14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 5 June 2018 – Times are tense for the state airline Cubana de Aviación since the plane crash that killed 112 people on a flight between Havana and Holguin on May 18. The company has no money to continue to reimburse passengers for thousands of canceled tickets, 14ymedio was able to confirm this Tuesday.
Since last week hundreds of people have passed through the Cubana de Aviación office on Infanta Street in Havana to be repaid for the value of their tickets. The flood of returns has been such that “there is no money to continue repaying,” an employee told the frustrated passengers on Tuesday.
“You must keep in touch by phone or come after Thursday to see if the problem has been resolved and we have cash again,” he insisted over and over to all the customers who showed up. Some persist with their demands, to which the employee replies: “We went to the bank but there is no money.”
Those who inquired about possible additional compensation for the complications resulting from the flight cancellations were informed clearly that the services for the airline’s national customers are “subsidized” and they can only be guaranteed a refund for the value of the ticket. “Not one cent more.”
Cubana de Aviación is going through “an unprecedented situation in the number of returns and there is no liquidity to face these expenses,” explains an official consulted by this newspaper and who preferred anonymity. “We have no money coming in because our domestic flights are canceled and most of the international ones are too.”
The planes of the state airline that regularly fly to destinations such as Haiti, the Dominican Republic or Venezuela are not covering those routes, a situation that has forced the company to relocate customers or host them in hotels while looking for seats to travel on other airlines.
As of last Friday, the company also ruled out the possibility of transporting its customers by bus as a way to compensate them for the cancellation of flights and now offers only the reimbursement of the value of the air ticket.
“I came yesterday at ten o’clock and it was full of very upset people,” Enrique, a young college student, tells 14ymedio; he was among the first group of customers this morning at the agency on Infanta Street.
“Yesterday I had to leave because there were a lot of people in line and they have only been able to return the money to the first ones in line, almost at dawn,” he says. “That’s why I came early today but the situation is worse and today nobody has been able to collect even a peso.”
For Eloísa, a woman from Santiago de Cuba who has been stranded in Havana due to the cancellations, the delay in recovering her money is a source of trouble. “Without that money I can not buy a bus ticket, so I have no choice but to keep coming to see when Cubana can pay again.”
National customers must buy their plane ticket three months in advance at the Cubana de Aviación offices. For this reason most of those now seeking refunds purchased a ticket to travel during school holidays, coming up in July and August.
Cubana de Aviación domestic flights were suspended after the accident on May 18 and will not resume “until at least September” an employee of the state airline told 14ymedio last Friday.
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