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MEXICO CITY, Sept 23 (Reuters) - The aviation market in Latin America and the Caribbean should by early 2024 recover to the size it was before the coronavirus pandemic, Arturo Barreira, regional chief of European aircraft maker Airbus, said on Thursday.
Travel restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 health emergency hit civil aviation hard last year, before a gradual recovery began to set in.
"What we're seeing are different speeds of recovery," Barreira told Reuters in an interview. "Obviously the domestic market and tourism are leading the way, while the long distance and business markets will take longer."
Overall, the market would be back at pre-pandemic levels by roughly 2023 or early 2024, he said.
The executive said regional improvement would be driven mainly in Mexico by a strong showing by low-cost airlines VivaAerobus and Volaris, two Airbus clients.
Between January and July, Mexican airlines transported 28.6 million passengers, a jump of over 50% from the same period last year, official data showed. But that was still well below the 40.4 million travelers logged in the same period in 2019.
Barreira said during 2021, Airbus has so far delivered 25 aircraft to the region's airlines, two fewer than in all of 2020. The planemaker expects to sell more than 27 aircraft this year, but Barreira declined to say how many exactly.
Nearly 700 Airbus aircraft currently operate in Latin America and the Caribbean, or 60% of the fleet in service. (Reporting by Noe Torres; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)