Colombia has resumed domestic flights in Colombia with the first flight on July 21 as part of a pilot to resume domestic routes with new biosafety protocols.

Many Medellin Guru readers have asked about when domestic flights will resume in Colombia.

On June 10, President Iván Duque announced that domestic flights and inter-municipal transport will begin to resume in July, with a pilot plan already underway. President Duque said:

With reactivation guidelines, transportation must be recovered, that is, but it must be done responsibly, with gradualness, working with local leaders. And we are advancing pilots to give way to the gradual restoration of national transport.

The plan is to slowly resume domestic flights in Colombia with domestic flights to a limited number of cities.

Editor note: updated on August 11 that José María Cordova Airport (MDE), which is located in Rionegro and serves Medellín, have been given the approval by the Interior Ministry for domestic flights to six cities.

The first domestic flight on July 21 from Easyfly, a pilot to resume domestic flights in Colombia, photo courtesy of Colombia's Transport Ministry

The first domestic flight on July 21 from Easyfly, a pilot to resume domestic flights in Colombia, photo courtesy of Colombia’s Transport Ministry

The First Domestic Flight in Colombia was on July 21

The first domestic flight for resuming flights was between Bucaramanga and Cúcuta on July 21 according to the Ministry of Transport. The flights for this first domestic route are on Easyfly with two flights daily between the two cities (two flights in each direction daily) starting on July 21.

There were 48 passengers on the first domestic flight in Colombia on July 21. This was the first domestic flight since domestic flights were suspended in Colombia on March 21. And by August 11, over 80 flights have flown on the route between Bucaramanga and Cúcuta.

Also, according to Noticias RCN, two other airports have been given the green light for domestic flights: Santiago Pérez Quiróz Airport in Arauca and José María Córdova (MDE) in Rionegro serving Medellín. But no confirmation has been made about other airports or routes opening yet.

In addition, initially both the José María Córdova (MDE) and Olaya Herrera Airport (EOH) airports serving Medellín were planned to open on July 1 for a pilot of domestic flights. But the Medellín mayor decided that Olaya Herrera Airport will not open. Also, José María Córdova (MDE) did not reopen on July 1.

According to El Heraldo, mayors of cities are coordinating opening airports. One the main steps that gave the green light to the initiative has already been taken, with the issuance of the biosafety protocol by the Health Ministry and on July 21 was the first flight.

According to the Health Minister, the pilot of reopening airports will be carried out in the cities of low impact due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Other Airport Planning to Open

According Semana, the Director de la Aerocivil, Juan Carlos Salazar, said the reactivation of air operations for September is maintained, both for domestic and international flights.

According to El Tiempo, there are already 15 airports in Colombia that comply with biosecurity protocols defined for air operations, after inspections were carried out by technical teams expert in biosecurity protocols and air operations:

  1. El Dorado Airport (BOG) in Bogotá
  2. José María Cordova Airport (MDE), which is located in Rionegro and serves Medellín
  3. Alfonso Bonilla Aragón Airport (CLO) in Cali
  4. Ernesto Cortissoz de Soledad Airport (BAQ) in Barranquilla
  5. Rafael Núñez International Airport (CTG) in Cartagena
  6. Simón Bolívar Airport (SMR) in Santa Marta
  7. Olaya Herrera Airport (EOH) in Medellín
  8. Gustavo Rojas Pinilla International Airport in San Andres Islands
  9. Palonegro de Lebrija Airport (BGA) in Bucaramanga
  10. Matecaña Airport (PEI) in Pereira
  11. Eden Airport in Armenia
  12. La Nubia Airport in Manizales
  13. Los Garzones Airport in Montería
  14. Antonio Nariño de Chachagüí Airport in Pasto
  15. Camilo Daza Airport in Cúcuta

Also, at least seven mayors have already made requests to restart flights to airports in their respective cities.

  1. José María Cordova Airport (MDE), which is located in Rionegro and serves Medellín
  2. Alfonso Bonilla Aragón Airport (CLO) in Cali
  3. Rafael Núñez International Airport (CTG) in Cartagena
  4. Gustavo Rojas Pinilla International Airport in San Andres Islands
  5. Matecaña Airport (PEI) in Pereira
  6. Eden Airport in Armenia
  7. Antonio Nariño Airport in Pasto

These airports join the airports in Bucaramanga and Cúcata that already have daily domestic flights between them.

Inside José María Córdova international airport (MDE) serving Medellín

Inside José María Córdova international airport (MDE) serving Medellín

José María Cordova Airport (MDE) Approved for Domestic Flights

According to El Colombiano, José María Cordova Airport (MDE), which is located in Rionegro and serves Medellín, has been given the approval on August 11 by the Interior Ministry for a pilot of domestic flights.

Now that approval has come for this airport, the airlines must request the itineraries and the authorized flight plan permission from Aerocivil, in order to resume flights.

The pilot allows flights between MDE airport and the following six airports in Colombia:

  1. Matecaña Airport (PEI) in Pereira
  2. Gustavo Rojas Pinilla International Airport in San Andres Islands
  3. Palonegro International Airport in Lebrija, Santander
  4. Camilo Daza de Cúcuta International Airport in Norte de Santander
  5. La Nubia Airport in Manizales
  6. El Edén International Airport in Armenia

For the San Andres route, the Interior Ministry is requiring prior coronavirus tests or certificates of tests carried out by EPS or other institutions for passengers to this island.

Flyers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport wearing facemasks as the COVID-19 coronavirus spreads, photo by Chad Davis

Flyers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport wearing facemasks as the COVID-19 coronavirus spreads, photo by Chad Davis

New Biosafety Protocols for Domestic Flights in Colombia

A pilot plan has been in work with Aeronáutica Civil, Ministerio de Salud and Ministerio de Comercio, Industria y Turismo (Civil Aeronautics, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism) working together to establish the biosafety protocols to allow the reactivation of domestic flights in Colombia.

Minister of Transportation, Angela María Orozco, disclosed some of the details of the biosafety protocols for domestic flights that are now defined in Resolucion 1054 of June 27, which includes:

  • Passengers need to arrive at the airport two hours before a flight.
  • Only passengers and workers may enter the airport.
  • At the airport entrance and on arrival of flights, the temperature of passengers will be taken..
  • Face masks are required.
  • Lines at the airport are limited to 10 people and will have distance between passengers controlled to ensure social distancing. There will be three lines to board planes with a maximum of 10 passengers per line.
  • You cannot carry hand luggage that would go in the overhead, limited to a small bag or purse for a carryon that fits under the seat.
  • Luggage in the aircraft hold will be disinfected.
  • It is recommended that passenger have the CoronApp application on their cell phones.
  • Minors or adults with disabilities must travel with a companion.
  • Upon landing leave the airport and quickly remove baggage.
  • Report to EPS, the Ministry of Health and the airline if you have similar symptoms of COVID-19 up to 14 days after the flight.
  • The airlines must allow the transport of antibacterial or antiseptic gels and liquids in hand luggage, with a maximum quantity of 355 milliliters per person.

On the flight:

  • Use of a face mask is required by passengers and crew.
  • Airlines must provide face masks if the passenger does not have one.
  • Passengers must remain seated until the cabin crew authorizes the disembarkation.
  • Airlines must have antibacterial gel to give the passenger when necessary.
  • Aircraft will not provide food or drink services on board
  • Travelers will be asked not to use on-board entertainment systems such as screens, mobile phones, among others.
  • If possible, aircraft toilets should not be used.

In addition, the protocols also contemplate the disinfection of aircraft and passenger controls both in the city of origin and in the city of destination.

International Flights Return to Colombia Starting on September 1

International Flights Return to Colombia Starting on September 1

International Flights Resume on September 1

Colombia plans to resume international flights to Colombia starting on September 1 and international airline tickets can be sold starting on June 1.

The reactivation of international flights to and from Colombia will take place one day after the end of the coronavirus health emergency, which is scheduled in Colombia until August 31.

Colombia started to ban international flights to Colombia in late March 2020, in response to the coronavirus pandemic. With international flights new scheduled to resume on September 1, the ban will be for a period of over five months.

The biosafety protocols for international flights haven’t been disclosed yet. However, passengers arriving on humanitarian international flights reportedly must self-quarantine for two weeks.

Avianca plane at the Pereira Airport, photo by Edisonbcn

Avianca plane at the Pereira Airport, photo by Edisonbcn

Major Airlines in Latin America Filed for Bankruptcy

The two largest airlines in in Latin America, servicing Colombia and other international locations filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. in May – LATAM and Avianca.

LATAM, the largest airline in Latin America, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy  in May. LATAM was forced to cancel 95 per cent of its flights as the coronavirus pandemic hit Latin America, but recently announced plans for a gradual recovery of capacity with a fleet of 330 planes, targeting growth of 9 percent in June and 18 percent in July.

Avianca is the second largest airline in Latin America. Avianca also filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in May. Out of all the countries in which Avianca operates, 88 percent have total or partial passenger air transport restrictions.

Both LATAM and Avianca had domestic routes in Colombia. And there are other airlines flying domestically in Colombia that will benefit when domestic flights resume in Colombia including EasyFly, VivaAir and Satena.

EasyFly plane, photo by Khon Kaen

EasyFly plane, photo by Khon Kaen

The Bottom Line: Domestic Flights Resume in Colombia Starting in July

Many readers have asked when domestic flights will resume in Colombia. The first domestic flight for resumed flights was on July 21 between Bucaramanga and Cúcuta. This first route is part of a trial for resuming domestic flights in Colombia.

The number of domestic routes in Colombia to start with is expected to be limited with no more than 15 cities according to El Colombiano.

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Editors note: updated on June 14, 2020 with information about some of the cities where domestic flights will resume according to El Colombiano newspaper.

Editors note: updated on June 17, 2020 with information that both the José María Córdova (MDE) and Olaya Herrera Airport (EOH) airports serving Medellín will open on July 1.

Editors note: updated on June 29, 2020 with information that the Olaya Herrera Airport (EOH) airport in Medellín will not open for domestic flights.

Editors note: updated on July 3, 2020 with information that an exact date has not been set for the start of the pilot plans to reactivate domestic flights but it is expected before the end of July.

Editors note: updated on July 9, 2020 with information that the first flight in Colombia for reactivating domestic flights will be between Bucaramanga and Cúcuta and two additional airport have the green light to reopen for domestic flights: Santiago Pérez Quiróz Airport in Arauca and José María Córdova airport (MDE).

Editors note: updated on July 18, 2020 with the date for the first flight in Colombia for reactivating domestic flights between Bucaramanga and Cúcuta, which is July 21.

Editors note: updated on July 21, 2020 with information that domestic flights have resumed in Colombia with the first domestic flight in Colombia on July 21 between Bucaramanga and Cúcuta.

Editors note: updated on August 7, 2020 to add seven airports in Colombia where mayors have requested resuming flights and added 15 airports that have passed biosafety tests to resume operations.

Editors note: updated on  August 11, 2020 to add information that the José María Cordova Airport (MDE) has received approval for domestic flights to six cities in Colombia.

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