A look at the Latin American airlines’ recovery

    Slowly but surely, the Latin American carriers are restoring their pre-pandemic capacity levels. According to OAG, the region is approximately 25% below the number of flights it offered in 2019, above the world trends. Some operators have recovered faster and are already over pre-COVID levels, like Viva Aerobus, while others are lagging, like Avianca. So, let’s take a look at the Latin American airline’s recovery. 

    Flights are coming back 

    According to Cirium’s database, the airlines operating domestically and internationally in the Latin American region have scheduled 192,171 flights in October 2021. That number is a 27.2% decrease compared to October 2019. Nonetheless, the capacity in these flights has recovered faster since it is only 22.9% below its pre-pandemic numbers. 

    Despite its ongoing recovery, LATAM Airlines Group has regained its status as Latin America’s largest carrier. The airline is scheduling 31,602 flights during the month. According to a statement provided by the carrier, it is operating at 56% currently. 

    The Brazilian carrier Azul Linhas Aereas is the second-largest carrier in the region by the number of flights. It has scheduled 22,077 flights, an 82.6% recovery compared to 2019. In Brazil, Azul has had the best comeback in almost every category, compared with GOL and LATAM so far. 

    Aeromexico is scheduling 14,057 flights in October, an 82.6% recovery as well. Then, it comes Volaris, the Mexican LCC, which is currently planning 13,811 flights, a 19% increase compared to 2019 levels. Both Volaris and Viva Aerobus (in seventh place, with 9,098 flights) are already over their pre-COVID numbers. 

    Latin America’s most important routes

    Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Latin America’s most important route was Rio de Janeiro-Sao Paulo in Brazil. It had 3,710 flights per month, offering over 563,000 seats, according to Cirium. In the second place, there was the route Bogota-Medellin, followed by three Mexican routes, from Mexico City to Cancun, Monterrey, and Guadalajara. 

    The COVID-19 pandemic has changed this listing. According to our research, Mexico-Cancun is currently Latin America’s most important route. In October, it is offering 2,460 flights (all by Aeromexico, Volaris, and Viva Aerobus), a 94.6% recovery compared to the pre-pandemic levels. This route has almost wholly recovered despite losing one of its leading operators, Interjet. 

    After Mexico-Cancun, the second-busiest route in Latin America is Bogota-Medellin (with a 68% recovery). Then it comes to the route Rio de Janeiro-Sao Paulo but only has recovered 52% of its pre-pandemic capacity.  

    The top-5 is completed with Mexico-City-Monterrey (1,664 scheduled flights, with a recovery of 64%) and Bogota-Cali with 1,660 flights (74% recovery). 

    A look at the Latin American airline’s recovery - finances

    Worldwide, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects net industry losses to be approximately US$201 billion between 2020 and 2022. 

    Last week, during IATA’s AGM, Willie Walsh said that airlines “have dramatically cut costs and adapted their business to whatever opportunities were available. That will see the $137.7 billion loss of 2020 reduce to $52 billion this year. And that will further reduce to $12 billion in 2022. We are well past the deepest point of the crisis. While serious issues remain, the path to recovery is coming into view. Aviation is demonstrating its resilience yet again.”

    In Latin America, IATA expects demand to end 2021 around half of what it was two years ago. The carriers in Latin America will have net losses of around US$5.6 billion in 2021 and US$3.7 billion in 2022. IATA said, 

    “Most of the region’s markets are open, but with some notable exceptions (Argentina, for example). The strength of the US-Latin American market will be a major contributing factor to improvement. Significant restructuring costs as the region’s carriers adjust to the new business realities will weigh on financial performance, keeping the region in a collective loss.” 


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