Photo: LATAM Airlines
Latin American airlines expect this year’s World Cup in Brazil to be bad for business due, among other reasons, to operational difficulties and reduced business volume, industry executives said here Thursday.
“The world will win with the World Cup - I don’t know who will win the matches - but the airlines will lose,” said Enrique Cueto, executive vice president of LATAM Airlines Group, the result of the merger between Chile’s LAN and Brazil’s TAM.
He made his remarks at a roundtable discussion during a Latin American aviation summit in Santiago.
Also taking part in the meeting were German Efromovich, chairman of Synergy Group, the holding company that controls Colombian airline Avianca; Aerolineas Argentinas CEO Mariano Recalde; and the CEO of Uruguayan group Buquebus, Juan Carlos Lopez Mena.
Aviation will play a more important role at this year’s World Cup, to be held from June 12 to July 13, than in previous editions of soccer’s premier event because some host cities will be practically inaccessible via other means of transportation, Cueto said.
But this will not translate into greater revenue for airlines, Cueto said, predicting that business travel - an essential money maker for air carriers - will be reduced substantially and that many routes will have fewer passengers than usual.
Another concern, Efromovich said, is that Brazil’s airports will not be able to handle the higher volume of flights.
“You’re going to spend three hours going around in circles, you’ll go to another city 300 kilometers (185 miles) away and put the passenger in a bus or a taxi and he’ll arrive after the match is over,” he said.
Recalde, for his part, chose to focus on the initiatives Aerolineas Argentinas has undertaken to improve its service ahead of the World Cup.
In recent months, the state-run carrier has opened new routes to cities other than Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, including Curitiba, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre and Brasilia.
It also will increase the number of flights and offer same-day, round-trip service so Argentine fans can see matches in person without having to book lodging in Brazil, Recalde said.