Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines is making an unprecedented effort to expand its presence in Latin America, with the ultimate goal of becoming, in the airlines own words, the "best" U.S. carrier in the region. Nicolas Ferri, Deltas vice president for Latin America and the Caribbean, spoke with Latin Trade about the company's strategy for achieving this goal. And while he couldn't speak about Delta and Aeromexico filing an application with the U.S. Department of Transportation to seek antitrust immunity for a new joint venture on flights between the United States and Mexico (a decision had not been made as of press time), Ferri did provide insight into the importance of partners around the region.
WHAT'S BEHIND DELTA'S DECISION TO GROW IN LATIN AMERICA?
Our investments in the region are a strategic response to growth and opportunities. The region has an emerging middle class that has grown 50 percent from 2003 to 2009, which fuels the economy. Brazil and Mexico are key growth drivers over the next six years. Corporate travel between the U.S. and Latin American countries has increased 14 percent year-over-year for the last three years, and GDP in Latin American countries is forecast to grow 4 percent per year through 2020, and beyond.
WHAT ARE DELTA'S EXPECTATIONS ON LATIN AMERICA'S MIDDLE CLASS?
A stronger middle class represents increased purchasing capacity, and the U.S. remains an aspiration destination across the region. This is resulting in a projected air traffic annual growth of 6.9 percent over the next 20 years--also among the highest in the world. Growing the Delta business both organically and through our partners is our main focus, as is transforming Delta's position in the region to a durable long-term enterprise.
HOW STRONG IS DELTA TODAY IN LATIN AMERICA?
We are well-positioned to succeed, with more than 1,400 weekly flights to 51 destinations in 30 countries across the region, as well as the partnerships with GOL Linhas Aereas Inteligentes in Brazil, Aeromexico in Mexico and Aerolineas Argentinas in Argentina.
DELTA HAS THE STATED GOAL OF BECOMING THE "BEST" U.S. AIRLINE IN LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN. WHAT'S YOUR DEFINITION OF THE WORD "BEST?"
Best represents products, service delivery, network reach, as well as every other aspect of the travel experience being laser-focused on the customer and, in the case of Latin America, with special emphasis on the needs and expectations of the Latin and U.S. Hispanic customer.