Bogota - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on Colombia's mayors to take the lead in enabling the restart of air transport in the country, a necessary step to ensure the survival of the sector. Aviation, which plays a vital socio-economic role in the local and national economy and ensures the domestic and international connectivity, is ready to recommence operations with all the necessary protocols and procedures in place.
IATA held a virtual meeting with the authorities of Medellin, Pereira, Palmira, Soledad, along with representatives of the municipalities of Bogota and Barranquilla during which the airlines made the case that despite the current pandemic, there is a need to progressively reactivate aviation and its related industries as these fulfil an essential service for the country.
"We have done our homework and devised the new biosafety protocols and procedures that did not exist four months ago. These ensure that air transport does not become a vector for the transmission of COVID-19," said Peter Cerdá, IATA’s Regional Vice President for the Americas.
Forty “test” flights operated between Bucaramanga-Cúcuta for the last few weeks, transporting 680 passengers. In addition, more than 800 humanitarian flights have been performed repatriating some 70,000 people. Up to now, there have been no reported cases of transmission on these flights.
The sector cannot afford to stay on the ground much longer. The crisis has hit hard, and the extended closure is having a devastating effect on the entire travel value chain. Estimates are that revenues generated by airlines operating in Colombia will fall by 55% in 2020 as compared to the previous year and that 38,484 direct jobs and 307,200 indirect jobs are at risk.
"Aviation in Colombia is a sector of great importance and value. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis it generated more than 600,000 jobs and contributed US$7.5 billion to the country’s GDP," Cerdá said.
Carlos Maya, the mayor of the City of Pereira commented during the meeting that "We mayors were not elected to receive applause. We were elected to work for our citizens, to guarantee the generation of employment and the economic and social growth of our region”.
On behalf of the industry, IATA wishes to thank the authorities for engaging in an open and constructive dialogue with the aim of restarting aviation. The municipalities of Medellin, Pereira and Palmira have indicated that they will allow their airports to reopen, while the sector has reaffirmed its commitment to continue working together to regain traveler confidence. Unfortunately, there seems to be no willingness by the mayor of Bogota to follow her colleagues’ example.
"Bogota is the aviation hub of the country and the mayor has a responsibility to the city and the country to guarantee connectivity. We call on the authorities to consider the reopening of El Dorado Airport and to work with the air transport industry so that it can lend its experience and best practices to make aviation one of the pillars of local and national economic reconstruction after the pandemic," Cerdá said.
Colombia allowed buses to resume service within certain restrictions, however, air transport remains largely closed. Although there is a possibility that the airports will begin domestic operations before 1 September, this decision is in the hands of the mayors, who can ask the Ministry of the Interior to open the economic sectors that are not yet open.
"There is no point in restricting air transport when these services are not a source of contagion. We need to learn to coexist with the virus until a vaccine has been found. Therefore we are asking the authorities to support us in getting the sector up and running as soon as possible. The air transport industry, with its strict biosafety protocols which have been approved by the relevant authorities, needs to be treated in the same way as other modes of transport. Globally and regionally, aviation is being reactivated and Colombia cannot afford to be left behind," Cerdá said.
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Notes for Editors:
- IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 290 airlines comprising 82% of global air traffic.
- You can follow us at twitter.com/iata for announcements, policy positions, and other useful industry information.
- According to a study by Oxford Economics, before the pandemic, air transport contributed - directly and indirectly - some US$7.5 billion to the Colombian economy, equivalent to 2.7% of the country's GDP, and generated some 600,000 direct and indirect jobs. IATA estimates that revenues generated by all airlines present in Colombia could decrease by about US$2.6 billion in 2020, compared to the previous year. In addition, the impact of the pandemic puts at risk more than half of the jobs (339,168) and US$4.24 billion in economic contribution.