American Airlines said it has canceled flights to and from Port-au-Prince on Monday and Tuesday because of fears of unrest related to upcoming elections.
BY INA PAIVA CORDLE AND TRENTON DANIEL
Anticipating political unrest coinciding with upcoming elections in Haiti, American Airlines said Wednesday it has canceled flights to and from Port-au-Prince on Monday and Tuesday, causing a headache for those trying to cast their ballots.
The cancellations are meant to ensure the safety of employees, flight crews and passengers, particularly as they travel to and from the airport, according to American spokesman Tim Wagner.
''We took a look at the history of unrest coinciding [with elections], and there is definitely a history there,'' he said.
On Tuesday, some 3.5 million registered Haitian voters are expected to
head to the polls to elect a head-of-state and a number of senators and deputies. The vote comes after an armed revolt expelled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide two years ago.
Like the U.N. peacekeepers who arrived in Haiti after Aristide's ouster, Prime Minister Gérard Latortue, the interim government's appointed caretaker, has been widely criticized for not doing enough to stem mounting unrest.
American has three flights daily from Miami International Airport to Port-au-Prince, one flight daily from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood and one from New York's JFK.
American plans to resume flights Feb. 8.
''We will obviously keep a close eye on what the situation is and adapt to that as well,'' Wagner said.
Until then, stateside Haitians seeking to vote in the elections may have difficulties reaching their homeland. They are not allowed to cast their votes from the United States.Some will likely have to fly to the Dominican Republic, which ne
ighbors Haiti on the island of Hispaniola, and then drive across the border.
Among those held up by the cancellation: Haitian superstar Wyclef Jean, a member of the Grammy-winning hip-hop trio The Fugees.
Jean plans to skip next week's Grammys to cast his ballot and travel from Los Angeles to the Dominican Republic via Miami, and then across the border.
''No disrespect to the Grammys, but I have to vote,'' Jean, a Haitian citizen, told The Miami Herald in a phone interview. ``It's going to be crazy, but it's important that I make it.''
While the cancellation caused a headache for some, there were others who found the decision to be no surprise.
''It's something we're so accustomed to,'' said Patrick Tardieu, owner of a South Florida shipping company. ``This is not something new to us -- not at all.''
Alternative ways of getting to Haiti might include Air France, which flies from Miami to Por
t-au-Prince on Thursdays and Sundays and Tuesdays. Return flights leave Port-au-Prince for Miami on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Mondays. The airline still plans to fly those Monday and Tuesday flights as of late Wednesday, a reservations agent said.
At least one other carrier, La Caribeenne des Transportes Aeriens, flies to Port-au-Prince from Santo Domingo.
Passengers can fly on another carrier from Miami to Santo Domingo -- or from Fort Lauderdale to San Juan to Santo Domingo -- and then fly to Port-au-Prince. But it was unclear whether that airline will be flying to Port-au-Prince on Monday and Tuesday.
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