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ALTA calls for tax cuts, prepares for president Trump

Latin American airline traffic has doubled in the last 10 years. And the industry thinks traffic can double again – if governments and airport authorities take steps to reduce taxes and fees.

That was among messages delivered on the opening day of the 2016 ALTA Airline Leaders Forum by the association's executives.

They also expressed confidence the industry will adjust to the administration of the incoming president Donald Trump despite widespread uncertainty about Trump's goals.

ALTA executive director Eduardo Iglesias says Latin American airlines now carry about 200 million passengers annually, twice as many as 10 years ago. And the region's airlines operate twice as many aircraft now than they did one decade ago, he adds.

"This is because we have modern aircraft, low rates and a low-cost industry," adds Enrique Cueto, ATLA president and LATAM Airlines Group chief executive.

Traffic could double again if costs come down, Cueto says, but he adds that carriers can cut little fat from their fares and costs.

The key to boosting traffic, therefore, is for governments and airport authorities to reduce fees and taxes, which in some cases can account for half of total airfare prices, Cueto says. Particularly burdensome are fuel and passenger taxes and airport infrastructure expenses, he says.

As for president-elect Trump, Iglesias says Latin American carriers are accustomed to adjusting to political changes in the many countries in which they operate.

He does, however, say Trump's election is unique.

"What is new is the level of stress" Latin American airlines face as they wait to learn more about Trump's agenda, Iglesias says.

"We are ready to work with the new administration," he says. "At this time we do not have any signals or signs of a change in this relationship going forward."

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