Argentina could loosen coronavirus travel ban early, says airline trade group

BUENOS AIRES, May 15 (Reuters) - Argentina, which has banned air travel until Sept. 1, has suggested it may be willing to loosen those restrictions sooner, airline industry group IATA said on Friday.

Argentina surprised airlines recently by including ticket sales in the travel ban, one of the world’s toughest.

The move has left Argentines isolated longer than almost anyone else and strained efforts by the country’s airlines to survive for several more months with no revenue coming in.

Peter Cerda, IATA’s vice president for the Americas, said on a conference call that Argentina’s transport minister had agreed to “speak to the ministry of health to see what measures can be done to bring forward those dates.”

“The request is to move the date from September 1 to, maybe, early July, that’s the request,” Cerda said, noting that there is no assurance the dates will change.

A meeting last week was “very productive,” he added.

A source from Argentina’s transportation ministry acknowledged that adjusting the ban is under discussion, but would not confirm whether it was considering the July time frame.

“IATA is asking for a date change. We only listen and dialogue, and that decision is based on sanitary requirements,” the source said. “All topics are under review depending on the health requirements of the Ministry of Health.”

Reporting Cassandra Garrison in Buenos Aires and Marcelo Rochabrun in Sao Paulo; Editing by Richard Chang