14ymedio, Havana, 22 April 2020 – The group of Cubans trying to return to the island from Ecuador still doesn’t know when they will be able to go. The humanitarian flight planned for this Thursday from Quito to Havana was unable to enter Cuban airspace because it was operated by a company linked with Global Air, the owner of the plane which crashed in Cuba in May 2018.
“The aviation authorities of the Republic of Cuba determined that the plane proposed to make the flight was connected with a company involved in the tragic accident which happened in Havana on 18 May 2018, which cost the lives of more than 100 passengers, and for that reason the Cuban aviation authorities have decided not to permit this flight”, announced a communication from the Cuban embassy in Quito.
According to the document, the authorities hope to rearrange the flight with another airline, “including Cubana de Aviacion” and hope to have further information in the next few hours.
The decision, taken for reasons of security, leaves “up in the air” the return plans of over a hundred Cubans anxious to leave Ecuador, one of the countries hit worst by Covid-19, with 520 official deaths, 902 probables, and 10,398 positives. The numbers might be higher, because the country is overwhelmed by the pandemic and the undertakers can’t cope.
In order to leave Ecuador, the passengers, whose application was accepted, had to pay $480, except for children under two whose tickets cost $100, and who could be paid for from the 18th onwards. Many of those affected complained about the elevated price charged by the airline, especially for a humanitarian flight.
However, the fact that payment had to be made by PayPal makes future refunds easier.
Last April 17th the embassy indicated an agreement for the evacuation of a maximum of 120 people who should have gone Thursday, April 23rd at 9:00 from Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito, to Jose Marti in Havana, in a flight operated by Aeroregional, which would return with Ecuadorian citizens stranded on the island. The flight had special permission, as air space is closed in both countries.
The initial communique specified that Cuban emigrees or those with residence permits in other countries could not take this flight to return to the island.
Aeroregional, based in Ambato, was formed in the mid-90’s, but in June 2018 its owners sold their interest to the main shareholder of Global Air, the Spaniard Manuel Rodriguez Campos, who was named as president of the company at the beginning of last year.
The plane which crashed in Havana on its way to Holguin was owned by Global Air, a company with a long record of failure to comply with safety regulations, and also was prohibited from flying in various areas. A technical report from Cubana de Aviacion advised against hiring any planes from Global Air, but on that occasion they did so, with fatal results.
The families of the victims of the accident, as well as the only survivor, Mailen Diaz Almaguer, have not been financially compensated, although at least there is a hearing pending in Mexico.
Translated by GH
COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.