Latin America’s Airline recovery falls behind pre-pandemic levels

 Friday, April 7, 2023 


Latin American airline aviation industry’s recovery seems to have stalled, according to the latest data by the region’s Air Transport Association (ALTA).

In February, the pace of recovery fell to 98% of 2019 levels, and for the first time since the pandemic began, two other regions in the world surpassed Latin America.

The impact of losing airlines

José Ricardo Botelho, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of ALTA, said that Latin American aviation markets are facing major challenges to start this year.

He particularly highlighted Colombia, a country that he believes could have a “further slowdown” after the withdrawal of two players whose 2022 international passengers represented around 28% of the market.

These two players are Viva Air and Ultra Air, two ultra-low-cost carriers that ceased operations in February and March, respectively.

The cessation of airline operations in some countries in our region poses an alarming reminder that airline finances are in intensive care.

These finances, already impacted by the pandemic, face recurring challenges such as fuel prices, inflation affecting goods demanded locally by airlines, and currency devaluation, among other factors.

Since 2020, the Latin American aviation industry has lost at least ten airlines.

This includes the likes of Interjet and Aeromar in Mexico, Viva Air and Ultra Air in Colombia, Avianca Peru, LATAM Argentina, and more.

ALTA urged governments throughout the region to take a moment to talk with the industry and review technical measures that would allow the subsistence of the sector.

Dragging recovery

In February 2023, the region saw a slowdown in the pace of recovery, reaching only 98% of 2019 levels.

Nonetheless, this figure reflects a slight advance compared to January, when the region reached 96% of its pre-pandemic levels, but a setback versus December 2022, when 100% was achieved.

Globally, Africa led the recovery in February with a 101% growth in passengers carried and, for the first time, the Middle East region practically reached its pre-pandemic levels.

Until December, the Latin America and Caribbean region had the strongest recovery worldwide.

In February 2023, Colombia exceeded its domestic passenger traffic levels of January 2019 by 27%. However, the country experienced a slowdown in its figures expected in March.

Meanwhile, Mexico grew by 24%, and Argentina exceeded its 2019 levels. Brazil was at 89% and Chile at 88%.

Internationally, several countries had positive growth, said ALTA. Colombia and Mexico grew by 19% and 15% compared to their pre-pandemic levels.

The Dominican Republic reached 108% of those levels. Meanwhile, Brazil, Chile, and Argentina had a slight improvement compared to the previous month, with 78%, 81%, and 71%, respectively.

Peru had a decrease, though, reaching 69% of its 2019 levels.

The numbers so far

In January and February 2023, 58.71 million passengers were carried in the region. Compared to 2019, that’s a 2.9% decrease.

Domestically, there have been 39.05 million passengers, a minimal 0.7% growth versus pre-pandemic levels.

The regional international market had 7.67 million passengers, or a 14.6% decrease versus 2019.

Finally, the international market outside Latin America had 11.98 million passengers, or a 5.9% decrease.

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