The Latin American airline industry remains resilient despite ongoing macroeconomic difficulties in the region and the recent grounding of Avianca Brazil, says the chief of the Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association.
"We have already grown 5% so far this year," Luis Felipe de Oliveira tells FlightGlobal. "While there was a significant capacity increase of 30% in the international market last year, the trend is now shifting to more domestic market growth.... Despite the crisis, we will have a positive outcome for the region."
Latin American carriers are expected to grow 5-7% in 2019, he adds.
The region is facing difficult macroeconomic conditions, which has forced airlines to reconsider capacity plans for the year. Airlines serving Argentina, for instance, have been battling currency depreciation and inflation. Elsewhere in Latin America, the Mexican and Brazilian markets are not developing as expected, notes De Oliveira.
The recent suspension of operations by Avianca Brazil has also reduced growth for the year, he says.
However, De Oliveira reiterates that the low penetration of air travel in the region leaves plenty of room for expansion in the years ahead. With low-cost carriers becoming a greater force in the region, ALTA believes that more first-time flyers will continue to take to the air, he notes.
Despite optimism over long-term prospects for Latin American airline growth, ALTA continues to lobby for lower operating costs in the region, particularly in the area of fuel prices.
"It is still an expensive region," says De Oliveira. "Fuel is still very expensive compared to other parts of the world. We hope to have some openness in Brazil with regards to more competitive fuel prices to help the industry to grow."