Colombia plans to resume international flights to Colombia starting in September with flights planed to resume over a period of three months starting with a pilot in September and a return to “normalization” with tourists in November.

The reactivation of international flights to and from Colombia is planned to start in September on a pilot basis.

Many Medellin Guru readers have asked when international flights to Colombia will resume. And Angela María Orozco, Colombia’s Minister of Transport confirmed in May that international flights to Colombia will resume in September, which hasn’t changed since that time.

On September 14, Colombia’s Minister of Transport confirmed that international flights to Colombia will resume on September 21 and Colombia will have more than 15 international destinations in October.

According to Migracion, 15,000 passengers arrived in the first 11 days of international flights resuming to Colombia. And 34 percent (5,100 passengers) came to Colombia for tourism.

UPDATE on November 4: The biosecurity protocol for the return of international flights to Colombia used to include the requirement for a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken within 96 hours of your flight. And tourists are permitted on these flights. However, on November 4, the requirement for a PCR test to enter Colombia was officially eliminated according to the Ministry of Health.

UPDATE on November 9: Colombia planned that starting on November 10, tourists from Argentina, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands would be restricted from entering Colombia as non-essential travelers (tourists). This was due to these countries having implemented similar measures regarding Colombian citizens. However, later in day, Colombia backed off on this planned restriction.

Spirit will have the first flight to Colombia on September 19, photo by Pablo Andrés Ortega Chávez, photo by Pablo Andrés Ortega Chávez

Spirit will have the first flight to Colombia on September 19, photo by Pablo Andrés Ortega Chávez, photo by Pablo Andrés Ortega Chávez

First International Flights to and from Colombia on September 19

The first international flight to Colombia is from Fort Lauderdale to Cartagena on Spirit Airlines on September 19 arriving at 12:37 pm according to the Ministry of Transport.

And the first international flight to leave Colombia is from Medellín to Cartagena to Miami on Viva Air departing from Cartagena at 11:40 am on September 19.

Also, William Dau, the mayor of Cartagena, said recently the first international flight to Cartagena will be on September 21.

El Heraldo previously reported that the first international flights to Colombia will be on September 21. Minister of Transport, Ángela María Orozco, confirmed on September 11 that the return of international flights will be on September 21

Biosafety Protocol for International Flights

The biosecurity protocol for the return of international flights to Colombia defined by the Ministry of Health in Resolución 1627 includes the requirement for negative PCR COVID-19 test results for a test that was taken within 96 hours but this requirement was eliminated on November 4.

The following is the list of biosafety requirements for international flights:

  • Passenger access to the airport will be a maximum of three hours before the scheduled departure of the flight.
  • The use of the mask will be mandatory from the entrance of the airport, during the trip and at the arrival destination, regardless of the duration of the tour.
  • For short flights it is recommended not to use the aircraft toilets.
  • For medium and long duration flights it is recommended to wear multiple masks to replace them during the trip.
  • The passenger must remain in the assigned seat throughout the flight.
  • To enter or leave Colombia, the passenger must compulsorily fill out, before check-in and prior to entering the immigration control posts at the airport, a form that is on the Migración Colombia website must be completed 24 hours before the flight.
  • To enter Colombia, a PCR test used to be required with a PCR test taken no greater than 96 hours before the stipulated time of the flight. But on November 4 this requirement was eliminated by the Ministry of Health.
  • In order to leave Colombia, the requirements agreed by the destination country must be met. For example, the U.S. does not require a PCR test for arriving international passengers. There is NO requirement for a PCR test for entering the U.S.

Arriving international passengers must respond to a strict tracking and monitoring that will be carried out by the EPS (health insurance) or the Secretary of Health of the jurisdiction where they stay. And this measure applies to both nationals and foreigners. Also, there is no self-isolation required.

In addition, people must report to these institutions if during 14 days after their trip they have suspicious symptoms of COVID-19 and follow the indicated measures, which will be paid for by travelers in case of not being insured.

Temporary Ban for Tourists to Colombia from 7 Countries Planned But Not Implemented

On November 9, starting on November 10, Colombia was planning to temporarily restrict tourists from the following seven countries from traveling to Colombia:

  1. Argentina
  2. Canada
  3. Chile
  4. France
  5. Germany
  6. Spain
  7. Netherlands

Nationals of those countries were not be able to enter Colombia for tourist activities only with their passport as they have traditionally done. Exceptions to this restriction are for anyone with a Colombian visa: M (Migrant), R (Resident) or V (Visitor) visa.

This temporary restriction was planned for non-essential travel (tourists) to Colombia from these countries due to these countries implementing similar measures regarding Colombian citizens.

However, later in the day, the Ministry of Transportation, the Foreign Ministry and Colombia Migration sent a statement in which they clarified that these measures will not be implemented yet with this statement:

Colombia hopes that the aeronautical authorities of the countries will advance in the gradual opening of flights and the circulation of citizens, in the same conditions prior to the pandemic, as soon as possible, to contribute to the responsible and sustainable reactivation,” the three entities indicated. And then they pointed out that the countries mentioned in the circular have restrictions for the entry of Colombians, for which “an equivalent temporary measure has been contemplated.

Why Did Colombia Eliminate the PCR Test Requirement?

The Deputy Minister of Public Health and Provision of Services, Luis Alexander Moscoso Osorio, explained the epidemiological reasons that led the National Government to withdraw the requirement of a PCR test for foreign passengers arriving in Colombia.

Let us remember that when the COVID-19 pandemic began, the world had an infection rate higher than that of Colombia, so we had to regulate, close flights and take some measures. Today there is community transmission, which means that in Colombia it is the same as in other nations.

Also, a series of difficulties have been encountered during the process where a PCR test was required:

  1. It was found that people can be infected in the 96-hour period that had been established between the time of the test and the trip.
  2. At the time of the test, the person may be in an incubation period that is up to 7 days. This creates a very large time in which the traveler can actually be positive and fly with a negative test. The passenger arrives in Colombia with a negative PCR test and believes that he/she is protected when in fact is not.
  3. The PCR test can cost between $60 and $400 USD abroad. So, it is recognized that for people with fewer resources it can be a barrier.
  4. In some countries it is difficult to find laboratories that can do PCR tests within 96 hours and the readings are complex.

Colombia looked for a better alternative. For this reason, and to give security to the flights, a contact follow-up strategy was set up with a call center that today already has about 1,033 people.

First 14 Countries with International Flights from Colombia

According to the Colombia Transport Ministry and news sources, Colombia plans to resume international flights in two phases:

First phase (starting on September 21):

  1. United States
  2. Bolivia
  3. Brazil
  4. Mexico
  5. Ecuador
  6. Dominican Republic
  7. Guatamala

The first phase of international flight will be to four airport in Colombia starting in September:

  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. Rafael Núñez International Airport (CTG) in Cartagena

A second phase of four more airports plan to open starting in October for international flights according to Reportur with flights to four additional airports:

  1. Ernesto Cortissoz de Soledad Airport (BAQ) in Barranquilla
  2. Matecaña Airport (PEI) in Pereira
  3. Edén Airport in Armenia
  4. Palonegro Airport in Bucaramanga.

The planned routes from Barranquilla will be to Miami, Panama, Curaçao and back. From Bucaramanga to Panama and back. From Pereira to Panama and back. From Armenia to Fort Lauderdale and back.

Although at the moment restrictions remain for Curaçao and Panama, October 12 is the expected date of opening of Panama. In the case of Curaçao, it is expected to open as soon as the entry of Colombian citizens to this nation is enabled.

Second phase (in October):

Additional locations are planned in Colombia.

  1. El Salvador
  2. Panama
  3. Peru
  4. Chile
  5. Uruguay
  6. Venezuela

Furthermore, there are additional countries planned with “special conditions” including Argentina, Canada, France, Germany and Spain.

Although it is still premature to establish the schedule of the flights and itineraries that are reactivated, the industry estimates that by the end of October at least 15 international destinations will be active.

Ban on International Flights to Colombia

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 in September, the ban will be for a period of over five months. But in September, flights to and from international locations will initially be limited.

Since the ban started, the only international flights permitted to and from Colombia have been humanitarian flights arranged by embassies.

Also, domestic flights were banned in Colombia but domestic flights started to resume on a trial basis in July 2020.

Which Airports Have Passed Biosafety Protocol Tests

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
Inside José María Córdova international airport (MDE) serving Medellín

Inside José María Córdova international airport (MDE) serving Medellín

Starting on July 21 domestic flights resumed in Colombia with an initial flights between Bucaramanga and Cúcuta. And on August 18 domestic flights resumed at José María Cordova Airport (MDE) with flights to and from Bucaramanga and Pereira and other destinations planned.

Also, starting in September, domestic flights will resume at El Dorado Airport (BOG) in Bogotá with initially flights to and from three locations: Cartagena, San Andres and Leticia. However, 11 additional destinations have been proposed from Bogotá:

  1. José María Cordova Airport (MDE), which is located in Rionegro and serves Medellín
  2. Alfonso Bonilla Aragón Airport (CLO) in Cali
  3. Ernesto Cortissoz de Soledad Airport (BAQ) in Barranquilla
  4. Simón Bolívar Airport (SMR) in Santa Marta
  5. Palonegro de Lebrija Airport (BGA) in Bucaramanga
  6. Matecaña Airport (PEI) in Pereira
  7. Eden Airport in Armenia
  8. La Nubia Airport in Manizales
  9. Los Garzones Airport in Montería
  10. Antonio Nariño de Chachagüí Airport in Pasto
  11. Camilo Daza Airport in Cúcuta

In addition on September 1, Olaya Herrera Airport (EOH) in Medellín will start domestic flights initially to Montería, Pereira, Armenia and Cúcuta. A total of nine domestic destinations have been approved by the National Government for the Olaya Herrera Airport: Armenia, Cúcuta, El Bagre, Montería, Pereira, San Andrés, Tolú, Urrao and Caucasia.

Avianca 767-200 at El Dorado Bogotá Airport, photo by Carlos Colina

Avianca 767-200 at El Dorado Bogotá Airport, photo by Carlos Colina

Major Airlines in Latin America File for Bankruptcy

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

LATAM, the largest airline in Latin America, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier in May. LATAM was forced to cancel 95 per cent of its flights as the coronavirus pandemic hit Latin America, but 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 filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in May. The bankruptcy postpones Aviana’s obligations to its creditors, giving it time to reorganize its debts or sell parts of the business. Out of all the countries in which Avianca operates, 88 percent have total or partial passenger air transport restrictions.

Avianca LifeMiles, photo courtesy of Avianca

Avianca LifeMiles, photo courtesy of Avianca

Note that Avianca’s Lifemiles loyalty program is not expected to change. Lifemiles is a separate company and is not part of Avianca’s chapter 11 proceeding.

When COVID-19 travel restrictions are lifted, both LATAM and Avianca plan to resume passenger flights with the strictest biosafety protocols.

Spirit Airbus A319 N532NK at the Medellín airport, photo by Pablo Andrés Ortega Chávez

Spirit Airbus A319 N532NK at the Medellín airport, photo by Pablo Andrés Ortega Chávez

The Bottom Line: International Flights Return to Colombia Starting in September

Many readers have asked when international flights will resume in Colombia. Flights to and from Colombia are planned to resume in September but as of August 26 a date has not been set. Also in September, this will only on a limited pilot basis with a phased resumption of flights planned over a period of three months.

However, keep in mind these dates could possibly change depending on what happens with the coronavirus pandemic.

Many Medellin Guru readers including foreigners with visas in other countries and Colombians in other countries have wanted to return to Colombia. Also, there are many tourists in Colombia that may want to return home but there are humanitarian flights available to many countries.

Sign up for the Free Medellin Guru Newsletter – You can see all of the previous Medellin Guru weekly email newsletters and sign up here.

Editors note: updated on June 25, 2020 with information that domestic flights resume in Colombia in July 2020.

Editors note: updated on July 24, 2020 to add the phased plan for Colombia to resume flights with a phased approach that starts in September with a plan by November for normalization with more of a full reopening of international flights.

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 19, 2020 to add information about domestic flights resuming at the José María Cordova Airport (MDE) and El Dorado Airport in Bogotá.

Editors note: updated on August 26, 2020 to add information that domestic flights from Olaya Herrera Airport in Medellín start on September 1 and added statement from the Minister of Transport from August 25.

Editors note: updated on August 27, 2020 with the first five countries for international flights to and from Colombia.

Editors note: updated on August 28, 2020 with information that President Duque announced that that Colombia is working intensely to define international flight protocols between the Prosur countries in the next 10 days with the aeronautical authorities.

Editors note: updated on September 1, 2020 with information that President Duque said on August 30 that in September will be a pilot of international flights.

Editors note: updated on September 9, 2020 with information that the first international flight from Colombia is reportedly from Cartagena.

Editors note: updated on September 10, 2020 with news that the first international flight from Colombia is on Viva Air on September 19.

Editors note: updated on September 13, 2020 with information that the first international flights to Colombia reportedly will be on September 21 with a PCR COVID-19 test required for arriving international passengers.

Editors note: updated on September 14, 2020 with information that Colombia plans to resume international flights on September 21 and have international flights to at least 15 destinations by October.

Editors note: updated on September 15, 2020 with the biosafety protocol for international flights including that that a negative PCR COVID-19 test for test taken within 96 hours is required for international passengers arriving in Colombia.

Editors note: updated on September 17, 2020 with information that PCR tests can be done after international passengers arrive in Colombia but must comply with a mandatory isolation measure for fourteen (14) days.

Editors note: updated on September 29, 2020 to add four more airports in Colombia that will resume international flights in October located in Armenia, Barranquilla, Bucaramanga and Pereira.

Editors note: updated on October 3, 2020 with information about how many passengers arrived on international flights to Colombia in the first 11 days after international flights resumed.

Editors note: updated on October 7, 2020 with information that a PCR test is mandatory for travel to Colombia. All travelers from abroad must have a negative PRC test for COVID-19, taken no more than 96 hours before boarding. 

Editors note: updated on November 4, 2020 with information that a PCR test is no longer required to enter Colombia.

Editors note: updated on November 6, 2020 with information about why Colombia eliminated the PCR test requirement.

Editors note: updated on November 9, 2020 with information that citizens from seven countries are temporarily restricted from traveling to Colombia as tourist starting on November 10.

Editors note: updated again on November 9, 2020 with information that the planned restriction for tourists from seven counties will not be implemented yet.

Liked it? Take a second to support Medellin Guru on Patreon! The future of Medellin Guru needs the help of readers to remain ad free.