Ecuador Ground-Staff block runway

With flights around the world being disrupted and even cancelled due to Coronavirus, disruption to the aviation and travel industries have been rife; However, one such airport in Ecuador took measures to a new extreme, ordering ground-staff to block the active runway with vehicles to prevent aircraft from landing.

IberiaA340 - Travel Radar - Aviation News
The aircraft was an Iberia A340, registered EC-KZI | (c) Iberia/IAG

On 18 March 2020 an Iberia Airbus A340 aircraft, registered EC-KZI, departed Madrid at 11:50am (UTC) enroute to Guayaquil airport in Ecuador with six crew members onboard – The aircraft had hoped to land to collect Spanish nationals, with the aim of repatriating them to the country’s capital. However, upon approach the flight (IB6453) had to be diverted to Quito Mariscal airport, also in Ecuador. The cause? Airport officials blocking the active runway.

Speaking after harsh-words from the European Union (EU) asking the country to “keep [their] airports open”, Mayor of Guayaquil Cynthia Viteri made a statement via Facebook about the incident:

The decision was meant to defend the city of Guayaquil. [We] have the country’s largest concentration of Coronavirus cases”

It was later confirmed that Viteri had tested positive for Coronavirus. The decision was not only criticised by the EU, with the Ecuador Ministry of Transport & Public Works also condemning Viteri’s stance on the incident.

Guayaquil - Travel Radar - Aviation News
Guayaquil Mayor, Viteri, fell under harsh criticism for the defence of airport-authorities | (c) Flickr Commons

Following it’s landing in the capital, Quito, the flight was able to board 170/190 of the original nationals repatriating them to Madrid, Spain. The EU has released further statement asking Ecuador “provide guarantees of security in the use of the airports of Quito and Guayaquil for the arrival of empty flights … and the exit of European citizens.”. It is thought Iberia and the Spanish Government are currently organising further repatriation flights to recover the remaining 20 stranded Spanish Citizens in Ecuador.

What are your thoughts on this? Did airport authorities overstep the line in an innocent attempt for repatriation? Or was the move necessary to “protect” the city at the epicentre of Ecuador’s 260 cases and 4 deaths due to Coronavirus? Let us know below!

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