Argentina Shuts Down Air Travel Until September

 - April 27, 2020, 4:57 PM

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.

Airlines can’t start flying in or to Argentina until at least September 1, depending on the status of the coronavirus emergency at that time, civil aviation agency ANAC determined in a resolution published Saturday. A joint statement by the International Air Transport Association, Latin American airlines group ALTA, and regional airport council ACI-LAC condemned the measure as posing an “imminent and substantial risk” to the survival of airlines and airports, endangering thousands of jobs, and severing the “connectivity of Argentina to the world.” The resolution “jeopardizes the travel and tourism sector,” said the groups, which added that authorities did not consult with industry. The decision also runs counter to efforts the associations say are underway by ICAO and the World Health Organization to develop a recovery plan for international aviation.

Argentina took early and strict measures against the virus, closing its borders on March 15, when cases totaled 45, and imposing quarantines on March 20. The country just extended both measures to May 10. The controversial action by president Alberto Fernández, who took office in December after ousting moderate president Mauricio Macri, has proved effective, as Argentina’s 3,892 cases and 192 deaths pale in comparison with Brazil, where the pandemic has grown to 61,888 confirmed cases and 4,205 deaths in a population only five times larger.

Under the previous administration, the country had welcomed several low-cost carriers and had looked to increase regional and overseas tourism to boost the economy. The Fernández government has tended toward isolationism in more than aviation, this week withdrawing from the negotiations of the Mercosul regional trade bloc and this month suspending interest payments on its foreign debt. Argentina’s air transport sector for decades foundered under government protectionism of flag carrier Aerolíneas Argentinas, which during the commercial aviation ban has flown a number of repatriation flights and medical supply airlifts from China.