Latin American airlines are pressing for greater involvement in shaping the future of the region's airports, as infrastructure congestion and operating costs remain a perennial concern for carriers.
"Our number one headache is the state of airports in Latin America," says ALTA president and Avianca chief executive Hernan Rincon, speaking at the opening press conference of the ALTA Airline Leaders Forum.
The forum kicks off in Panama City at a pivotal time for the region's airports. The fate of Mexico City's new airport is hanging in the balance, as the incoming Mexican government holds a public referendum to decide on whether it should continue with the project.
With 40 million tourist arrivals last year, Mexico needs "more appropriate infrastructure" to grow in order to further drive economic development, says ALTA executive director Luis Felipe de Oliveira.
ALTA members are urging for future airport privatisations in the region to be more efficient, without resulting in higher costs for airlines. Rincon says airport privatisations in the last decade were marked by inexperience and some mistakes were made, but ALTA members hope to prevent that in future rounds of airport privatisation.
De Oliveira takes issue with the high portion of airport revenue that goes into government coffers in the region. "We will not accept governments receiving 50% of the gross revenue of an airport while we are paying the bill," he says, arguing that the costs ultimately impact fares and dampens demand for travel.
"It inhibits the growth that the aviation industry could contribute to the region," he adds.