Airlines committed to the Latin American and Caribbean region
Panama, April 15, 2020 – In front of the mobility restrictions imposed by the States as a result of COVID-19, some airlines operating in the region have rethought their operation, focusing on playing a crucial humanitarian role through special repatriation flights and cargo transport of vital supplies, despite the difficult survival decisions that so many companies have had to make in this circumstance.
Humanitarian flights: while the borders have been closed, the skies have not. Airlines are making an extraordinary effort to coordinate repatriation flights with governments, airports, embassies, other airlines, citizens and even medical personnel on the ground. With the highest safety standards, we are seeking, in coordination with governments and airports, to serve the largest number of passengers, but flight restrictions in our countries are still an important limitation.
Cargo transport: as one of the most essential and efficient means of transport, aviation has a key role to play in supporting States by ensuring the transportation of medical supplies to meet the health emergency, as well as other goods required by the population and commerce. These operations are carried out after the approval of the authorities and under the strictest health and safety standards.
Some airlines have used their passenger fleet to transport cargo and to operate charter flights (on demand) even on routes they did not operate, in order to ensure the transport of essential supplies such as medicines, medical equipment, food and other perishable products, technologies and valuable goods, as well as other goods that help the continuity of aeronautical operations and trade.
According to the WHO, coronaviruses may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. The Organizations states that it is safe to receive packages because ¨the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low¨.
Still, airlines have implemented effective preventive protocols to ensure the health of the crew and cargo. Among the measures are: sanitary filters, reinforcement of information on disinfection of people and surfaces, antibacterial gel on board, additional monitoring of deliverables (food, forms), sanitation of aircraft, disinfection of furniture, training and additional communication with employees, customers and suppliers regarding all necessary measures, to name a few.
Thanks to these efforts, air cargo transportation has become an essential bridge to minimize the impact of the global financial crisis and, above all, to supply products to all countries.
ALTA member airlines are a great example of these actions. GOL, for example, is exempting the payment of airfare to doctors working to combat COVID-19 and with needs to mobilize, asking only to pay the boarding fee.
Aeroméxico is joining efforts with the Government of Mexico to transport essential medical supplies on multiple flights, charging the government only a part of the cost of operation; as well as supporting the Mexican Red Cross with free transportation of protective equipment for the healthcare sector throughout the country, and carrying out special flights to take home compatriots and foreigners who were stranded in different regions of the world.
Avianca has carried over 30 million kilograms of cargo including food, medical equipment, cleaning items and medicines on nearly 700 flights. Likewise, the airline has operated more than 24 special flights, mobilizing German, English, Peruvian, Canadian, Colombian, American, Guatemalan, Ecuadorian passengers, among others.
LATAM Airlines has returned home over 100,000 people: 80,000 on regular flights and 20,000 on more than 150 special repatriation flights and, thanks to its cargo capabilities, recently transported the stem cells of Javiera, a 9-year-old leukemia patient waiting to be transplanted. Similarly, Tropic Air plays a key role in the transportation of essential cargo throughout Belize.
Aerolineas Argentinas has carried out 48 repatriation flights, returning home over 14,000 Argentines, and Copa Airlines has carried out 18 humanitarian flights with Wingo, making it possible for more than 2,300 passengers to return home, despite the fact that their hub in Panama is closed.
There are several other examples of our airlines’ solidarity during this unprecedented situation.
The industry is facing a financial health crisis without precedents. According to WTTC data, 75 million jobs are at risk in the travel and tourism industry worldwide. Airlines have been forced to suspend investments, cancel non-essential expenses, renegotiate contracts with suppliers and service providers. In addition to this, in some companies, employees have contributed with a percentage of their monthly salary in order to protect their jobs and the continuity of the company.
Survival efforts require complex decision-making. The role that governments play is essential, since millions of jobs depend on the industry in this globalized world in which economies without air connectivity for tourism and business cannot be understood.
At ALTA we are proud of all our member airlines and their extraordinary efforts to support people in the region at this time that we all need the most.
Governments that implement flexibility measures and support companies in the aviation sector will be remembered for having protected something essential for economic development, security and public peace, which is the generation of jobs. To the governments that have already implemented extraordinary measures, our most sincere appreciation. To the States that have not announced measures, we are sure that the reason and the vision in terms of labor, economics and politics will help us all, government, aeronautical sector, and others associated with aviation such as the hotelier, restaurant, cultural, etc., to move forward.
From ALTA we reiterate our complete willingness to support governments of the region to assess and determine, in conjunction with ICAO, CLAC, ACI-LAC, IATA and necessary entities, the air transport viability and recovery planning, which will protect jobs, security and the well-being of our population and economic sustainability of our countries.
ALTA is a private non-profit association serving the airline industry whose objective is to develop a safer, more efficient, and sustainable aviation in Latin America and the Caribbean. ALTA coordinates collaborative efforts throughout the entire value chain maximizing the impact that aviation has on the economic and social growth of the region for the benefit of industry, nations, and populations served by air transport.
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