By Juan Pedro Sanchez Zamudio
Panama Begins International Operations, Copa Resumes Flights
According to ALNNEWS, after five months of restrictions to control the advance of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Controlled Operations Center for the Interconnection of International Aviation began operating on Aug. 14, at the Panamanian Tocumen International Airport.
The Panamanian government put into force on July 31 a decree that allows the operation of limited commercial flights as well as passenger traffic in connection. And on Aug. 7, the first travelers arrived in transit from Argentina to the U.S. Last week, Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo also announced the elimination of humanitarian flights for the return of Panamanians, who can now book with commercial airlines and present a negative coronavirus test to enter the country and fulfill a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
According to EcoTV, passengers in transit and those leaving the country must submit to sanitary and biosafety protocols established by the Ministry of Health and applied in Tocumen.
In this regard, Tocumen Manager Raffoul Arab reported in a press conference that the airport will be starting with 18 flights: 12 arrivals and six departures, with approximately 1,000 passengers in transit and 730 leaving the country to other destinations.
“We are optimistic that this will increase over time and that Panama and Tocumen can position themselves as what they are: a hub of the Americas,” said Arab.
In almost five months of closure, Tocumen International Airport has operated 425 humanitarian flights, the same amount that it registered in a single working day before COVID-19, a figure that reflects “the enormous impact that the pandemic has had on the industry of aviation,” Arab said.
Meanwhile, Copa Airlines announced the restart of operations to 11 destinations in eight countries. It was reported that these are flights to Miami, New York, Washington and Mexico City in North America; San José, Costa Rica and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in Central America; and Quito, Ecuador; Guayaquil, Ecuador; Sao Paulo and Santiago, Chile in South America.
Due to the Panamanian government’s order, the Panamanian carrier published a list of restrictions for its passengers. The main limitation is that the arrival to Panama will be allowed exclusively to Panamanian citizens or its residents, on flights previously authorized by the government.
As announced on March 22, the Panamanian Government decreed the suspension of international flights due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a decision that has been extended four times, the most recent until August 21.
According to Infobae, passenger traffic through Tocumen collapsed by 63.7% between last January and July, as only 3,512,680 passengers flew into or out of the airport, 6,189,100 less than in the same period in 2019.
Panama has already accumulated around 78,446 cases and 1,722 deaths from COVID-19, the largest numbers in Central America. Next Monday it will reopen retail stores and personal services with limitations on commercial operations and the mobility of its citizens.