Argentina, which has one of the strictest travel bans in the world, is planning to resume commercial flights sooner than expected.
The country may reopen travel as soon as mid-August as infection rates drop in some major cities around the world, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. Some European countries are considered among destinations for the first flights because key cities have eased their lockdowns with the number of reported cases dropping, said the person, asking not to be named because the discussions are private.
Argentina implemented some of the earliest and most uncompromising measures in Latin America to halt the spread of the virus. Back in April, the country announced that airlines can only sell plane tickets and operate regularly after Sept. 1. Now, Argentina is looking to authorize flights with a maximum passenger capacity of 70%, said the person.
Flag carrier Aerolineas Argentinas SA will review some of its international destinations, the person said, without providing further details on how and when this plan will be implemented. The government wants the airline to focus on domestic and regional flights.
Domestic operations may begin even sooner than foreign ones. While flights between cities — excluding the capital, Buenos Aires — will start gradually from mid-July, those including the city will start operating during the first half of August. The country’s coronavirus cases are concentrated in the capital and its metropolitan area, where a strict lockdown remains in place, while several other provinces haven’t recorded cases for several weeks.
Among Latin America destinations, Uruguay and Paraguay may be the first ones for travelers once regional flights resume, the person added.
All airplanes to and from Buenos Aires will only operate from Ezeiza International Airport for at least 120 days, while local airport Aeroparque Jorge Newbery undergoes runway expansion and maintenance. A decision to reopen low-cost airport El Palomar, formerly a military base, remains on hold.
The Transport Ministry is also in talks with regional development bank CAF and the Inter-American Development Bank to receive $50 million of financing from each, with the aim of boosting radar and weather systems in airports across the country, the person said.