The Latin American region has had the fastest recovery in terms of capacity and passenger numbers worldwide. This region has benefited from open borders, relaxed travel restrictions, proximity to the United States’ booming market, and more. Nonetheless, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) still expects the region to lose billions this year due to high taxes, high fuel prices, and weak regional economies. For now, let’s take a look at the capacity changes in Latin America between 2019 and 2022.
As of this week, the Latin American region has 44,106 scheduled flights, according to data provided by Cirium. The airlines operating in and out of the region (both domestically and internationally) are putting up over 6.7 million seats available.
Compared to April 2019, 17.8% fewer flights were scheduled (53,630 scheduled services three years ago), and 9.9% fewer seats were available. Not bad.
Interregional flights within the Latin American region still have to recover 19% of the pre-pandemic levels and 10.6% of the seats. That’s interesting because flights not going to the Latin American region, i.e., to the rest of the world, are only 8.8% below 2019 levels (seats under 5.9%). That recovery is fueled by the United States. Airlines flying between Latin America and the United States are already serving 0.3% more flights and 5.5% more seats.
If we remove the United States from the equation, the airlines still operate 29.5% fewer flights and put up 24.3% fewer seats available.
Latin America’s largest players
Three years ago, the airlines that offered more flights in the Latin American region were LATAM, Azul, Avianca, GOL, and Aeromexico. In terms of seats were LATAM, GOL, Avianca, Azul, and Volaris.
Currently, the airlines that offer more flights are LATAM, Azul, Volaris, Avianca, and Aeromexico, while the seat offer is composed of LATAM, Volaris, Azul, Avianca, and GOL.
We have discussed in length the incredible rise from Volaris, the Mexican low-cost carrier which is handling 40% more passengers this year than in 2019; nonetheless, this data proves again that Volaris found a sweet spot in the pandemic.
Of the top 5 Latin American airlines (in terms of flights offered), Volaris is the only one to have surpassed its pre-pandemic capacity levels. The Mexican low-cost operator has grown by 46% (and 48.6% in seats offered). LATAM and Azul remain 10.6% below 2019 levels; Avianca is 24.4% down, and Aeromexico is 9.9% below pre-pandemic levels.
Finally, let’s take a look at the capacity recovery on long-haul flights in the Latin American region. We are looking at flights to Europe, Asia, Oceania, and Africa.
There are 699 scheduled weekly flights to these regions (Iberia is the main airline, having 97 services from Spain to Latin America). This number is 21.7% below pre-pandemic traffic levels. For example, LATAM still offers 38.4% fewer long-haul flights.
The region has lost connectivity from several airlines, including Alitalia (which had 35 weekly flights in 2019), Cabo Verde Airlines, Norwegian (which ceased operations to the region prior to the pandemic), and more.
Latin American airlines still have to find a way to bounce back to profitability. IATA expects airlines in the region to lose approximately US$3.8 billion. This amount could increase due to the uncertainty from the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the rise of fuel prices.
Last year, only a handful of airlines in Latin America had net profits. Among them were Volaris, Viva Aerobus, Viva Colombia, and Copa Airlines. Many Latin American carriers should upload their first-quarter results in the next weeks, and we will take a look at their performances so far in 2022. Keep tuned.
Daniel Martínez Garbuno is a Mexican journalist. He has specialized in the air industry working mainly for A21, a Mexican media outlet focused entirely on the aviation world. He has also published on other sites like Simple Flying, Roads & Kingdoms, Proceso, El Economista, Buzos de la Noticia, Contenido, and Notimex.