Uh-oh! Low-cost air travel in Argentina just took a massive hit after San Martín District’s Federal Judge Martina Forns determined that low-cost airline Flybondi, the Transportation Ministry, and the National Administration of Civil Aviation (ANAC) must “abstain from beginning aero-navigation activities in the El Palomar airport until the National Airport Regulator authorizes the environmental impact assessment that must be presented by Aeropuertos Argentina 2000.” (In case you didn’t know, Aeropuertos Argentina 2000, or AA2000 for short, is the company in charge of 33 airports in Argentina and the largest private airport network in the world according to this. Also, El Palomar is a military airport in the Greater Buenos Aires area that is expected to soon begin operating as a commercial airport).
The ruling came just hours before Flybondi was set to begin selling its first tickets. However and as per Infobae, this airport still shows up as the company’s base of operations in the Buenos Aires province, along with the other 12 destinations that will be available come 11 AM – Bahía Blanca, Bariloche, Córdoba, Corrientes, Iguazú, Jujuy, Mendoza, Neuquén, Posadas, Salta, Santiago del Estero and Tucumán.
Judge Forns upheld an injunction presented by an organization grouping residents of El Palomar, who filed a formal request regarding the potential environmental impact that air travel can cause in the area near the airport. On Friday, Transportation Minister Guillermo Dietrich presented an infrastructure plan to invest AR $1.6 billion to turn El Palomar into an international airport where up to a million people a year could travel from.
In addition to this request, the judge’s orders have also to do with the fact that years ago, the airport had been deemed a sitio de la memoria, (literally, “a place of memory”, that’s to say, a place of remembrance) as it was used during the last military dictatorship as a clandestine detention center. This denomination came in accordance with two decrees issued by the second Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration.
While the Transportation Ministry says that the works “don’t affect human rights,” the judge argues that they may actually “result in the loss of important proof in ongoing cases” concerning potential crimes against humanity. Infobae reported though that the Executive branch will appeal the ruling, so we’ll just have to stay tuned and see how this turns out.