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ARGENTINA | 08-09-2020 14:46

Transport minister says 'return of regular flights' may begin on October 1

Commercial flights may begin again on October 1, depending on the progression of the coronavirus pandemic, international border restrictions and provincial regulations on internal movement.

The government says that domestic and international commercial flights may restart in Argentina on October 1.

Speaking Tuesday, Transport Minister Mario Meoni, confirmed recent reports that officials were preparing for the imminent return of commercial aviation, saying that "October 1 is being considered for the return of regular flights, both domestic and international."

He said preparations and talks over the corresponding protocols to lower circulation of the virus were well underway. 

Meoni further clarified that the number of passengers allowed to fly would depend on the opening of international borders and decisions taken by each of Argentina's provincial governments. 

"Logically there will be fewer people who travel on the first flights because of international border restrictions, and the internal movement regulations established by each province,” Meoni told the Telám state news agency.

"The final decision is going to be made in accordance with the Health Ministry and the guidelines established by President Alberto Fernández," he added. "The priority is people's safety and health."

On Tuesday, Argentina passes the barrier of 500,000 infections. More than 10,000 fatalities have been recorded to date.

"That is why, although we are working with the objective of that date, everything will depend on the evolution of the pandemic in the coming days," Meoni specified.

He explained that "regarding international flights, we are going to analyse to which destinations we are going to fly and from which destinations we are going to allow entry into the country."

It is probable, he admitted, "that at first we will begin opening with Uruguay and Paraguay and later with Chile and Brazil, but it will also depend on the decision made by the other countries."

Flights have been grounded in Argentina since March 20, when the government imposed a nationwide lockdown to tackle the spread of Covid-19, shuttering all the country’s borders. Only limited exceptions have been authorised, with most dedicated to the repatriation of Argentines stranded overseas during the coronavirus pandemic.

As for domestic flights, Meoni indicated that "the destinations will depend on the evolution of the pandemic" in each province.

"We have to act prudently and, beyond the companies' needs to fly again, to maintain the health of passengers, crew and workers as a priority issue, both in companies and at the airports," the minister warned.

The minister maintained that “there are protocols defined in each of the flight stages. Many times people think about the protocol of the trip, inside the plane, and the truth is that there are a series of protocols to review, such as the airport worker, those who load the suitcases, the ramp personnel, and the security personnel.”

“We have come together,” he stressed, “in a single protocol for all these areas, which is already finished and agreed upon with the Ministry of Health. Now we are analysing it with the President and the health authorities to decide, depending on how the pandemic evolves, from what moment flights will actually operate again.”

Last week, Meoni also confirmed intentions to allow the restart of all modes of transport, saying that long-distance coach and train options were also in the pipeline, in order to cater to low-income sectors of the population.

Lobby groups have been increasing pressure on the government to restart flights. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) last week called for airports to reopen, warning that “the industry can no longer accept any further postponements.”

“It needs clarification as soon as possible as to when flights can resume, especially since all the [necessary] biosecurity protocols are already in place,” said the organisation.

Peter Cerdá, the IATA’s Vice-President for the Americas, said that further delays would “reduce Argentina’s international connectivity.”

– TIMES/TELAM

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