Haiti’s National Civil Aviation Office (OFNAC) has suspended all charter flight operations from Haiti to Managua, Nicaragua, causing near-riots at Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port au Prince, as several hundred Haitian passengers who were booked to leave on 5 planes that day had their flights abruptly cancelled without warning.
The reason, according to Laurent Joseph Dumas, Director General of OFNAC, was that “there is a big mess going on right now. The aeronautics sector and disorder do not mix well,” indicating that flights will resume in the coming days and Haitians will be able to continue to travel to Nicaragua after a reorganization of charter flights…
It plans to cut down to only four flights between 7:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. with an average of 150 passengers per flight and a total of 7 flights between 3:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.
The Augusto C. Sandino International Airport in Nicaragua, has welcomed, according to flight tracking data and available region specialists, more than 260 charter flights, coming from Haiti, despite the fact that it. There is no official trade route between the two countries.
Passengers, mostly Haitian, travel on one-way charter flights. In August, 30 flights were recorded between Haiti and Nicaragua, 100 in September and 138 so far in October…
Nicaragua is considered a “bridge” for migrants who wish to continue their route to the United States.
Note that Nicaragua allows Haitians to return to its country. The price of the trip generally varies between 2500 and 3000 US$, sometimes more, a multiple of the normal flight price for the trip which would probably be about one tenth of that amount.
According to AP News, Haiti’s government has banned all charter flights to Nicaragua according to a bulletin issued Monday that The Associated Press obtained.
Monday’s move left a couple of thousand angry and bewildered travelers stranded in a parking lot facing Haiti’s main international airport in the capital of Port-au-Prince surrounded by their luggage, with some holding babies.
“I have to seek a better life elsewhere because Haiti doesn’t offer my generation anything,” said 29-year-old Jean-Marc Antoine. “It’s either hold a gun and be involved with a gang, be killed, or leave the country.”
His brother in Chile had loaned him $4,000 for the plane ticket, and like many of the stranded passengers, he fretted about whether he would get his money back.
Nearby, Marie-Ange Solomon, 58, said she had been calling the charter company repeatedly on Monday to no avail. She had paid $7,000 total to leave Haiti with her son
They stop everything,” she said. “I thought I was going to be freed today.”
Solomon kept an eye on their bags as her 28-year-old son ran to the airport repeatedly in case someone called their names.
Haitians have questioned whether the suspension of the charter flights was prompted by outside pressure, adding that he did not know if the U.S. government was involved.
The suspension of charter flights could prompt Haitian migrants to seek other ways to flee their country.
With another migration route popular with Haitians closing on Monday, frustration began to build among the stranded passengers.
“Can you imagine that I spent all this money? I sold everything that I had,” Jean Erode Louis-Saint, 25, whose flight was scheduled for mid-afternoon Monday but never received a boarding pass. “I cannot stay in this country because of the lack of security. Gangs are everywhere.”
He used to work along the border that Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic exchanging currencies, but has struggled to find another job.
“I cannot do anything in Haiti anymore,” he said as he stood with a backpack on his back surrounded by thousands of other passengers.
Many were reluctant to leave in case there was a sudden change in plans, but by late afternoon, the crowd began to thin out as people left.
Sources: Haiti Libre, AP News, news agencies.