Could Argentina Remain Closed To Air Traffic Until 2021?

Currently, Argentina is the remaining big market in Latin America that hasn’t allowed commercial aviation activity. For airlines across the region, the lack of certainty in Argentina has been more than a bit of a headache. Now, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects that the South American country may remain shut until next year. Let’s investigate further.

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Argentina hasn’t allowed commercial airline activities since March. Will it continue until next year? Photo: Getty Images.

First, it was September, then October, now 2021?

Argentina was one of the first countries in Latin America to shut its airspace. It did this to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. Nevertheless, that hasn’t worked out, as Argentina currently is in the top 10 countries with the most COVID cases worldwide.

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From early on, the Argentinian Government set a date for reopening the airspace – September 1. During the early months, when no one was expecting the pandemic to drag up to the third and fourth quarter of 2020, IATA said that remaining closed until September was a terrible idea. In the meantime, LATAM Airlines Group pulled out of Argentina, and the Government announced the merger of Aerolíneas Argentinas and Austral.

Then September 1 came and went, and Argentina remained closed. Last week, it was expected that the Government would open up flights between October 12 and 15. Many airlines are already selling tickets in and out of the country, like Aerolíneas and even Aeromexico. So, why are we saying now that Argentina might push its opening date until next year? Because Peter Cerdá, regional vice-president of IATA for the Americas, said so.

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LATAM ceased its operations in Argentina. Photo: Getty Images.

What did he say?

In an interview with Aviation Week, Cerdá said that the latest information he has is that Argentina might not open its airspace for domestic and international flights until 2021. He added,

“What we’re hearing and seeing, although there’s a lot of information that always circulates in the news, is that the lockdown may continue to next year. So, we’ll see if Argentina remains closed through the end of this year and into 2021.”

If this were to be accurate, it would be awful news for the airline industry in Argentina. Besides LATAM Argentina, already three international carriers have ended its commercial services to the country. Air New Zealand ceased its Auckland-Buenos Aires route permanently. Emirates and Qatar Airways did the same. Nevertheless, they will continue to fly to South America as they had a stopover in Brazil.

Also, for Argentina, the high season is just starting. The citizens in the country will remain in lockdown during the summer, said Cerdá. Of course, there are still flights landing in the country from time to time. They’re being branded ‘repatiration flights’ but in many ways are already being commercialized. He added,

“What we’re asking is: let’s formalize the protocols, let’s formalize the scheduled services, even though those may be limited, even though we will see restrictions. Let’s use testing protocols. We understand the Government’s concern about the spread of the virus. Through testing, through the biosafety measures, we can safely transport passengers.” 

Could Argentina Remain Closed To Air Traffic Until 2021?
Aerolíneas Argentinas expect to operate more than 60 humanitarian international flights in October. Photo: Getty Images

What is the Government saying?

The Transportation Minister of Argentina, Mario Meoni, hasn’t been very clear about what the Government plans to do. He recently shifted from what he said last week. Meoni stated that in October, there might be some flights allowed but only for essential workers. He pointed out,

“There are appropriate conditions to allow flights in some provinces, and we are looking to do so. Naturally, we have to see how the pandemic evolves, but, at this point, there is hope.”

Then he added that 30 days ago, some provinces were asking for commercial aviation flights. Now, since many of those provinces have had an increase in the number of COVID cases, they’ve changed their minds.

“Nevertheless, there are over ten governors that have requested flights,” Meoni said.

Finally, Meoni said that if Argentina were to allow more international commercial activity, it would not allow international travelers to enter. It has become a guessing game to know when airlines will fly again in Argentina.

Are you expecting to travel to Argentina any time soon? How do you find the uncertainty? Let us know in the comments.