Airlines warn travel chaos could mean fans miss World Cup games

Reuters

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Latin America's biggest airlines warned of flight delays and diversions during the soccer World Cup in Brazil as travelers pour into the country's already overcrowded airports, causing some fans to be late for matches or even miss them.

"The problem is going to be that you're not going to have a place to land the plane, so you're going to spend three hours flying in circles," said Brazilian German Efromovich, who controls Colombian airline Avianca, at an air show in Santiago on Thursday.

"And then you fly to another city 300 kilometers away and put the passengers on a bus and they arrive to the game after it's over."

"Then let's see what happens," Efromovich said.

The carriers are concerned that fans will blame them for any logistical problems that cause them to miss games they have paid out hundreds of dollars to attend in the event which kicks off June 12.

"I don't know who's going to win the games, but the airlines are going to lose with the World Cup," said Enrique Cueto, chief executive of the region's largest carrier, LATAM Airlines.

"If you do things right with operations you can wind up with a draw," he said. "You get it wrong and you don't get to a game on time and you'll soon see what you get."

Airlines have already flagged concerns about potential fines from the Brazilian government over delayed flights and lost bags.

Many of Brazil's biggest airports are running beyond capacity after years of neglect by state operator Infraero.

With the clock ticking down before kickoff in 2-1/2 months, Brazil's busiest airport in Sao Paulo is still racing to finish a new terminal and other airports are preparing temporary tents to receive the influx of passengers.

"I think it's going to cost the industry, but it's OK, it's going to be a wonderful spectacle," said Cueto.

(Reporting by Anthony Esposito and Felipe Iturrieta; Editing by Richard Chang)

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