Saturday, 5 February 2011
One of the countries that has been experiencing sustained growth in the last decade is Brazil. The country's magnificent rates of growth have had its reflection on the aviation sector too and the number of air passengers in Brazil has more than doubled in less than a decade, from 71 million in 2003 to 154 million in 2010. This growth has taken place amidst a total transformation of Brazil's airline sector, that included the demise of what used Brazil's traditionally two largest carriers, Vasp, in 2005, and Varig, that in 2006 got absorbed by GOL, one of the entrants that have managed to take a significant part of Brazil's market. The emergence of Star-Alliance member TAM and low cost carriers GOL and Azul (founded by David Neeleman of JetBlue fame, by the way it is not a coincidence that "azul" is Portuguese for "blue"!) have more than made up for the disappearance of the traditional carriers.
But all this growth is reaching a bottleneck: the country's airport infrastructure. Capacity at Brazil's airports hasn't expanded quite as fast as traffic and the country may be heading for serious turbulence if it does not upgrade its infrastructure before the upcoming World Cup and Olympic Games, due to take place in 2014 and 2016 respectively. There are serious doubts about the capacity of Infraero, the government institution with links to the military, that manages most Brazilian airports, to deliver in the face of such such an important challenge. We will see whether a solution is found, either in the form of more public investment or through the privatisation of some of these airports. In any case, I am sure this is a problem that many countries would like to have right now (just thinking about our series on Spain's empty airports), and a reminder that not everyone is currently in crisis!