Finally, 2020 is coming to an end. For many airlines worldwide, this is a year they will never forget.
In Latin America, many Governments kept their airspaces shut for more than six months, effectively grounding the carriers. Just in the final quarter of 2020, some airlines began operating again, so they aren’t anywhere near their full potential.
The Mexican transport authority (SCT) hasn’t uploaded its latest data, which would be for November. So, we have to make an analysis based on October’s information.
The SCT registered 2.71 million domestic passengers in October 2020, a 41% decrease compared to 2019.
It expected November to end with 3.32 million passengers and December with 3.79 million passengers. If December numbers pan out to be accurate, the Mexican aviation industry would be 20% below 2019. It would be an incredible domestic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.
On international connectivity, Mexico is far from recovered. According to the SCT, in October, the domestic airlines serving on international routes had a 64.1% decrease compared to 2019. International carriers had a 56.6% decrease.
Volaris and Viva Aerobus, the two Mexican low-cost carriers, are having V-Shaped recoveries. Still, it is expected that both will have a quarter-to-quarter decrease in the first three months of 2021 due to the Mexican low season. Grupo Aeromexico is in Chapter 11 and recovering slightly behind the low-cost operators. Finally, Interjet is expected to cease operations as it is currently not flying at all.
In November, Brazil had 4.8 million domestic passengers. This amount was a 40.7% decrease compared to the previous year.
According to the Brazilian Civil Aviation Authority (ANAC), the domestic demand is still 34.5% below 2019 numbers, while the capacity is 35.7% down.
Despite the second and even third wave of COVID-19 infections in Brazil, the South American country is recovering well from the crisis. This is because the summer season is just starting, and airlines are luring passengers back into their planes.
So far, GOL has had the largest number of passengers transported, with 14.62 million in the year. LATAM has hauled 14.19 million while Azul 12.59 million.
If we only consider November numbers, Azul was the largest carrier in Brazil, transporting 1.66 million passengers. GOL followed with 1.59 and then LATAM with 1.52.
Azul Linhas Aereas has had the best recovery in Brazil, as the airline pointed out recently. GOL is quickly catching up while LATAM is dragging behind due to its focus on international connectivity.
The shut of the Argentinian airspace still has a heavy burden on Argentinian airlines.
According to the Civil Authorities of this country, in November, the domestic market was still 95.1% below its 2019 numbers.
Between April and October, the traffic decrease was over 99%, reaching an incredible 99.8% in July, August, and September. Just recently, the airline industry in the country seems to be departing once again. There may be too much damage for the Argentinian airline industry to recover to its pre-COVID levels.
LATAM Argentina has ceased operations in the country. The government has bullied JetSMART and Flybondi to move their operations from El Palomar International Airport to Ezeiza. The Jorge Newbery Airfield (the most important domestic hub in the country) is shut down until February 2021. Finally, the two-State carriers in the country, Aerolineas Argentinas and Austral, recently merged.
All this happened while the country also faced an economic downturn. We expect that the recovery of the Argentinian airline industry will take many more years than the average worldwide.
The international market has performed slightly better. It ended up at -93.4% in November.
Colombian civil aviation authority, like the Mexican, hasn’t updated its data. We rely on the latest numbers, which are October’s.
Until that month, Colombia had received 10.09 million passengers, a 75% decrease compared to the previous year.
Like Argentina, Colombia remained shut for more than half a year. But, unlike its South American peer, it has recovered better since reopening in September.
In September, Colombia had 351,385 passengers, a 90% decrease compared to the same month of the previous year. By October, Colombia performed better, ending with a 76% decrease.
In Colombia, three of the main six domestic carriers are under financial reorganization at the moment. Avianca and LATAM Colombia filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcies in the US, while EasyFly filed for the homonymous process within the Colombian government. Moreover, the local government recently gave its state airline, Satena, a millionaire investment to keep it flying.
Despite that, 2021 seems to be a recovery year for the Colombian aviation industry. The local economy has performed better than its neighbors, and there’s an appetite for traveling.
We end up this analysis looking at Chile.
By November 2020, the Chilean domestic industry was 58.7% below its pre-COVID numbers. This points to a good recovery, thanks to the three main carriers in the country, LATAM, Sky, and JetSMART.
According to the Chilean government stats, LATAM Chile and Sky Airline are 58.5% below their 2019 numbers, while JetSMART is 51.7% below.
Internationally, it was much down, with an 86.7% decrease on a year-to-year basis.
Chile is hopeful of a good recovery. Between the first and fourth week of November, there was a 16.4% increase in the number of passengers transported, both domestically and internationally.
Latin America is recovering from the COVID-19 crisis. In this analysis, we miss some key countries like Peru and Panama. But we can see mixed results. Some countries are doing so much better, like Mexico and Brazil, while others have fallen behind, like Argentina.
In 2021, we should take a closer look at the South American economies since the middle classes’ economic recoveries across the countries will be crucial for the airline industry than the third or fourth waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is unlikely that we will see a return to the government shutdowns across the region. Nevertheless, the COVID-19 vaccination campaigns will have a crucial role in allowing more passengers to hop into a plane again.
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.