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A LATAM Airlines Boeing 787-9 departing LAX (Photo: AirlineGeeks | James Dinsdale)

With COVID Cases Rising, South American Aviation Expects Turbulence

While other parts of the world are already seeing rays light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the Covid-19 pandemic, South America is in the middle of a second wave of coronavirus cases with countries toughening mobility restrictions to aim to reduce its spread.

Last week, Chile reimposed lockdown measures affecting 70% of its population as Covid-19 cases are rising rapidly despite its high vaccination rate compared to other countries in the region. This has huge implications for domestic air travel, as municipalities in lockdown are not allowed to travel by air within the country.

Residents outside those areas can travel to another location which is not in isolation, requesting a holiday authorization online. However as most of the population is in lockdown, domestic passenger levels will probably remain low during that period.

International travel to Chile is also getting more complicated. While the country does allow arrivals from abroad, international travelers will have to take an additional PCR test upon arrival to Chile beginning March 31. Passengers should then isolate at a government approved hotel for five days and will be forced to pay for all the costs incurred in the process.

In neighboring Peru, things are not looking bright either. The government has imposed nationwide lockdown measures during easter weekend, including the suspension of domestic flights from April 1-3. International flights remain operating as usual. Peru is also open to international travelers who at the time of writing should present a negative PCR test taken less than 72 hours before departure. Flights from Brazil, however, remain suspended.

Meanwhile in Argentina, authorities have arbitrarily restricted international flights, alleging that this measure comes to space out arrivals throughout the day to reduce passenger congestion at Ezeiza International Airport in the national capital Buenos Aires. Government authorities have opted to reduce  the number of authorized frequencies throughout April and will only have four daily flights arriving and departing Buenos Aires by the end of the month.

As Argentinean blog Sir Chandler reports, airlines are still waiting to get approval for the frequencies they have requested to fly next month. To stop the spread of new virus mutations, Argentina has also suspended commercial flights from Chile, Brazil and Mexico. Domestic flights on the other hand remain unaffected.

As the new and more contagious Manaus variant continues to spread across the region, Panama is now introducing  additional requirements for South American travelers. Those entering Panama must present a negative PCR test taken no more than 48 hours before their arrival and should take another test upon arrival before going through immigration.

Those that test positive will be taken to a “hospital-hotel” for isolation and monitoring for 14 days, in which infected travelers should take another test before being discharged.

Once again lack of government capacity for action and mitigation is affecting most of South American countries. As vaccination remains slow in most countries and the more contagious Manaus Covid-19 variant continues to spread across the sub-continent, unfortunately things will take a bit longer until a sense of normality can come into view.


  • Jose Antonio Payet

    As a geography nerd, Jose has always been fascinated by the complexities of the airline industry and its ability to bring the world closer together. Born and raised in Peru, now studying in the UK. he has travelled around America, Europe and South East Asia. His favorite aircraft is the Boeing 767-300, which he has flown many times during his childhood; although now the A350 is slowly growing up on him.

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