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Brazil Air Travel Demand Triples Since 2002

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BRASILIA, Brazil -- Demand for flights in Brazil has nearly tripled in the past decade, authorities said Wednesday. That is straining a system that is under pressure to prepare for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

Brazil's civil aviation agency said demand for air travel rose 194 percent in 10 years. Demand in 2011 alone increased 16 percent over the previous year.

In 2002, airlines flew 34.3 million passengers on flights originating in Brazil. That rose to 107.8 million last year, the agency reported.

While airlines are enjoying the boom, air travelers are suffering from packed airports, jumps in ticket prices, and routine delays often caused by woeful airport infrastructure, from poor runways to problems with radar systems that air control operators rely upon.

At least seven airports in the nation require substantial work to make improvements Brazilian officials promised in winning the right to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. The work on the airports is expected to be the most expensive part of Brazil's preparations for the events.

Officials have said the total investment on airport upgrades has jumped from 5.5 billion reals ($3.2 billion) at the beginning of 2011 to 6.4 billion reals ($3.7 billion) by the end of the year.

The government has said all airport upgrades will be finished in time for the World Cup, but none will be fully ready before the Confederations Cup to be held in 2013, the important warmup tournament for the World Cup.

Government officials previously said that five airports were expected to be ready by June 2013, when the Confederations Cup begins, but acknowledged recently that none will be completed by then. Among the key airports being upgraded are those in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

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