Airports in Latin America and the Caribbean are Experiencing Significant Economic Losses and Make Proposals to the Governments of the Region to Overcome the COVID-19 Crisis

April 23, 2020

The impact of the crisis generated by the COVID-19 pandemic at airports in the Latin American and Caribbean is considerable. Airports Council International - Latin America & Caribbean (ACI-LAC), estimates that during the first quarter of the 2020, airports in the region have lost 40 million passengers and more than USD 700 million in revenues.

The difficult situation that airports in the region are facing was the main subject of the interview given by the Director General of ACI-LAC, Rafael Echevarne to Gabriela Frías, from CNN en español.

"Right now the traffic at airports in the region is practically zero, the drop in traffic in the last week of March was 91%, and if we exclude Brazil, Mexico and Chile, which are the only countries with some activity on domestic flights, the drop was 97%,” explained Rafael Echevarne. "However," he said, "it is important to note that in these conditions, airports must remain operational as we still have cargo, repatriation and humanitarian flights."

According to the Director General of the airport association, approximately 430.000 people work at airports in Latin America and the Caribbean, including the airport operator staff, as well as those who work for other public and private organizations that provide services at the airport, such as migration, security, customs, airlines, retailers, restaurants among others. "Obviously it is of great concern to us," said Rafael Echevarne, referring to the impact on employment that the crisis could have.

When asked about the specific needs of the sector, he stated that a significant number of airports in the region are being operated efficiently by private companies under concession contracts given by the States. "Airports under concession contracts require flexibility in the conditions of the contracts."

In this sense, ACI-LAC urges the States from the region to consider the following measures:

  1. Relax conditions of payment of the concession fees – the exemption or delay of concession fee payments, or even the extension of the duration of concession contracts are alternatives to consider.
  2. Review infrastructure investment requirements – particularly in order to comply with level of service obligations or projects which are not immediately required by the industry.
  3. Temporary relief from compliance with quality of service obligations – Airports are experiencing unprecedented operational circumstances which are putting undue pressure on operators. Consequently, regulators should relax quality of service obligations until operations return to normal.

Referring to the measures to be taken to resume airport operations, Rafael Echevarne said that the use of new technologies can facilitate the return to operations and urges the regulatory authorities of the region to be open to implement those technologies.

Finally, he stressed the importance of the joint work and coordination between regulatory authorities, health authorities and industry stakeholders to establish a coordinated and harmonized approach to the measures taken in the region. “We as an airport organization are already working with committees considering how to implement new measures for air transport, that can range from testing passengers to how to protect airport staff. We have to work together and in coordination with the health authorities to establish protocols. Airports are ready to work with them”, concluded Rafael Echevarne.