IATA Officials Ask Colombian Mayors to Reopen International Airports

International Air Transport Association (IATA) officials this week asked the mayors of several Colombian cities to reopen their international airports and permit airlines to resume operations in the South American nation, saying air transportation plays “a vital socio-economic role in the local and national economy.”

At a virtual meeting with the mayors of Medellín, Pereira, Palmira and Soledad, and municipal representatives from Bogotá and Barranquilla, IATA officials requested city authorities “progressively reactivate aviation” despite the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Resumentourismo.com report.

Calling Bogotá “the aeronautical hub of the country,” Peter Cerdá, IATA’s regional vice president for the Americas, said Claudia López Hernández, Bogotá’s mayor, “has the responsibility to guarantee connectivity.”

Cerdá called on López to reopen El Dorado Luis Carlos Galan Sarmiento International Airport and “work with the air transport industry so they can contribute their experience and best practices to make aviation one of the pillars of local and national economic reconstruction after the pandemic.”

“We have done our homework and devised new biosafety protocols and procedures that did not exist four months ago” Cerdá said. The airline association president added that the protocols “ensure that air transport does not become a vector for COVID-19 transmission.”

Cerdá said airlines serving Colombia have performed 40 test flights between Bucaramanga and Cúcuta within the last several weeks, carrying 680 passengers in addition to more than 800 humanitarian flights to repatriate 70,000 people. “So far, no cases of transmission have been reported on these flights,” he said.

Airlines “fulfill an essential service for the country,” Cerdá said, adding the pandemic will directly impact Colombia’s airline industry and the wider economy.

“It is estimated that the revenue generated by airlines operating in Colombia will fall by 55 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year and that 38,484 direct jobs and 307,200 indirect jobs are at risk,” he said. “Before the COVID-19 crisis, [aviation] generated more than 600,000 jobs and contributed $7.5 billion to Colombia’s GDP.”

However Carlos Maya, Pereira’s mayor, reportedly commented during the virtual gathering that the mayors “were not chosen to receive applause” but instead to “work for our citizens [and] to guarantee job creation and economic and social growth in our region.”

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