The Peruvian Government has given domestic flights the green light to resume from July 15. The decision follows calls from local industry groups to kickstart the aviation sector. The vast majority of scheduled flights in Peru and across the wider region are not running. This has crippled regional airlines and threatened the ongoing viability of the sector post COVID.
“They can’t hold out beyond July; we have to begin planning for domestic flights in Latin America to be in the air soon and then shortly restart international flights,” IATA’s regional vice president for the Americas, Peter Cerda, said last month.
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A state of emergency cripples Peru’s aviation sector
Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport is currently closed. On June 26, Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra signed a decree extending Peru’s national state of emergency through ’til the end of July. International borders are remaining closed except for repatriation flights.
But IATA has argued that Latin American countries, including Peru, need to keep their airlines flying. They say local airlines and the industries they sustain face falling off a financial cliff otherwise. Already, three big airlines in the region have filed for bankruptcy protection.
In early May, Colombia’s national airline, Avianca, filed for bankruptcy protection in a US court. Avianca is Latin America’s second-largest airline. Just weeks later, Latin America’s largest airline, LATAM Airlines and its affiliates in Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador, filed for bankruptcy protection. Then, a week ago, Aeromexico went down that same well-trodden path.
In this environment, industry pundits said many airlines in Latin and South America could disappear as a result of COVID-19. That would inevitably lead to less competition and higher ticket prices.
IATA expects Latin American airlines to lose $4 billion this year on the back of an $18 billion drop in revenue. Currently, 93% of scheduled flights across the region are not running. IATA has called for governments in Argentina, Panama, Columbia, and Peru to restart some flying to help resuscitate the struggling industry.
Calls for other countries to follow Peru’s lead
The Peruvian Government appears to be heeding the call. Domestic flights will resume in mid-July. It follows liaison between local airlines, airports, and the government to set up health protocols and procedures for passengers passing through Peru’s airports.
That’s encouraged industry groups to call for other countries in the region to follow Peru’s example.
“We encourage other countries in the region to follow the example of the Peruvian government and authorize the reactivation of air transport, which is critical for the socio-economic development of all the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Rafael Echevarne, Director General of airport industry group, Airports International Council.
Mr Echevarne points out the big role airlines and tourism plays in the region. In usual times, 4.4 million people visit Peru every year. Those visitors contribute 2.6% of Peru’s GDP. The visitors and the airlines that fly in these visitors contribute billions of dollars annually to local businesses.
While COVID-19 continues to cause problems in Latin America, some countries in the region have successfully resumed some limited flying, subject to health protocols. As Mr Echevarne points out, if they can do it, so can Peru.