May 10, 2019 / 6:44 PM / 10 days ago

Brazil air travel to grow 4%-5% in 2019 despite Avianca Brasil trouble -industry group

SAO PAULO, May 10 (Reuters) - Air travel in Brazil will grow between 4% and 5% in 2019, the president of industry group ALTA said on Friday, despite challenges facing No. 4 airline Avianca Brasil, which has lost most of its fleet.

"We will feel the impact of Avianca Brasil's crisis this quarter," said Luis Felipe de Oliveira of the Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association. The carrier filed for bankruptcy protection in December and aircraft lessors repossessed dozens of planes in April.

Before that, Brazilian air traffic had grown 4% in the first quarter from a year ago, according to civil aviation authority ANAC, trailing the 5% growth in Latin America reported by ALTA.

"Of course, this is not what we want," he said of Brazil. "Given its size, if Brazil had two-digit growth it would lift the entire region."

The increase in the number of low-cost carriers in Chile, for example, boosted air traffic there by 18% in the quarter.

ALTA and other industry groups support a bill pending in Brazil's Congress which would allow foreign-owned airlines to operate in the domestic market.

According to statistics compiled by ALTA, Brazilians do not travel by plane as much as Colombians or Chileans, offering opportunities for growth if Brazil lowers barriers. (Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun; editing by Grant McCool)

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