(CMR) A Cayman Airways flight with some 91 passengers from Havana, Cuba has returned ferry – with no passengers on board after Jamaica refused to accept the Cuban passengers. Exclusive CMR sources have shared that the issue appears to be Cuban nationals utilizing Jamaica as a transient point to gain access to Nicaragua and other points of entry and then illegally enter the United States.
KX832 departed Grand Cayman at 11:45 am destined for Havana, Cuba. However, the return flight KX833 which would have ordinarily returned to Cayman Friday afternoon did not come until Friday evening with passengers. It would normally turn around those passengers quickly for them to then board the outbound flight to Jamaica but instead came back completely empty except for the airline crew on board.
The 91 passengers could have included Caymanians and residents who were not traveling onto Jamaica have now been left in Cuba presumably at the expense of the national airline at 6:41 pm.
The new shortcut opened for Cuban migrants to gain access to the U.S. after Nicaragua lifted visa requirements for citizens of Cuba in November 2021. The statement issued by the government of Nicaragua established a free visa for all Cuban citizens who want to enter the country. The Nicaraguan government said they were encouraging trade, tourism and family ties with Cuban nationals.
This move essentially made it easier for them to gain border access into the United States by shaving off thousands of miles off the journey through South America. The pandemic has only exasperated the desperation of a lot of people to leave Cuba. It was noted by critics of the move that this would eliminate the most dangerous portion of the Darien Gap; the route of jungle between Colombia to Panama.
Last year over 40,000 Cubans were caught trying to cross into the U.S. from Mexico.
In June 2021 there was an incident where two Cuban nationals who boarded an aircraft in Dominica with Jamaica as their destination but were to remain in transit to the Dominican Republic and Cayman Islands. However, they disembarked in the Virgin Islands and attempted to “run away”.
They were not permitted to leave the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport but initially refused to re-board the plan. Fearing for their safety the pilots then expressed concerns and they were taken into custody by the Immigration Department in the Virgin Islands.
Many speculate that Cayman Airways did not want a similar situation on their hands today and instead of singling out just the Cuban nationals destined for ongoing travel they opted to leave everyone behind. At this time it remains unclear what CAL will do with the people in Cuba and with the Cuban route.
UPDATE: Cayman Airways has confirmed that they were notified by Jamaican Immigration authorities that they could not guarantee that some 86 passengers travelling from Havana, Cuba (with onward connections to KX606 to Kingston and subsequent connections from Kingston to Nicaragua) would be allowed to land in Kingston, Jamaica despite their tickets and itineraries being in order.
As a result of this notification, flight KX833 from Havana to Grand Cayman, was delayed while a resolution with the Jamaican authorities was sought. When it became apparent that a timely resolution was not forthcoming, the airline determined it would be unable to transport the 86 passengers on today's flight. The Cuban authorities, however, took issue with Cayman Airways denying boarding to the 86 passengers and, in turn, would not allow the remaining passengers to board.
With the Cayman Airways flight crew in Havana approaching their duty time limitations, and with the aircraft needed back in Grand Cayman for subsequent flights, the airline was eventually forced to cancel today's KX833 flight, and ferry the aircraft back to Grand Cayman from Havana without passengers.
A formal resolution to the matter remains uncertain at this time.