Peter Cerda, IATA’s Regional Vice President for the Americas, says the changing political landscape is an opportunity for governments to recognise aviation’s positive economic contribution and further strengthen safety initiatives across the region.

Peter Cerda CREDIT Sam Kerr

Four key presidential elections will dictate how aviation fares in the years ahead in Caribbean and Latin America.

Mexico, Colombia and Costa Rica have already chosen new leaders and elections are forthcoming in Brazil. Given the potential political swings, these elections could result in governments that provide the industry with a supportive political framework or over-regulate it to the detriment of airlines, consumers, and economies.

There are reasons to be hopeful. Chile and Argentina have administrations that understand aviation’s catalytic effect on the economy. As an example, our Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, met with Chile’s President Piñera and it was agreed to review the concession contract at Santiago airport. And in Argentina, the Macri administration has recognized aviation’s value after many years of neglect under previous governments.

These encouraging moves are reflected in the overall health of aviation in the Caribbean and Latin America. Regional carriers are growing, as is international traffic into the region. But optimism for the future must be tempered. Because airlines absolutely need governments that are willing to work collaboratively with the industry to maximise the many benefits that would accrue from a successful air transport sector.

Infrastructure is probably the single biggest constraint on the industry. Lima is saturated, so is Bogota, Havana, and Santiago. And the construction of Mexico City’s much-needed new airport is challenged by the country’s newly-elected president.

There also needs to be a major shift away from heavy-handed consumer-related regulations. Too often in the region we have seen the unilateral implementation of non-global standards.

We need governments in Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico, to name a few, to work closely with the industry to ensure the right reforms are put into place, ensuring passengers benefit while permitting airlines to continue to grow. Costs are far too high. 

Reform the regulations

The region continues to be an expensive one to operate in terms of charges, fees, and taxation. The underlying reason for much of this is cash-strapped governments looking for a quick windfall. If a longer-term view held sway, Argentina, Brazil, and most of the Caribbean, would reap the rewards aviation brings.

To end on a positive note, safety—always our top priority—is a role model for how governments and the industry can work together for the good of everybody.

There have been no jet fatalities for IATA’s Operational Safety Audit (IOSA)-registered airlines in the region in the past eight years. Governments and the industry have played their part in that, working together.

And we look forward to an even safer industry following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between IATA and our strong partner, the Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association (ALTA), under which ALTA will help to promote the IATA Standard Safety Assessment (ISSA) across the Caribbean and Latin America.

With the bedrock of safety confirmed, the industry is set to flourish. It is now up to governments—no matter which ones are elected—to build on that foundation and support aviation’s ability to connect people and trade.