UPDATE 1-Latin American risks 'bankruptcy pandemic' for airlines -industry group

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March 17 (Reuters) – Airlines in Latin America will need prompt government aid or many of them could go out of business due to widespread flight cancellations amid the global coronavirus outbreak, the head of regional airline association ALTA told Reuters on Tuesday.

Luis Felipe de Oliveira said ALTA has been sending letters to governments throughout the region and that the airline industry crisis created by the coronavirus outbreak was “unprecedented.”

“If the governments do not take drastic and immediate action there could be a bankruptcy pandemic in the region,” he said.

His comments add to global pressure from airlines seeking government rescues. In the United States, where airlines are much more profitable than in Latin America, carriers are pushing for a $50 billion aid package.

The airline industry had expected that Brazil, which has the largest domestic market in the region, would announce a lifeline on Monday, when the government announced a package of other measures to tackle the crisis.

A spokesman for Brazil’s Infrastructure Ministry said details of the aid for airlines were still being worked out on Tuesday.

De Oliveira said that more than 50% of flights in Latin America could be canceled due to the crisis.

On Monday, the continent’s largest carrier, LATAM Airlines Group, said it would cancel 90% of its international flights. Brazil’s largest airline, Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes, also said on Monday that it would cancel up to 95% of its international flights. (Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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