American Airlines is betting on South America for 2021

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American Airlines’ expansion strategy in South America is experiencing a seemingly never-ending stream of hurdles.

Tourism-dependent Latin America was among the first regions to welcome US tourists during the coronavirus pandemic, and American was standing ready to fly eager travelers. Earlier in the year, the airline had announced new flights to cities in Chile, Colombia, and Brazil in a bid to attract leisure flyers as it waited for business travel to recover.

But while the continent appeared to be welcoming at first, doing business in South America quickly proved problematic.

Flights to Santiago, Chile, were among the first to be impacted when the country closed its borders for the month of April. American had planned to launch a new non-stop route from New York using one of its largest aircraft, the Boeing 777-200, on May 7.

Chile appeared promising when it opened to Americans in November 2020. But a spike in COVID-19 cases following the country’s summer season prompted the government to once again close its borders to tourists.

The state of emergency in the country planned for the month of April has now been extended through June, according to the US Embassy in Chile. American, as a result, pushed back the launch of its inaugural New York-Santiago flight to July 2; though, Chile may extend its border closure depending on conditions in the country.

Spiking COVID-19 cases were also the reasoning for flight reductions to Brazil and Peru, the airline confirmed to Insider’s Brittany Chang in April. Both countries still allow US citizens to enter despite the rise in cases, according to the US Embassies in Brazil and Peru.

In Colombia, however, American faces a new challenge: civil unrest. Protests have gripped the country with some turning violent and taking the lives of at least 26 people, according to ABC News. The Washington Post Editorial Board is also predicting that Colombia’s levels of unrest could spread to regional countries, like Peru.

American, in response, has issued a travel alert for the Colombian city of Cali, where the protests have been the most extreme, allowing travelers to change their flight to any day between May 4 and May 18.

The protests could discourage future travelers from booking trips to Colombia or encourage flyers with existing bookings to change away from Colombia at a time when American is deploying some of its largest aircraft to the country.

American’s desire to grow in South American comes as the airline seeks to rebuild following the loss of a partner in LATAM Airlines prior to the pandemic.

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