Airlines Push Back Resumption of Flights to Nicaragua

Travelers enter the country through the Managua International Airport. File photo: Confidencial

Aeromexico, United, Avianca, American and Copa will not resume operations until September, while Spirit plans to fly in mid-August.

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – For the third consecutive time, the airlines operating in Nicaragua again delayed the resumption of their flights to the country, this time until September, due to Covid-19.

The airlines had already warned last month that the dates are tentative and highly dependent on the behavior of the pandemic, as they had said in mid-May, when all air travel was suspended, and repeated in June and now again in July.

Initially, the airlines had scheduled to restart operations in July, then postponed to August and for now the planned dates are:

Aeroméxico suspended until September 1, 2020
United Airlines suspended until September 2, 2020
Avianca Airlines suspended until September 2, 2020
Delta Airlines suspended indefinitely
American Airlines suspended until September 2, 2020
Copa Airlines suspended until September 5, 2020
Spirit Airlines suspended until August 17, 2020

The flight rescheduling was released by the United States Department of State’s Office of Consular Affairs.

Nicaragua Tightens Requirements for Airlines and Passengers

In mid-July the Ministry of Health (Minsa) finally issued a protocol for national and foreign travelers four months after the first Covid-19 case was recognized in the country in March. For over three months thousands of Nicaraguans stranded in different countries and ships have sought entry to their country.   

Minsa now requires Nicaraguans seeking to enter proof of a negative test for Covid-19 within the previous 72 hours. Foreigners that test positive will not be allowed entry.

Days later, the Civil Aeronautics Institute announced that airlines are required to send photocopies of the passports of passengers and flight crews 72 hours in advance to authorize their arrival in the country.

In a notification sent to the airlines on July 18, Civil Aeronautics indicated that the photocopies must be attached to “the technical documentation of the aircraft, for due process (authorization)”.

Sources from the travel industry told CONFIDENTIAL that the Government announced with great fanfare on Tuesday, July 14, the reopening of Managua’s Sandino international airport; however, hours and days later “they hardened all requirements” to enter the country.

The sources warned that it will be difficult to obtain photocopies of all the passports of the passengers 72 hours in advance, since the majority of travelers “buy their tickets online”.

The activities of the international airport have been enabled since July 14, although tentatively the resumption of international flights is now scheduled for August and September. The decision will depend on the behavior of the pandemic.

In practice, Minsa was already applying many of these measures with Nicaraguans seeking to enter the country through different borders, and in the case of those trying to reach the country from Panama by land, the request for a test of Covid-19 with 72 Hours in advance caused delays in the repatriation of many of them.

With the advance of the covid-19 pandemic, most countries were closing their borders, which reduced air traffic significantly. Nicaragua, which hadn’t officially closed, was affected by the continuous announcements of airlines such as Copa Airlines, United and Avianca, reporting the suspension of their flights, to which American and Spirit would join soon after.

Despite the Covid-19 preventive actions being taken around the world, the Ortega government kept its international airport open servicing freight and charter flights as well as passenger flights of La Costeña that flies domestically and resumed flights on June 26th