After a decade of steady growth, Ecuador’s airline industry recorded a drop in the number of passengers on domestic flights in 2012, according to figures from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
The number of air travel passengers fell 6% over the previous year, the statistics show. There were 4 million passengers in 2011 compared to 3.7 million in 2012.
The primary reason for the drop, according to DGCA, was the elimination of a jet fuel subsidy in January 2012 for the airports in Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca, Manta, Loja and Esmeraldas. The subsidy continues for flights going to smaller airports.
Guillermo Bernal, president of the National Airlines Association said that the elimination of the subsidy forced airlines to adjust the size of operations in the country, which resulted in a reduction in the number of flights.
"As an industry we knew this would happen, and we knew we would have to raise ticket prices as a result," said Bernal. “Higher ticket prices means fewer passengers.”
Bernal says that 2013 could see a “level year” in terms of the number of passengers, and possibly another slight drop. “The new airport in Quito, because of transportation problems back and forth to the city, could reduce business travel in the country. We are all curious to see how the numbers play out.”
Ecuador’s largest national carriers are Lan Ecuador, Tame and AeroGal which provide service between Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca, Manta, Loja and Esmeraldas. Several small carriers provide service to smaller airports.
Ecuador begins early education program
President Rafael Correa inaugurated the state’s first Childhood Buen Vivir (Good Living) Centre in Stella Maris, near Guasmo Sur in Guayaquil April 14.
The building conforms to a new concept of childcare that the government wants to implement around the country. It will provide comprehensive care, including a nursing station, motor skills development, rest areas and recreation development. The Guayaquil center has space for 60 kids ages 1 to 4.
The center, named Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, will be staffed by a coordinator, a doctor, six early childhood educators and security guards.
Helen Paredes attended the opening. She said that five years ago, she and her husband were looking for childcare in Guasmo Sur because they both worked. “I didn’t want them just to watch my child, I wanted them to be treated right, given healthy food, and education. But people would tell us that at all the local nurseries children were mistreated.”
She got involved at the old Stella Maris childhood development centre (before the government redesign) and was pleased with its treatment of her children. She says they were taught how to dress themselves, eat and be tidy.
But the new centre will be even more professionalized, she says. The instruction will include early education and healthy eating. There will be spaces for children to do music, dance, theatre, language skills, arts and crafts.
“It’s a new model in childhood development,” said the president at the opening. He said that the era of nurseries run by volunteer mothers, operating without much funding needs to end, and that it put the young ones at risk.
“Here, every child will learn motor skills, expand intellectually, count with nutrition programs and get four meals a day,” he said. Parenting courses will also be offered.
The centre cost $400,000 to build. Over the next four years, the government expects to open 250 similar early childhood education centres around the country.
Photo caption: Quito's new airport.