Argentina's decision to limit the number of daily international arrivals in an attempt to curb the spread of Covid-19 runs the risk of stranding thousands of its citizens abroad, according to airline industry groups.
The government, which has already banned foreign tourists from entering the country for the past few months, announced late on Friday that only 600 travellers per day will be allowed to enter the country via international flights, down from the previous quota of 2,000 people. The measure, which took effect on Saturday, aims to reduce the movement of people amid rising numbers of Covid-19 cases in the country.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), among other airline groups, called an urgent meeting with government officials to discuss the matter. IATA represents 290 airlines around the world.
"By making these short-term, unilateral decisions, the government runs the risk of further isolating the country," Peter Cerdá, IATA regional vice*president for the Americas, said in a statement issued over the weekend. The measure "will force airlines to leave thousands of passengers abroad, mainly Argentine citizens and residents."
A spokesman for Cabinet Chief Santiago Cafiero, to whom IATA wrote a letter, did not respond to a request for comment.
A spokesman for the Transport Ministry said its officials have no meetings scheduled with IATA, nor does Argentina's National Civil Aviation Administration (ANAC).
Cerdá added that the industry cannot implement the measure in such a short timeframe and that the government is still yet to indicate how the 600 seats allowed will be distributed among airlines. The Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association (ALTA) said that the measure "will continue to reduce the availability of jobs and income" in Argentina, considering the impact on airlines and tourism.
Argentina's flight capacity has been reduced by 82 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels, even before the impact of the new measure.
The government imposed strict travel measures during the pandemic, halting almost all domestic and international flights last year for months. Recently, Covid-19 cases have exploded.
by Patrick Gillespie, Bloomberg