Flight closures were bound to happen. Already the Chancellor Felipe Solá had warned on Sunday when he said that they were going to “close the borders”. That same day, as reported by Clarín at the time, the National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) notified the airlines that there would be a “decrease” in special flights.
But now President Fernández said the flights are directly “suspended” until further notice. What happened? The answer, perhaps, is a whatsapp message sent by Ricardo Cirielli, head of the Association of Aeronautical Technical Personnel (APTA), suggesting that the flight that arrived from Madrid on Wednesday morning could have an entire contingent of passengers infected because one of them had already boarded the plane sick. Something similar to what happened with the Buquebus last week.
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“Today (Wednesday morning) Aerolíneas Argentinas flight AR 1133 arrived from Madrid. In the middle of the flight, a passenger with all the symptoms of coronavirus broke down: cough, fever, he even had difficulty breathing. He was treated by a doctor who was among the passengers,” says Cirielli’s Whatsapp. Go on: “(the passenger) commented that he had had symptoms for 7 days and had taken paracetamol to bring down the fever. He didn’t say anything before boarding (…). When he arrived at Ezeiza he was referred to an ambulance”. Consulted by Clarín, the unionist confirmed his statements.
Beyond whether or not this fact worked as a trigger for the presidential decision, the concrete fact is that the government already wanted to close Ezeiza from before. The airlines’ schedule was even shortened: instead of the six flights that were to leave between Thursday and Friday, there will be four. “The idea is to hold them and bring these people”, said Mario Meoni, Minister of Transport. The pending Aerolíneas flights are two for today Thursday (from Madrid and Miami) and another two, on Friday, from Miami and Cancún.
In the case of LATAM, which has already brought almost 12,000 repatriated passengers since last week (and taken some 5,000 foreigners abroad), it still has some passengers “in transit”, unable to return from Sao Paulo and Santiago de Chile. “There are just over 400 at Guarulhos airport and 228 in Santiago de Chile,” said LATAM sources. The airline has already asked the government to authorize it to make return flights for these passengers, since “they are transit passengers, who had started their return flight before this new restriction. At around 9pm on Wednesday, the government authorised them to make two flights, one from Santiago and one from São Paulo.
The union front has its flats. The Aircraft Association (AAA) came out to deny the opposition list on how many cases of coronavirus were registered inside the guild as a result of the special flights by airlines. This was after the people on the opposition list of that guild (where the designated ambassador to Russia, Alicia Castro, continues to exercise her influence) released a list of cabin crew allegedly infected with coronavirus. Juan Pablo Brey, the head of the guild, had to go out and answer them. “There is only one confirmed case of coronavirus in a fellow airline passenger, while the results of the tests of two other crew members who presented symptoms are being awaited.
But beyond the fact that there are people who want to bring water to their mill, there are hours of heated tempers in not a few guild members who don’t want to expose their people any more in order to repatriate passengers who are looked upon with little or no kindness. Cirielli himself also called for the closure of the flights. “Many people are being exposed in order to carry out this operation.”