14 August 2020, Bogota, COLOMBIA
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is once again asking both the national government and the mayors of Colombia’s main cities for a clear and precise plan which will allow aviation to restart in the country. Having suspended services for five months, the industry still has not been given a clear path forward on the resumption of operations, further placing its survival in peril, negatively affecting passenger confidence, jeopardizing jobs and cutting the county’s connectivity to the rest of the world.
Aviation has implemented all the necessary biosafety protocols so it can operate in accordance with the authorizations granted by Aerocivil (Colombia’s Civil Aviation Authority), which holds responsibility for the management, regulation and control of the essential public service under the jurisdiction of the national government. All state entities however need to urgently act in a coordinated and centralized manner so the essential air connectivity plan can be implemented, including Bogota’s El Dorado airport which is critical for the country’s economic recovery and air transport sector,
The additional conditions solely imposed on air transport by the Mayor of Bogota, such as monitoring the health of all travelers for 10 days following the flight, will not allow for viable operations from El Dorado. Health checks and contact tracing are the responsibility of the relevant government public health authority.
While Aerocivil proposed the opening of 15 airports in the country, the Mayor of Bogota has announced that she will only allow three routes to be operated, connecting the country’s capital with Cartagena, San Andres and Leticia. These types of restrictions will negatively affect the viability of the airlines, the country’s tourism industry and ultimately the socio-economic wellbeing of its people.
Furthermore, the resumption of international air services also remains unclear. Originally the Minster of Transport had stated that flights could resume as of 1 September, but according to the Mayor’s comments, flying to and from Bogota internationally will not be allowed. This further paralyzes the country’s main point of connectivity, as El Dorado Airport accounts for 80% of Colombia’s international traffic. However, at the same time, the Mayor’s Office of Cartagena is requesting to reactivate its entire international operation, which includes nine destinations to the United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru and Panama, again demonstrating the failure of the national government to centrally manage air transport as a strategic asset for Colombia.
The lack of clarity and contradictory guidelines have generated an incoherent situation, which is not providing the necessary framework for an orderly and sustainable restart of essential air services in Colombia. Furthermore, aviation is being unequally treated compared to other forms of transport – such as overland bus service – which have been authorized to carry out their activities, even during the peak of the pandemic.
In view of the obvious contradiction between national and local authorities, international regulation and the application of unique standards in Colombia, the industry is asking those authorities responsible for providing national leadership and guidelines, to execute their mandate and ensure that the industry can resume the minimum operation of 30% at the 15 airports as currently authorized by Aerocivil as of 1 September 2020.