Unless anything changes at the last minute, Panama is set to open up its airspace on 22 July. The Central American country has been closed since 22 March, leaving its State carrier, Copa Airlines, on the ground. Additionally, its central hub, Tocumen International Airport, has already felt the impact of the crisis that could lead to furloughs. Let’s investigate further.
Everything is ready, says IATA
Panama’s air transport industry relies heavily on its State carrier, Copa Airlines, and Tocumen International Airport. It also depends on transit passengers as Tocumen serves as an airport for connections between South and North America.
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According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Panama is ready to open up its airspace. In a press conference, Peter Cerdá, regional vice-president of IATA for the Americas, said the country has set the correct sanitary protocols to start flying again.
During the last few months, Tocumen International Airport closed to the commercial flying public. Nevertheless, Copa Airlines has operated a few humanitarian flights which have allowed the hub to keep operative. The airport authorities seized this opportunity to install health protocols that will help when the hub opens up again.
Meanwhile, Copa Airlines is also training its workforce to be ready when the airspace is finally open. Although, the Panamanian carrier has said that it won’t start flying on 23 July, but not until 7 August.
Conoce cómo nuestros equipos se están capacitando en los nuevos protocolos de bioseguridad, a través de sesiones virtuales y presenciales. Sus áreas también se están adecuando para garantizar su bienestar mientras se preparan para cuando vuelvas.
— Copa Airlines (@CopaAirlines) July 9, 2020
Panama will create a health corridor
As we’ve said before, Panama works as a stopping point for many travelers. Tocumen is the hub from which Copa Airlines flies to every country in America.
With that in mind, the Panamanian Government is planning to create a health corridor for humanitarian flights.
According to the local news site Informe Aéreo, Panama is looking to create an exclusive zone inside Tocumen Airport to receive humanitarian flights before they fly elsewhere.
The passengers that would land in this “mini humanitarian hub,” wouldn’t have to go through customs while waiting for their next flight, said Luis Francisco Sucre, Health Minister in Panama.
Raffoul Arab, manager of the airport, said that the biggest challenge is to keep Tocumen as a leading hub in the region. He added that the airport has a biosafety plan approved under the international regulations.
If Panama were to start this humanitarian hub, it could help people return to their homes if they’re stranded in Latin American countries with low connectivity.
Will Tocumen start furloughs?
This week, the Tocumen International Airport announced that it has to suspend an undisclosed number of employees due to the current crisis.
The temporary reduction of staff will last at least 30 days, the airport said in a statement seen by Simple Flying. Nevertheless, it can extend the measure, but at no point does this mean an involuntary furlough. The airport authorities said,
“We hope that when the Government lifts the ban on international flights, (…), we can establish, all together, the activities that happened daily at Tocumen International Airport.”
This measure also helps to maintain a small number of workers inside the international airport. The Panamanian Government ordered that there shouldn’t be more than 25% of the workforce at any given point during the pandemic.
Are you expecting to travel to Panama in the following months? Let us know in the comments.