The lack of adequate aviation infrastructure in Latin America is one of the key challenges for the air transport industry in the region, International Air Transport Association CEO and Director General Tony Tyler says.

“It will be a challenge for many years to come,” Tyler told delegates at the opening of the Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association’s (ALTA’s) Airline Leaders Forum in Cancun, Mexico.

“Mexico needs a new airport,” he said, and pointed to severe capacity constraints at facilities in Buenos Aires, Lima and Sao Paulo.

He pointed out that Middle Eastern carriers now fly twice as many passengers as Latin American airlines despite the fact that their home market is only a little more than a third the size of that in Latin America. “It has to do in large part with how governments approach aviation,” says Tyler.

But, in his opinion, there is “no reason” that aviation should not bring the same benefits to Latin America as it does in the Middle East.

ALTA expects air traffic to grow in the region by an average of 6.9% annually over the next 10 years, compared to a global average of around 5%. That would put Latin America on about the same growth trajectory as China.

This growth also is likely to involve further expansion of the route network. In the past 10 years, the number of routes from Latin America to destinations in the rest of the world has increased to 953 from 687.