TBY talks to the heads of two civil aviation institutions on changes in the sector, new airports, and the removal of the fuel subsidy.
How is the civil aviation sector changing?
CARLOS JÁCOME There is a national project being implemented by the government and every party in the civil aviation field. The reforms aim to strengthen the National Civil Aviation Council’s (DGAC) position as a regulatory body. Starting within the government, we are creating a regulatory agency called the Agency of Regulation and Control. This organization will grant the management of national airports to either public companies or private operators, which will improve the quality of our infrastructure. We will prioritize private tenders that bring good management knowledge and commercial experience to the table. Every airport managed by the government is lacking in some way; the best management examples are at the Quito and Guayaquil airports, which are privately operated. The council has regulated the fuel subsidies system for national carriers, contributing to the development of three large Ecuadorean airlines. We have also improved air legislation to strengthen passenger protection in situations such as delays and cancellations, establishing a framework of sanctions on carriers and various compensation options for customers.
FERNANDO GUERRERO We are in the process of the modernization of the civil aviation industry in our country. First of all, we have to invest in restructuring our airport infrastructure. For example, in 2011, we were simultaneously working on 10 airports in locations including Latacunga, Galápagos, Macas, and Santa Rosa. Tena is also very important for tourism. All of these airports feed into the principle airports of Quito and Guayaquil. We have 28 domestic and international airports in Ecuador, but all air traffic at some point interconnects with Quito or Guayaquil. We do not have traffic traveling from one province to another without transferring through one of these two principle hubs. Our vision is to modernize these very important airports.
What is the status of the airports in Cuenca and Baltra in the Galápagos?
CJ The airport of Cuenca represents a specific management model; in the past we delegated the airport to the town of Cuenca, which later on allocated infrastructure to a non-profit organization; the Airport Corporation of Cuenca. For Baltra Airport, the situation is similar, but the tender was carried out under different circumstances. A very attractive infrastructure model was designed, and now the islands are developing an ecofriendly airport key to the economic and social development of the country.
What specialties will the new airport on the Galápagos Islands feature?
FG The company building the Baltra airport is part of a US corporation that also has the concession for Quiport. The airport on Baltra will be the first ecological airport in the world, and we are very interested in the project because it will be the main airport for the Galápagos Islands. The company is investing $24 million in a new, concrete runway that is easier on the environment. Furthermore, there will be a new passenger terminal and all the materials being used are environmentally friendly.
How would you assess the overall development of air transportation over the past years?
CJ The past few years have been very positive for the air transport sector; we increased the number of local and international passengers by 5%, whereas the average growth rate worldwide was about 4%. In terms of granting subsidies, we needed to reorganize the system. We were offering subsidies worth $60 million and not seeing the returns in terms of passenger services, salaries, new fleet investments, and training for employees. In restructuring the system, we did what was best for the population. Overall, we are pleased with the growth rate the sector is experiencing, but we need to strengthen the figure by implementing new measures.
How will the government’s decision to remove the fuel subsidy incentivize the development of alternative airports?
FG We analyze this issue constantly. We are aware that the government made an important decision, and that ticket prices for customers have been affected. Previously, companies were making business and not passing the benefits on to the customer. We can understand why the government is making the effort to institute more benefits for both airlines and passengers. We removed all the subsidies from our airports in Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca, and the Galápagos. It was difficult, but we have formulated very strong policies regarding the new law.
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