Latin America’s airlines likely face two more years to return to “total normality,” Roberto Alvo, the CEO of the region’s largest carrier, Latam Airlines, warned Sunday.

“The pressures that the industry has to bear … has not yet fully recovered and that means the industry has not yet left this major crisis behind,” he said at the ALTA Airline Leaders Forum in Buenos Aires. Those pressures include a strong U.S. dollar, high fuel costs, and the continued lack of any state financial support from the region’s governments.

With that in mind, plus the financial toll many Latin American airlines suffered during the pandemic, Alvo expects “total normality” for the industry by the end of 2024.

latam airlines a320
(Alexandro Dias/Flickr)

Alvo’s comments come on the eve of the annual general meeting of the regional airline trade association, ALTA. The CEOs of many of Latin America’s major airlines, including Aeromexico, Avianca, Azul, and Gol, are expected to share their views on the recovery and outlook at the event. Alvo is president of the ALTA executive committee.

Normality, however, does not mean travelers won’t return sooner. In fact, Alvo forecast a full recovery in terms of airline passenger traffic by the end of next year. That is a little later than the outlook for his airline; Latam expects a full traffic recovery by around the middle of 2023.

“We are at a period of strong recovery of [the] industry,” Alvo said. Air travel in some countries, including Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico, is already above pre-pandemic levels, with others in the region rapidly catching up.

In August, data from global airline trade group IATA show Latin American passenger traffic had recovered to nearly 90 percent of 2019 levels. That made Latin America the most recovered air travel market — in terms of passenger traffic — in the world, even ahead of North America that was at 89 percent of pre-pandemic traffic.

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