the regulatory framework for future development programmes.

The association also demands the implementation of modern air traffic management technologies, such as performance-based navigation procedures.

Sufficient pilot supply and greater safety are the other main issues to tackle in order to nurture the region's airline growth. ALTA calls on the Central American Air Service Navigation Corp to introduce the planned single Central American pilot licence, which would allow flightcrew to move more easily and broaden the airlines' recruitment across the region.

Governments should also mandate airlines to register for IATA's operational safety audit, says ALTA, as there is a "clear connection" between airline safety performance and participation in the initiative.

"Central America is well positioned geographically to more fully benefit from the connectivity enabled by aviation," says Peter Cerda, IATA's director safety, operations and infrastructure for the Americas and Atlantic regions. But this would require overcoming "the challenges of inadequate infrastructure, excess fees and charges, and a lack of coordination among states".