Brazil's key airports set to go under private sector control

April 28, 2011 at 6:45 AM
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BRASILIA, Brazil, April 28 (UPI) -- Security and management of Brazil's key airports are likely to go under private management follow a government decision to push forward aviation development ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's government launched ambitious plans to modernize the country's major airport in preparation for the two major sport events with an eye on promoting Brazilian cities and international conferencing destinations.

But the plans have been slow in implementation, while officials fret over the time left to prepare for the World Cup.

Major upgrades in both security and airport facilities were cited in published reports on what Brazilian media and officials see as the absolute "must" for Brazil to gain international respectability both for safety and comfort of air travel in and around the country.

Brazilian presidential Chief of Staff Antonio Palocci, in a speech Tuesday to the national economic and development council, said five major airports would be earmarked for what industry analysts described as the first phase of the modernization, which includes automation and general streamlining and tidying up of the services on offer.

The operations and expansion of Brazilian airports is seen as a key issue in the run-up to the 2014 soccer World Cup, which is scheduled to be played across 12 Brazilian cities, and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Aviation analysts joined a media outcry over fears the present infrastructure in Brazil is ill-equipped to deal with the volume of traffic before, during and after the two major sport events.

The government plans to tender concessions for private sector companies to manage two airports in the Sao Paulo state and one in Brasilia, officials said.

Palocci told the national economic and development council, which is led by President Dilma Rousseff, "We want to combine the urgency of the works with public and private investments."

The airports earmarked for private sector management include the Sao Paulo and Brasilia airports and the Viracopos airport in Campinas, about 60 miles north of Sao Paulo.

The government is also looking into ways of opening airports in Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte to private sector development.

Industry experts say Brazil may need to invest more than $21 billion on its plans for developing major airports' long-term capacity for handling passengers during and after the sport events.

Current industry estimates say the airports may need to be equipped to handle up to 310 million passengers a year, compared with about 130 million a year at present. In addition to infrastructural development, that dramatic increase in passenger traffic will also require more skilled staff at every stage of Brazil's aviation development, industry analyst said.

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