The Argentinian Government issued a decree banning all commercial flights in the country until 1 September 2020. This measure is the latest taken to fight back the current coronavirus pandemic but international aviation organizations are opposing it. At the time of writing, Argentina has 3,892 active cases and 192 deaths. Let’s investigate further.
How did this happen?
The National Civil Aviation Administration (ANAC) of Argentina published the decree during the weekend. It says,
“It is reasonable to establish 1 September 2020 as the day to reschedule the regular operations and the solicitation of non-regular operations of passenger air transport.”
Additionally, the new decree states that airlines now can sell plane tickets from this date forward. But it also adds it hasn’t set this date in stone and it may push it back even further.
Argentina has closed off the country to non-essential international travel since 20 March, and this is currently due to expire on 10 May. With this measure, Argentina becomes the first country in Latin America to forbid commercial passenger flights well into the third quarter of this year.
A few weeks ago, French President Emmanuel Macron also predicted that commercial flights in Europe might not happen until September. But European countries have yet to establish a ban such as this.
IATA, ALTA, and ACI make an urgent call to Argentinian authorities
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Latin American and the Caribbean Air Transport Association (ALTA) and Airport Council International (ACI) published a joint statement urging the Argentinian authorities against this measure.
These organizations stated their deep concern regarding the resolution, “especially since no consultation process took place.”
They also claimed that forbidding commercial flights until September puts at risk the survival of airlines in the country. Consequently, it also puts at risk thousands of jobs and the connectivity of Argentina with the world. As newspaper La Nacion stated: “the paralyzed air system could generate a massive bankruptcy of airlines, except for Aerolíneas Argentinas and Austral, which are state-owned.”
The airports in the country are also in danger. Approximately 80% of their incomes come from commercial passenger flights, said ALTA. It added that Argentinian airports must face this difficult situation and remain open, allowing cargo and humanitarian flights.
The travel and tourism sector contributes 10% of Argentina’s GDP and generates 9.4% of the jobs in the country.
Argentinian air transport industry is at risk
There is no doubt that Aerolíneas Argentinas is still the biggest airline in the country. It has a good portion of the traffic in and out of Argentina. And most importantly, it is state-owned with little chance that it will go under with the crisis.
But other airlines in the country are under a lot of pressure, especially the low-cost airlines which had so much trouble flying into the country in the first place. For example, we have airlines such as Flybond and JetSmart.
A few weeks ago, LATAM’s Argentina CEO said that the carrier would have its fourth year in a row with economic losses. We tried to reach both Aerolíneas Argentinas and Flybondi for comment to no avail. We’ll update this article if they respond.
At the beginning of April, IATA estimated that Argentina could lose US$2.4 billion due to the pandemic. The organization also asked for relief measures to help the industry. Now, with the new decree, the country could very easily double or triple up its losses if the ban stands until September.
“We are faced with an extremely complex scenario, in which airlines still need to cover about 50% of their fixed costs, while not generating any income. Unfortunately, many companies in the sector will not be able to survive if this resolution is implemented as planned,” IATA, ALTA, and ACI stated.
What do you think of the Argentinian government’s measure? Is September too far away? Let us know in the comments.