ALTA: Gulf airlines' growth creates local opportunities

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Chief executives of Latin America’s largest airlines see the expansion of Middle Eastern carriers into the region as an opportunity.

"I think they are opportunities to our network," says Fabio Villegas, chief executive of Colombia’s Avianca. "I don’t think [they] constitute a threat to us."

One opportunity he highlights is traffic from Latin America to Asia, which could flow more easily over the Gulf carrier’s hubs than those in Europe or the USA.

Aeromexico chief executive Andres Conesa and Copa Airlines' Pedro Heilbron echo Villegas's comments.

Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines all fly to the region, with nonstops from their respective hubs to Sao Paulo Guarulhos, Innovata FlightMaps Analytics shows. Dubai-based Emirates also flies nonstop to Rio de Janeiro Galeao.

Emirates and Istanbul-based Turkish serve Buenos Aires with a stop in Rio and Sao Paulo respectively, Innovata data shows.

No Latin American airlines fly to the Middle East.

Co-operation could occur through the global alliances. TAM Airlines and Qatar will be able to collaborate at the Brazilian carrier’s Sao Paulo hub once it joins the Oneworld alliance in March 2014.

For Aeromexico, Avianca and Copa the immediate is benefit less immediate, as no Gulf carrier serves any of their respective hubs. However, Turkish said in December 2012 that it plans to launch service to Bogota – Avianca’s primary hub – when aircraft become available.

Avianca, Copa and Turkish are all members of Star Alliance, while Aeromexico is a member of the SkyTeam alliance. Emirates and Etihad are not aligned with a major alliance.