United States To Limit Aerolineas Argentinas Operations

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) is preparing to limit Aerolineas Argentinas operations. After the Argentinian government has limited the ability for US carriers to operate flights to the country, the DOT is responding in kind. Starting next month, the carrier will need the approval of the DOT for its schedules to the US.

Aerolineas Argentinas
Aerolineas Argentinas will need DOT approval for its schedules from mid-June onwards. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

DOT orders Aerolineas Argentinas to obtain approval for flights

On Monday, May 17th, the DOT notified Aerolineas Argentinas that it must file to obtain prior approval of the DOT to operate flights to the US. The order goes into effect from June 17th. Without DOT approval, Aerolineas Argentinas will not be able to fly passengers to the US.

Aerolineas Argentinas is not outright banned from flying between Argentina and the United States. The carrier is currently flying between Miami International Airport (MIA) and Buenos Aires Ministro Pistarini International Airport (EZE).

Aerolineas Argentinas
Aerolineas Argentinas is the flag carrier of Argentina. Photo: Airbus

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Why is the DOT doing this?

The DOT is doing this in response to concerns about US airlines operating to Argentina. The US and Argentina do not have an Open Skies agreement, meaning airlines need to receive government approval to launch flights between the two countries.

The Government of Argentina has limited international service due to the ongoing crisis. This includes a reduction in the number of entries and exits of passengers. There is also a mandate in effect that international passengers must undergo testing on arrival.

Since February 2021, according to the DOT, US carriers have been subject to forced schedule reductions of anywhere between 33% and 66% from January 2021 flight levels. January 2021 was the last month before restrictions went into effect.

Aerolineas Argentinas is currently flying to Miami. Photo: Airbus

The Argentinian authorities have also limited the arrival and departure times of flights to ensure there is no overcrowding of testing facilities at the airport. The DOT has alleged that the departure and arrival times granted to carriers were not conducive to commercial operations.

The DOT also stated that Aerolineas Argentinas has been expanding its US services since the restrictions went into effect. Using January traffic figures as a baseline, the DOT alleges that Aerolineas Argentinas passenger service reductions will amount to only 18% for April, while one US carrier was prevented from operating to Argentina altogether in the latter half of April.

The DOT’s playbook

The DOT has utilized this method in various cases before. For example, when India reducing flight permission for US carriers and when the Chinese government significantly limited US carriers’ abilities to fly from the United States.

Aerolíneas Argentinas Getty
Aerolíneas Argentinas is the only Argentinian carrier flying between the US and Argentina. Photo: Getty Images.

In both instances, changes were made to allow US airlines to operate more flights to those respective countries, and the DOT responded in kind. A similar scenario may likely play out with Argentina. Or, at least, US and Argentinian carriers will have the same weekly flight permissions to allow for a competitive market.

Aerolineas Argentinas is a member of the SkyTeam alliance, which is the same alliance that Delta Air Lines is a part of. However, Aerolineas Argentinas and Delta are not close partners. The two airlines have a codeshare relationship, but not an extensive partnership like a joint venture. No other Argentinian carrier is flying between the US and Argentina.

Do you think Argentina should allow more flights for US carriers? Let us know in the comments!