The government has banned the sale of tickets for all commercial flights to and from Argentina until September, adding that it will fine companies that ignore the new rules.
The decision underlines the Alberto Fernández administration's intention to block all air travel – to, from and within Argentina – until that date, as part of its effort to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Only flights carrying cargo and those involved in the repatriation of citizens, both to and from the country, will be allowed to operate under the rules currently in place.
Argentina has been under a nationwide lockdown since March 20, with exemptions for citizens designated as essential workers. Last Saturday evening, President Fernández extended the mandatory quarantine period until May 10.
The news was confirmed via the publication of two decrees in Monday's Official Gazette, with the National Administration of Civil Aviation (ANAC) stating that operators that carry passengers "from, towards, or within" Argentina can apply for the rescheduling or authorisation of flights from "the first of September of 2020." ANAC also authorised the re-selling of tickets for flights that are scheduled to begin on after that date.
“It has been understood to be reasonable to set September 1, 2020 for the purpose of rescheduling regular operations or requesting authorisations for non-regular operations of passenger air transport subject to the effective lifting of restrictions imposed on commercial air transport and operating modalities,” the ANAC said in its decree, adding that the move was "subject to the effective lifting of the [existing] restrictions imposed on commercial air transport" being lifted.
The government justified its move on the basis of the "unprecedented situation" caused by the pandemic, saying the current measures in place do "not allow certainties regarding the end of the social isolation measure, preventive and mandatory, which threatens the commercial air transport of passengers," It also left the door open, should the existing lockdown be extended further.
According to reports, the decree was issued in an attempt to prevent airlines from selling tickets for flights that were not yet authorised by the Argentine government.
ANAC warned that some airlines are promoting, either by themselves or by third parties, the sale of tickets for currently scheduled flights, without having obtained authorisation beforehand.
Local industry groups said the decree, which they denied had been discussed with them before, was putting thousands of jobs at "imminent and substantial risk."