International and domestic commercial flights to and from Argentina could restart next month, according to reports.
Multiple outlets, both local and international, said Friday that officials are planning to end one of the world’s strictest coronavirus travel bans in the coming weeks, with October pencilled in as a potential restart date for international connections.
Flights have been grounded in Argentina since March 20, when the government imposed a nationwide lockdown to tackle the spread of Covid-19 in Argentina, 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.
Speaking Friday, Transport Minister Mario Meoni said that his team had finished drawing up health and safety protocols for both passengers and aviation staff and were in the process of presenting them to the Presidency.
He confirmed that talks on the matter had taken place with Cabinet Chief Santiago Cafiero and said he hoped news of an announcement would be ready “in the next few days.”
"We have finalised the aeronautical transport protocols, with the different operators of the system. Not only the protocol for passengers inside the plane, but also for their reception in airports,” said Meoni.
Quoting an anonymous government source, Reuters reported that companies would be given 30 days to prepare for flights to restart, though the official stressed that the ultimate decision to put planes in the sky had not been taken by President Alberto Fernández.
“We have a unified protocol and we are submitting a proposal to the president for the resumption of domestic flights next month,” said Meoni.
"Obviously, we understand that there are situations in which some provinces will limit the possibilities of flying, but giving the power to each of them, so that you have the definitive option of saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the arrival of a domestic flight or from a certain province, added the minister.
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 are increasing pressure on the government to restart flights. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) this 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.”