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Brazilian-born Robert "Bobby" Booth served as an airline executive in Uruguay, Peru and the United States and became the leading expert on Latin America's aviation sector.
Robert Booth receives the Federico Bloch Award in December 2007.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
People

Bobby Booth, Airline Apasionado, Dies at 84


Robert “Bobby” Booth became the leading expert on Latin America’s aviation sector.

BY JOACHIM BAMRUD

Robert “Bobby” Booth, the Chairman of AvGroup and Publisher of AirWaves, passed away on April 11, 2013 following surgery for a broken hip. He was 84.

A longtime airline executive, he became known in later years as the foremost expert on Latin America’s fast-changing aviation sector. He published a well-regarded newsletter Aviation Latin America and the Caribbean and organized key conferences on the sector. He also played a key role in the formation of LatinPass by 16 Latin American carriers.

Up to the very end, Booth was an enthusiastic commentator on Latin America’s aviation sector. A recent edition of AirWaves included his comments on Mexican airlines increasing international traffic in 2013 and Volaris launching a new route between Tijuana and Cancun. As always he ended his notes with an enthusiastic “Viva.”

In 1999 he wrote the book Airline Pasionado, with the latter a play on the words Passion and Aficionado.

In the book he pointed out that commercial aviation in Latin America began about six years before the United States.

The CEO conference started in 1993 and became a yearly must-attend event for the airline sector in Latin America. The event (mostly held in Miami) gathered top CEOs from Latin American airlines as well as CEOs from major foreign airlines operating in the region. Keynote speakers have included Bob Crandall from American Airlines, JetBlue and Azul founder David Neeleman, Gordon Bethune from Continental and Leo Mullin from Delta

“Major changes were taking place,” AvGroup said in an overview of the CEO conference. “American Airlines had acquired the Latin American routes from Eastern Airlines which had acquired them from Braniff in the early 1980s. American was changing the nature of the competition in the region with high frequency service, a frequent flyer program and a very aggressive approach to the market. The idea was to provide a forum for the Latin American carriers to agree to work together.”

Booth -- who was born in Brazil, but grew up in Uruguay -- began his involvement with the airline industry as a ticket agent for Pan American in Montevideo, Uruguay, later joining Braniff International as the off-line sales representative, moving up to various managerial positions before leaving as corporate vice president for sales based in Dallas, Texas.

After serving as president of Interandina de Publicidad S.A  in Lima for two years, he was named Advisor to the President, AeroPeru in 1977. The following year he became Senior Vice President for Marketing at Air Florida. Four years later – in 1983 – he was appointed Executive Vice President/COO, Northeastern International. After a brief stint as President for Airline Management and Marketing, Inc. he became President and CEO of Challenge Air International in 1986.

In 1988 he started his career as a consultant and commentator on Latin American aviation through AvGroup, Inc. in Miami, where he worked closely with his son Guy.

Booth received many awards during his career, including the Federico Bloch Award in 2007 from the Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association (ALTA). The award was named after the late Federico Bloch, who was the CEO of Salvadorian airline TACA

"No one deserves this recognition more than Bobby," Pedro Heilbron, the President and CEO of Copa Airlines in Panama, said at the ceremony, held in Cancun, Mexico. "Bobby's contributions to the aviation industry in Latin America and the Caribbean for more than 57 years have been truly outstanding. He has been an instrumental industry spokesman for air transport in the region and a fundamental promoter of cooperation and unity of the airlines of the region. "

Last year, Boeing in cooperation with ALTA honored him with an appreciation dinner for his many contributions to the development of the Latin American airline industry.

Booth also received the Air Cargo Americas Achievement Award in 1997; The Travel Agent Magazine Latin American Airline Person of the Year Award in 1998; The GMAA Wright Brothers Award in 1999 and the Routes Life Time Achievement Award in 2008.

His enthusiasm didn’t only limit itself to aviation, but also to Latin America.

At one point he published some joking advice on doing business in the region. Key highlights included:

  • Be patient.
  • Never trust a Colombian who doesn’t drink coffee.
  • Never trust a Chilean who doesn’t drink wine.
  • Be patient.

A native of Brazil, Bobby was educated in the British School in Montevideo, Uruguay. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Martha, his daughter, Valerie, his sons Robbie and Guy, four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Joachim Bamrud is the editor-in-chief of Latinvex. He interviewed Bobby Booth numerous times during the past 20 years.

 

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