Latin American airline routes will be slow to return, IATA warns

A recovery to pre-pandemic international flight levels in Latin America is not expected until 2024.

Latin America's airline network recovery is being jeopardized by COVID-19 quarantines and restrictions that do not appear to be easing anytime soon, IATA warned. 

Roughly 33% of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean still have quarantine measures in place, which is “certainly not going to help … the industry restart in a quick and efficient manner,” IATA regional VP for the Americas Peter Cerda said during a CAPA Live event.

Long-haul international flights to/from Latin America are unlikely to recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2024, Cerda said. Domestic route restarts will happen sooner, he added, predicting a return to pre-pandemic flying levels in Latin American domestic markets by the end of 2022 or early 2023. The recovery in intra-regional international travel should fall somewhere between the domestic and international time periods, he added. 

In April 2019, there were roughly 1,780 city pairs being operated by airlines in Latin America and the Caribbean, Cerda said. By April 2020, that number had plummeted to just 640 city pairs. By the end of 2020, city pairs in the region had recovered to approximately 1,400.

But some international airlines have opted not to return to Latin America, meaning "some of those connections will be lost for the foreseeable future,” Cerda said. 

Even before a full recovery gets underway, many governments throughout Latin America and the Caribbean are imposing new taxes and fees on airlines, Cerda said. “That is certainly not the right direction to take during a period of time when the industry is hurting,” he said.

Photo credit: GRU Airport - Aeroporto Internacional de São Paulo