One daily Miami-Managua flight is scheduled. The Nicaraguan tourist industry is “excited” about reviving their businesses.
By Ivan Olivares (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – The Nicaraguan tourist sector received this morning one of its latest good news that they have been waiting for almost two and a half years: American Airlines announced its return to Nicaragua, expected for Wednesday, November 30.
Although American Airlines, the world’s largest airline, did not explain its reasons for returning to Nicaraguan skies, a statement issued in Miami confirmed its decision to begin selling tickets starting Monday, August 29, to resume flights to Managua as of Wednesday, November 30.
Return in 100 days
On that day, a Boeing 737-800, with capacity for 172 passengers, will take off from Miami at 10:25 a.m., to land in Managua at 12:18 noon. Slightly over an hour later, the same aircraft will take off at 1:20 p.m., scheduled to land in Miami at 4:55 in the afternoon. These are all local times in the cities mentioned above.
Although the cost of tickers was not announced, the industry expects that the greater availability of seats to fly to the United States and its multiple connections with the world, will drive down the price of those tickets that, depending on the chosen destination and the selected season, can cost up to three times more than it costs to travel from other countries of the region to those same cities.
If that prediction comes true, it could influence Nicaraguan and foreign travelers to travel to and from Managua instead of flying to the cities of Liberia and San Jose in Costa Rica; Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula in Honduras, and Comalapa in El Salvador, to access far cheaper tickets.
“With our long-awaited return to Nicaragua, we at American will complete our network in Latin America, further strengthening our presence in the region as the largest USf airline,” said Jose A. Freig, American’s Vice President of International Operations.
The expectation of the tourist sector is that a larger availability of seats will improve the country’s air connectivity, and benefit the tourist industry in general, which is one of the hardest hit sectors of the national economy. First, by the effects of the socioeconomic crisis that erupted in April 2018, and afterwards, the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Three tourism entrepreneurs consulted by Confidencial, explained that they have already started to prepare for November 30.
Two years and eight months suspension
Like the rest of the airlines serving destinations in the country, American Airlines announced the suspension of its flights as of March 27, 2020, as part of the global containment strategy to curb the number of Covid-19 infections. Some months later, on September 19, Avianca announced that it would return to Nicaragua, but until now, none of the US airlines had done so.
The reason was in the barriers imposed on the airlines by the Ortega-Murillo government of, among which was the mandatory requirement to know the make-up of crews with three-days in advance, and the requirement that they present vaccination certificates. A measure that was always incomprehensible to the tourism industry, because they were imposed at the same time that the government was promoting activities in Nicaragua that entailed a high possibility of contagion.
While companies such as the Panamanian Copa Airlines and the Salvadoran TACA (owned by the Colombian AVIANCA), did comply with these requirements. the US companies American, United and Spirit, refrained from choosing a return date. Spirit now says they will return on December 1, while Delta Airlines has made no such announcement.
More recently, in June of this year, the Ministry of Health announced the relaxation of these requirements, however the precondition to know in advance the passenger list was maintained, apparently to exercise the abusive veto that the Immigration authorities have implemented to prevent the entry into the country of Nicaraguans and foreigners they consider undesirables.
Reacting to the American Airlines announcement, the former president of the National Chamber of Tourism (CANATUR), Lucy Valenti, said that “businesspeople are excited.” It is what they have been insisting on for a long time: the reactivation of air operations of US airlines to start reviving the tourism industry.”
She also explained that if the airlines could not commit to comply with the requirements so far in advance, it is because it is always possible to buy a plane ticket shortly before the aircraft takes off, but also because every time the government rejects a passenger, the airline could be forced to accommodate the stranded passenger, without ruling out the risk of a lawsuit.