Business & Economy

Iberia reaffirms commitment to LatAm market, sees region on road to recovery

Bogota, Oct 26 (EFE).- Spanish airline Iberia says Latin America remains a key focal point of its global operations and is a market with plenty of pent-up demand after more than a year and a half of coronavirus-triggered lockdowns and restrictions.

“For us, Latin America is absolutely at the heart of our strategy. We’ve been flying there now for 75 years, since 1946, and we’ve gradually been adding more flights; we’re absolutely dedicated to Latin America” and to adding as much operational capacity as possible, Iberia’s chief customer officer, Maria Jesus Lopez Solas, told Efe.

The executive, who will participate through Tuesday in the Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association (ALTA) Airline Leaders Forum in Bogota, said the region is an essential market for Spain’s flag carrier airline.

“It’s always been in our DNA. Flying to Latin America is part of what Iberia is. It’s at the heart of our strategy, and we want to commit to Latin America,” she said.

She added that through its Madrid hub Iberia connects Latin America to the rest of the world, noting that the airline offers passengers from that region 90 additional destinations in Europe alone and others in Asia via both its own flights and partner flights with Asian airlines.

Iberia flies to roughly a score of destinations in Latin America, some of which will be reopened in the coming months following an end to pandemic-triggered border closures, Lopez Solas said, adding that the Spanish airline also flies to six cities in the United States.

In a sign of the region’s reactivation, Iberia said Monday it will increase its number of weekly flights to Bogota from seven to 10 starting in November and restore service to the southwestern Colombian city of Cali with three weekly flights.

With those moves, the Spanish airline’s operations in Colombia will return to pre-pandemic levels before year’s end.

“We currently link (European travelers) with 13 destinations inside Colombia thanks to the partnership we have with Avianca and the one we have with LATAM Airlines,” Lopez Solas said of code-sharing operations that allow Iberia to offer connections to Armenia, Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, Cartagena, Cucuta, Leticia, Medellin, Monteria, Pereira, San Andres, Santa Marta and Yopal.

In the same way, “we link (passengers) to other cities in the region, in North America and Central America, thanks to those partnerships,” she added.

Lopez Solas explained that Latin American operations will be expanded as the region’s countries respond to lower coronavirus case loads by removing mobility restrictions.

“The truth is it’s all very conditioned by the level of restriction; as the restrictions are lifted in the different countries, we see there’s demand from people who want to fly again, to live again,” she said.

The executive added that Iberia has been able to restore operational capacity more quickly in countries that have been more open and allowed the entry of vaccinated people or those with a negative Covid-19 test result.

Lopez Solas said Iberia is “cautiously optimistic” about the future of the aviation industry “because we see that the recovery is going relatively well” after a chaotic year in 2020.

“When the restrictions between countries are eliminated and when the procedures, the (health) protocols, also are more homogeneous and we don’t confuse customers, but instead always ask them for the same documentation in different countries,” that pent-up demand will translate into a desire to fly once again, the executive said, referring to an industry-wide clamor. EFE


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