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A Holiday Season without Flights

TODAY NICARAGUA – Avianca, the Colombian based airline, has unintentionally become the only international airline to fly to and from Nicaragua. The rest of the airlines have now postponed until 2021 any return of their planes to the country’s skies.

On Friday, November 14th, the website for Managua’s International Airport showed only three expected flights. All were from Avianca, connecting Managua with San Salvador and Miami.

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In March 2020, all commercial airlines were forced cease operations due to the pandemic. At that time, the shutdown of operations at the Managua international airport (MAG) was due to the closing of the borders, a measure taken by most countries to try and slow the spread of COVID-19.

As in other countries, the decision was a hard blow to the tourism sector.

The closure also affected many who had planned to travel to Nicaragua. While in March there was optimism that the border closures were temporary, a few months at the most, today, eight months later, while many countries have reopened their air borders, in Nicaragua’s case, it’s a matter of government measures making it difficult to arrive, leading all the airlines with the exception of Avianca, to suspend operations.

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And for those few airlines, like the Panamanian airline, Copa Air, who has announced resuming in Central America, prices have shot through the clouds.

Nicaraguan tourist companies are also hurting from the lack of clients. There are no longer visitors needing food, lodging, transportation and all the other services associated with tourism.

Adan Gaitan is the owner and director of the travel agency and tourist services company Munditur Tours. Jose Solorzano, is the franchise owner of the Holiday Inn – Convention Center in Managua. Both these businessmen are struggling to stay afloat, while watching their clientele disappear. They hang on to hopes that things will – perhaps – improve in 2021.

Solorzano told Confidencial he no longer has any hopes of seeing some recuperation, even slightly, in what’s left of the year.

“I don’t believe there’ll be any changes from now until January,” he reasons. “Europe has shut down again, Meanwhile, the US remains locked in its electoral process aftermath, while seeking a way to contain a second COVID wave.”

“American Airlines already announced they’re not coming,” the hotel owner notes. In view of this, he concludes: “This year has already been lost. There aren’t any more hopes of seeing some recovery in November and December, the best months. After that come January, February, and March, the worst months for us. God help us,” said Solorzano.

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American Airlines had previously announced a December 2nd return to Managua. However, this remains unconfirmed, nor are there any further signs from the company, either way.

In contrast, Panama and Costa Rica have already opened their air borders to tourists.

In Panama, arrivals are expected to have a negative PCR test, and if not, can have one done at the airport for US$50 dollars. Pssenger testing negative can enter, while those who test positive must turn around or can pay the cost of quarantining in a special hotel that’s been outfitted with biosecurity measures. That measure not only helps maintain the country’s airline connectivity but also supports the recovery of the hotel industry.

Costa Rica, Nicaragua’s neighbor to the south, has also eliminated the Covid-19 PCR test, requiring tourists only to provide medical travel insurance for their intended stay in the country, that covers the cost of medical services and an extended stay in the country if they are infected with the coronavirus.

In Nicaragua, the government’s failure to restart the tourist industry has led to cancellations, including from tourists who come regularly, year after year.

Among the major reason for tourists to shy away from Nicaragua is the “ton of requirements to get on the airplane,” according to Adan Gaitan is the owner and director of the travel agency and tourist services company Munditur Tours.

“We agree that safety measures should be practiced. But they need to find a way to make these more flexible so that the passengers don’t feel uncomfortable,” said Gaitan.

Confirming this is Avianca reporting that many passengers with tickets to Nicaragua are rejected at the gate.

“They lose their flights for not having all the paperwork required by the Ortega government in Nicaragua,” said the airline.

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