One of the few regions not heavily impacted by weak economies in Europe and the US has been Latin America. While the global economy is struggling, Latin America’s GDP is growing faster than the world, at an average annual rate of 5%, and the region’s middle class is expected to grow by 75% in the next two decades.

Latin American air travel will grow too; it is expected to grow at over 6% per year for the next 20 years. This would make the region the second highest growth rate in the world after the Middle East and, amazingly, ahead of the Asia-Pacific region. Latin America’s air traffic is expected to triple over the next 20 years.

Airbus believes intra-regional and domestic traffic in Latin America could grow 6.6% over the next 10 years, a faster rate than the 5.4% world average. Europe and North America will remain the most important long-haul markets for the region and are expected to reach a share of 31% and 25% respectively by 2030, while inter-regional and domestic traffic will dominate market share at 35%.

What does this mean for the region? Lots more planes. Airbus says in its recently released Airbus Global Market Forecast, Latin America requires 2,028 new passenger aircraft with more than 100 seats between now and 2030, including 1,653 single-aisle, 334 twin-aisle and 41 very large aircraft and estimated at $197bn. To date, Airbus market forecasts have been released for Brazil, Mexico and Colombia.

Airbus’ Global Market Forecast Highlights include:

  • Brazil, the largest and fastest growing market for Airbus in Latin America, requires 701 new passenger aircraft of more than 100 seats between today and 2030. The 501 single-aisle, 174 twin-aisle aircraft and 26 very large aircraft have an estimated value of $82bn. In the past decade, the country’s international and domestic air travel more than doubled, and in the next 20 years GDP will skyrocket 144%, 20% higher than regional average.
  • Mexico requires 412 new passenger aircraft of more than 100 seats between today and 2030. The 371 single-aisle and 41 twin-aisle aircraft forecasted have an estimated market value of $30.5bn. Considered one of the biggest metropolitan areas of the world based on population growth, international traffic to and from Mexico City grew by almost 90% in the last decade.
  • Colombia requires 135 new passenger aircraft of more than 100 seats between today and 2030. The 102 single-aisle and 33 twin-aisle aircraft have an estimated value of $13.7bn. The country’s domestic air traffic grew nearly 80% in the past 10 years and international traffic to and from Colombia more than doubled between 2003 and 2011. Colombia’s fleet with more than 100 seats is also among the youngest in the world with an average age of four years, six years younger than the Latin American and world average.

Lest one think this region is only attracting Airbus’ attention, the world’s most acquisitive airlines are paying close attention too.  Emirates commences daily (it first started service to the region in 2007) non-stop service to Rio de Janeiro with an extension to Buenos Aires from January 2012. “Both Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro are rightly renowned as world-class leisure destinations as well as important business and trading centres.  Our research has shown that there is a high demand for these cities from across our network,” said HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive, Emirates Airline.  Flight Global has a great summary of the state of play among Gulf airlines growing traffic into the region.

Boeing is similarly bullish on the region. As they see it, “By 2030, South America will have the sixth largest internal traffic flow among the regions covered in the Current Market Outlook. Total traffic carried by Latin American airlines will grow 6.9 percent annually.” Being rich in resources – both natural and human – the region is fast starting to look like the next aviation frontier where everyone wants in. The region’s aviation history is rich. And its future looks to be promising. IATA’s boss calls it “a bright spot in the aviation world”.

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