‘You Won’t Be Flying’, and 80 Cubans on Their Way to Nicaragua Remained in Havana

Cubans stranded at Havana’s José Martí airport after they were not allowed to board a Viva Aerobus flight to Managua. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mexico, 20 February 2023 — A group of around 80 Cubans who were trying to fly to Nicaragua were stranded on Sunday night in Havana’s José Martí International Airport when they were prevented from boarding flight VB-317, operated by Viva Aerobus, to Cancún where they had a layover before continuing to Managua.

“It was last night, on Viva flight 317, Havana-Cancún, which was leaving at 10:35 pm and departed closer to 12 am. All those personnel checked and only those of us who were going directly to Cancún boarded,” José Enrique Castellano, one of the travelers whose final destination was Mexico, confirmed to 14ymedio.

The complaint came to light on Monday via a video shared by Javier Díaz, from Univision 23, during which one of the people stranded says they’ve spent several hours in the airport terminal without receiving service from the airline and without an official response to what occurred. The travelers include small children and people from several provinces throughout the country — Santiago de Cuba, Las Tunas, Camagüey, Ciego de Ávila, Villa Clara, Sancti Spíritus, Havana, and Pinar del Río.

“It is not Viva Aerobus, it’s ’death Aerobus’,” the man said while showing dozens of Cubans sitting and lying inside Terminal 3 of José Martí airport with looks of exhaustion. “This is Cuba, here are the Cubans, look, small children who haven’t had breakfast, haven’t eaten, without water, without a snack… We’ve slept here since last night, on these benches, on the floor.”

After completing the check in, passing through Immigration and Customs, already at the airport border, and after the flight began boarding is when the incident occurred. “There, 150 meters from the plane, they boarded the Cancún flight and when we thought we were boarding, they said, ’You won’t be flying’,” explained the Cuban.

Airport authorities blamed the travel agencies, said the passenger, but “It’s the airline’s fault because we checked the ticket, that is, it was the passenger list that they must send to Nicaragua for people to enter, which they did not send,” he said. (Before departure, the airlines must send the passenger list to the destination country). “And that is why we are here, Nicaragua did not allow the plane entry and that’s it, nothing happens, the Cubans are discarded here,” he added.

At the beginning of February several travel agencies operating between Mexico and the U.S. announced the return of Viva Aerobus with flights between Havana and Managua and at much lower prices than in 2022. On this occasion, tickets were between $799 and $1,200, depending on the number of bags the passenger was traveling with. The first flight was scheduled for February 12th.

Previously, that same ticket between Cuba and Nicaragua was close to $4,000 and the Mexican airline had flights from several provinces throughout the country, including Santiago de Cuba, Camagüey, and Villa Clara. These flights were usually arriving on the Island with very few passengers and were full when departing to Cancún before continuing on to Managua.

On April 8, 2022, the Mexican airline decided to suspend these flights without explanation. “Once again, we state that the charter company and the airline were not involved in this decision which affects everyone and we ask for you understanding in this matter,” clarified the Mexico-based Vagamundos travel agency, at the time, without detailing if it was the result of an agreement between the government of Cuba and the administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Days earlier, the governments of Cuba and Mexico had finished the XV round of conversations on the topic of migration where both parties commited to “guarantee the regular, orderly, and safe flow of travelers.” The meeting took place prior to the Mexican President López Obrador’s visit to the Island in May 2022.

The return of the Havana-Managua route in 2023 occurred shortly after the Biden administration put the brakes on the migration of Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans with its implementation of humanitarian parole, and the return to Mexico of all migrants of these nationalities who attempt to illegally cross the U.S. southern border.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


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