Cubans Without Visas To Travel on Wingo Airlines Protest at the Colombian Embassy in Havana

Beginning July 8, residents of the Island will need a visitor visa to travel on the airline to Bogotá

Protests in the Havana airport (left) and at the Colombian Embassy (right) / Collage / Roberto Fdez Cruz / Mario Pentón

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 July 2024 — The controversy between the Colombian airline Wingo and its Cuban users has escalated in recent days after the company announced that from July 8 it will only transport travelers with a visitor visa, that is, whose final destination is Bogotá. Many of its customers on the Island have begun to protest the measure, which prohibits travel to those who were only thinking of transiting in the Colombian capital, and this Friday the demands reached the Colombian Embassy in Havana.

According to the statement published by Wingo on its official website, the request for Cuban travelers to present a visitor visa and their return ticket to the Island – purchased from the company itself – is going into effect based on another announcement made by the Colombian Foreign Ministry on July 4. According to the official document, “in order for a passenger to be considered in transit at Colombian airports, the same air transport contract must include both the journeys of arrival in the national territory and those of departure to the third country.”

In summary, the Government of Colombia requires the transit to be included in the same flight contract; that is, that it be done with the same company.

For its part, Wingo only operates a “point-to-point” flight between Havana and Bogotá, so it cannot check the transit status or be responsible for its travelers when they move to another airline. “It is important to reaffirm that Wingo’s network of routes only offers direct flights, in this case Havana – Bogotá, and does not offer connecting flights, either within its own network, or with other airlines. That said, the airline is not able to verify the validity of connections with other airlines beyond Bogotá,” it explains.

“After communicating this decision, the airline will only transport passengers of Cuban nationality who have a visa to enter Colombia, without exception. This measure will be in effect from July 8, 2024,” adds the company, which offers customers who do not meet the requirements two options: request a free change of the flight date (the ticket will remain good until March 2025) or request a refund – although the airline does not clarify if they will refund the total cost of the ticket.

In either case, the tickets must have been purchased before July 8 of this year.

Cubans, for their part, have not taken the announcement well, and last Monday several customers protested in front of Wingo’s office at José Martí International Airport. Through videos and publications shared on networks, many of the customers said that they had been forced to leave the airport by the Island’s authorities without obtaining explanations from Wingo. Hours later, the company published its statement clarifying that “it is not asking for a transit visa” as many confused users claimed, but that it was adhering to the regulations issued by the Foreign Ministry of that country.

This Friday, the protest was held in front of the Colombian diplomatic headquarters in Havana, where citizens demanded an explanation from officials and that they allow travel for those who had already purchased a ticket. According to other publications on social networks, the ambassador told the group that two weeks ago he filed lawsuits against Wingo and that the airline is analyzing the matter.

 Travelers, however, have not been satisfied, and many have expressed the sacrifices they made to pay for the ticket

Travelers, however, have not been satisfied, and many have expressed the sacrifices they made to pay for the ticket, including the sale of houses and belongings, since their objective was to emigrate. The meeting with the diplomat also did not leave them convinced and, as many have declared on social networks: “Everything smells like lies,” and Wingo is not giving concrete answers to demands for reimbursement and to allow travel.

Cubans are running out of ways to reach Colombia, one of the favorite stopovers on the way to Nicaragua, where they embark on the route to the United States. These obstacles are the result of the pressure exerted by Washington on airlines for their complicity, active or passive, with the transport networks for illegal migrants. Several airlines have preferred to suspend their flights in the face of the threat of sanctions from the United States.

At the beginning of June, the Colombian airline Avianca reported that, “due to operational issues,” it will postpone until further notice the restart of flights on the route between Bogotá and Havana, which it had promised since May, without giving further details.

Avianca will reimburse all customers who had already purchased tickets to travel between those destinations since the announcement of the resumption of operations, the company said at the time. The airline’s planes have not traveled to Cuba for four years and, at the moment, it is not clear when they will be able to again.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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