IATA is warning Latin America is heading towards an infrastructure crisis unless governments in the region take action now to tackle looming airport capacity and airspace issues.
"Our requirements are not complicated. We need sufficient capacity in terms of runways, terminals and airspace. Quality must be aligned with our technical and commercial needs. And it all must be affordable," IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac told delegates at the ALTA Airline Leaders Forum yesterday. "I believe, however, that we are headed for an infrastructure crisis - and that includes in Latin America.
The capacity challenges at key hub locations such as Buenos Aires, Bogota, Lima, Mexico City, Havana and Santiago are well documented. Unless they are addressed, the region's economies will suffer."
De Juniac spoke on the same day a public consultation backed halting development of Mexico City's new airport - placing completing that project in jeopardy.
"We cannot say it is an emergency, but we have an infrastructure problem in Latin America, which needs to make decisions urgently," de Juniac added in a a subsequent press conference. "Its not an emergency because of an immediate shortage - Mexico being the exception - but it needs urgent action, because the decisions you make now are implemented in five or 10 years."
IATA is seeking more influence among governments to help shape airport policy, notably around privatisations which he says have not lived up to their promise.
"The first element we are putting forward is please consult with us, take our advice, partly because it is the industry that will pay the bill," he says. "The second point is, we are the users, so as a payer and a user we have relevant advice. Thirdly from an IATA point of view we can bring forward the best practices - or examples of the bad ones - to enable the governments to make the right decisions."
But he sees some traction in its relationships with some governments in the region. "We see governments more and more turning their eyes and their ears to IATA, I mention Chile, we have a good relationship with Panama, with Colombia, and Argentina as well. So in the region we see governments more and more interested by the input of the industry and their representatives, ALTA and IATA."
De Juniac also raised concerns for the region around government interaction regarding the new global Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) and a lack of harmonisation of regulation within the region.
He says 75 states have already signed up to the global market-based measure CORSIA, accounting for more than three-quarters of aviation activity. "Unfortunately, this includes just seven governments in this region and just one is from the South American continent. This is very disappointing..
"To make CORSIA as comprehensive as possible we want more governments to join. That means redoubling our efforts, particularly in this region," he says.
De Juniac adds that while airlines in the region are at the forefront of creating multi-national business models, the full scope of potential efficiencies is not being realised because regulations remain nationally-based in many areas.
"It is past time for a serious discussion among regulators and stakeholders to find ways to unlock additional value from the restructurings that have taken place through a regime of mutual recognition of common standards for training, licensing and registration of aircraft and crew," he says.