Guayaquil Mayor Goes To Extreme Lengths To Stop Rescue Flights

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**Update: 20/03/20 @ 10:57 UTC – Official statement received from KLM, included below.**

On March 18th, two repatriation flights were unable to land at Guayaquil Airport in Ecuador due to the runway being blocked. If the aircraft in question had flown close enough to the airport, all they would have seen was pick-up trucks and other vehicles dotting the runway that they were supposed to land on. The reason for this? Guayaquil’s mayor was trying to “protect the city from the arrival of people who may have caught coronavirus.”

One aircraft that couldn’t land was Iberia flight 6453, operated by an Airbus A340. Photo: Mark Harkin via Flickr

Repatriation flights affected

According to One Mile at a Time (OMAAT), two repatriation flights, operated by Iberia and KLM flew to Ecuador in order to bring home citizens of their respective countries.

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However, as Iberia 6453 from Madrid neared the airport, the crew of the aircraft were informed that they were denied permission to land. Because of this, they had to divert to the nation’s capital of Quito. It was the same for KLM flight 755 from Amsterdam. That plane too had to divert to Quito.

Below is helicopter footage that shows the runway being blocked by officials from the municipality of Guayaquil. This includes police vehicles:

The mayor of Guayaquil takes credit for the decision to block the runway and deny landing to the international aircraft. This was apparently done in order to protect the city from people who may have been infected by the coronavirus.

The unfortunate thing was that these were repatriation missions. As such, the flights only had crew on board, without any inbound passengers. OMAAT reports that the aircraft and their respective crews were supposed to spend a night in Guayaquil before returning home with stranded citizens. Of course, whether or not there were passengers on board, the mayor’s actions would seem to be an obvious case of breaking protocol.

The mayor’s actions

According to corporate pilot and the source of the above helicopter footage, Chris Clarke, the Municipality of Guayaquil entered the runway without authorization from the airport authority.

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The Aviation Herald reports that Ecuador’s government had agreed to both repatriation flights of Spanish and Dutch citizens. But defending herself, the Mayor claimed that Ecuador’s government had ordered a lockdown and that nobody was allowed to enter or leave Guayaquil. Therefore, sending an aircraft with 11 passengers to enter Guayaquil would violate the law and endanger the local population. The mayor, Cynthia Viteri, assumed responsibility for instructing city vehicles to be driven onto the runway.

Flight path of IB6453 – diverting to Quito before reaching the original destination of Guayaquil. Photo: FlghtRadar24.com

Investigating the incident

The government states that the flights had been planned in coordination with the Emergency Operations Committee. This is apparently the only authority that has jurisdiction over the airport and its operation. The country’s Ministry of Transport blames Guayaquil’s mayor’s office for hindering coordinated air traffic within emergency operations and disobeying specific orders issued under emergency conditions.

An investigation has been opened by Ecuador’s prosecution office against the Mayor of Guayaquil. It claims that she had no jurisdiction over the airport and thus endangered the foreign nationals, who had already moved to the airport.

KLM, Boeing 777-300, Boeing Order
KLM flight 755 was operated by a Boeing 777. Photo: KLM

Below is a statement provided by KLM to Simple Flying:

“We flew empty from Amsterdam to Quito in accordance with the travel restrictions of the Ecuadorian government. There we picked up 185 passengers with destination Amsterdam to be repatriated. We wanted to continue to Guyaquil to pick up another 164 passengers for repatriation. However, the Mayor of Guyaquil did not permit landing, despite the fact that no one would leave the aircraft in Guyaquil. So we flew back to Amsterdam from Quito and had to leave those passengers. Fortunately today and Sunday we are allowed to pick up our passengers (Amsterdam-Quito-Guyaquil-Amsterdam),”

Conclusion

All in all, 170 Dutch citizens boarded the Boeing 777-200 in Quito. As for Spanish nationals and the Iberia flight, no numbers were available. However, we know that about 200 Spanish and Dutch citizens in total were waiting for their Iberia and KLM aircraft in Guayaquil.

This appears to be a case of extreme paranoia and over-caution. In most situations around the world, the municipal government has no involvement in the operation of an international airport. Most often this is left to the federal government in conjunction with the country’s civil aviation authority. Therefore, it seems like the mayor’s defense is rather weak with her actions being extremely out of line.

What do you think of this incident? And if you were involved in this situation let us know what it was like from your perspective by leaving a comment!

Simple Flying contacted the airlines involved in this incident for comment. However, no responses were received at the time of publishing.

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Anonymous

Jesus… The world is going mad…

Norm

This is schizophrenic behavior or Show of Power between State and

Tom

Holy cow, that is almost dead if the planes land on top of the vehicles. Since driving your cars out into the runway is a deadly no-no this can cause an accident on the runway.

Nicholas Barton

I am a UK citizen currently trapped in Guayaquil and I salute the efforts of the Dutch and Spanish to try and get their people out and view the action of the mayor of Guayaquil as shameful. I have tried to contact the UK honorary consul here to see if our government has any similar plans but so far have not even had a reply which might indicate that they knew or cared I am here.

Nicholas Barton

The mayor of Guayaquil has tested positive for the Coronavirus; there is justice sometimes !

Anonymous

They should throw this woman in jail! She’s a total lunatic.
Endangering flights and national health. She should be happy for all the foreigners to leave her city.

Michal

Dear Sir,
Thank you for this article and highlighting the issue to whole public. Thanks to the bravery of a local mayor, we are now stranded in Guayaquil without any knowledge if and when we will be able to return home. The situation in Guayaquil is dire. With all shops and restaurants closed and imposed curfew hour starting already 2pm , it is even very difficult to get any food here.

I’d wish to thank KLM airline who does all its best to bring all passengers stranded in Ecuador and sincerely hope the airline efforts will not get jeopardized again by local major acting like a cowboy with no respect to existing laws. Our next hope is KLM flight KL755 scheduled to take us home on Sunday.
Best Regards

Edith Salamone

THAT IS HAPPENING IN ECUADOR, BECAUSE ALMOST ALL POLITICIANS ARE THINKING THAT ALL COUNTRY BELONGS TO THEM, THEY ARE TOO AUTHORITATIVE.

Ale

She is the only responsible for causing distress to all those passengers who were willing to fly home, interrumping the job of an airline, breaking the legal regulations, damaging the reputation of a country for taking irresponsible decisions. In order to avoid any trial, she now says she got the Covid-19 which seems to be a complete lie. She should be judged nationally and internationally, and be removed from her charge.

Alexa

She is the only responsible for causing distress to all those passengers who were willing to fly home, interrumping the job of an airline, breaking the legal regulations, damaging the reputation of a country for taking irresponsible decisions. In order to avoid any trial, she now says she got the Covid-19 which seems to be a complete lie. She should be judged nationally and internationally, and be removed from her charge.

TonyTTDK

There seems to be a lot of self-righteous outrage here.

TonyTTDK

No lives were endangered as the aircraft were told not to land by ATC

TonyTTDK

The passengers

William Gair

She did the right thing. Governments have been to slow to react. Good for you Mayor!

Cindy McNab

I think that it was a bit reckless. They should be trying to help us stranded tourists get out of their country because if we get sick it’s at their cost to look after us. It’s great to hear that other countries are flying in empty planes to take their citizens home. At present our Australian government aren’t offering us anything but just saying to get home. My husband and I and about 500 other tourists from various countries are stuck here on the Galápagos Islands with not a plane in sight and no information as to when there will be one. It’s over 1000km off Ecuador. Most things have closed and we can not even set foot on the beach. It’s all a wait and see game.
Good luck and good health to everyone in this extremely difficult time.

William Gair

Time to open up a secure maximum security cell for this twit. The actions here are not defensible in any manner shape or form. The people stranded in Equador need to have an opportunity to leave in a safe and proper manner according to international law and treaties which allow repatriation of nationals from one county to another. This kind of xenophobia only makes the situation worse, and there is no medical justification for stopping this set of flights to proceed as planned.

Liesbeth

Why isn’t there any communication about if all the passengers can go on the KLM flight today?
Everone is waiting without knowing!

Alexa

She is the only responsible for causing distress to all those passengers who were willing to fly home, interrumping the job of an airline, breaking the legal regulations, damaging the reputation of a country for taking irresponsible decisions. In order to avoid any trial, she now says she got the Covid-19 which seems to be a complete lie. She should be judged nationally, internationally, and be removed from her charge.

Susan Champa

Today at two pm the last American charter is leaving Guayaquil without me. I was willing to pay the $1099 price for the ticket but was unable to get transportation to Guayaquil from Cuenca. No answer at the consulate office just a long recorded message that has no information on the current situation. I came to Ecudor in early January and could never foresee this outcome. I am 75 and completely alone. The State Department really has no interest in getting involved. So much for your Embassy is there for you. No commercial flights until after April 21. I just may go crazy here.

anonymous

I believe that this person has to be evaluated to determine if she is qualified to direct the institution for which she was chosen (mayor), this action shows a lack of common sense, logic, ignorance of the rules of a State (Ecuadorian), with this In action, this person also demonstrates a certain psychological disturbance known as narcissism, it seems that she does not care about any circumstance, no matter how serious the only purpose is to appear, now that she realizes the seriousness of her situation to attract certain Sympathy of the people declares themselves ill with the corona virus (covid 19). In addition to a criminal investigation, I think it should be evaluated psychologically.

Jane Tian

I am an us citizen. My husband and I and couple of our friends are trapped in Santa Cruz, awaiting latam to take us to Guayaquil today, from there we already purchased eastern airlines’ flight to take us home. Yesterday the mayor’s mad movement disturbed the entire operation and latam had cancelled our flight to Guayaquil. We continue trapped in Santa Cruz. I don’t understand why she did what she did.

Ccpmaddog@gmail.com

The pilots should had say we are dumping fuel and crash land anyway like it or not!

Anonymous

The ministry of transportation in Ecuador said that the city is blocked. After that he said that those flights weren’t supposed bro land in Guayaquil. The next day when all the problems came up. He said that the mayor acted on her own. To be honest if they are going to investigate the mayor they should consider all those declarations from the ministry of transportation.

Charles cuzack

She should be fired and fined with her personal income

A D..new York

This is the kind of ignorant uneducated Garbage foreigners have to deal with in Ecuador… believe it or not the natives think that getting close to a foreigner will give the covid 19…they refuse us hotel rooms and taxi rides…God bless America and Europe

Moises

I am from Guayaquil and I think this is the most stupid thing she could have ever done, but her politic party has always thought this city is something of their property and no one, even the State, can decide to do something in “their” city. I feel embarrassed because of the Major we have.

Awareness

People in this post taking to lightly coronavirus desease.

We are talking about a pandemic situation. Ecuador is not a 1st world country with this best technology nor the best health care.

A nations and collective health must be in 1sr place before individual interests.

As an ex H1n1 patient that was put in quarantine years ago in the hospital I know what it feels to be in that situation.

Mayor Cynthia’s V. Politically speaking her decision was incorrect but still was the correct decision for the security and health for the whole city and their people.

Today Ecuador has around almost 600 cases of confirmed coronavirus and increasing each day, most of them are concentrated in guayaquil.

Mike

Am sorry but if people had listen to the world health organization you would have taking your butts home to your home countries. This is what happened when people think everything is a joke. I got my parents out of Jamaica the first week the USA had its first case. I wanted them back in the USA with me.

Mike Miller

Vigilante justice is alive and well in Ecuador.

Paola Ceballos

I think the mayor, Cynthia Viteri is a very smart woman who CARES about her people. God bless her. She is the best and I fully support and agree with her decision. If everyone did that we would have less cases of coronavirus.

Paola Ceballos

Your accusations are stupid

Bob Witt

In stark contrast the Brazilian Government allowed 100+ South Americans (who tested negative for the virus but didn’t have American Visas ) stranded on a cruise ship in San Diego to land in Sao Paulo and be put up in a local hotel. They will all be flown home within the next few days. The port authority in San Antonio Chile wouldn’t accept them so they traveled all the way to San Diego with other American and British passengers. The San Diego port authority took several days to finally be pursuaded. It’s really sad to see the selfish nature of those in power. Bear in mind they were literally taken by bus from the cruise ship to the steps of a chartered flight. Not even stepping foot on American soil.
The celebrity cruise ship had the flights chartered. It cost the port authorities nothing.
These are the times that leaders with common sense and compassion rise to the occasion.
Often those who claim to be the most liberal and caring are the ones who lack basic common sense and are most worried about themselves and their political career. Kudos Brazil and Bolsonaro !