Haiti’s airports reborn

Haiti was a key player in the world economy in its colonial days as Saint-Domingue, now the country is fast working to overcome earthquake and misrule and move Haiti back from the margins.

My seatmate on the flight down, a Haitian, owns a contractor handling structural work for the reconstruction of Port-au-Prince’s Toussaint Louverture International Airport (PAP). The new international terminal will debut in several weeks. I lobbied for a tour with no success, yet I was inspired by his tales of the efforts to rehabilitate the airport. Yes, there are hiccups, such as the buses with no A/C for bus gates, but it will be a great achievement to have a terminal welcoming to international visitors. On paper Port-au-Prince is an intriguing connection option for Air France’s flights in the region and to Paris.

International arrivals currently are a bit chaotic, arrive at a gate then bused over to the temporary immigration hall followed by a long walk outside lined by throngs of people back to the main terminal.

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The throng at arrivals

The disappointment is that domestic flights will still be at a small terminal a 10-15 minute, un-marked walk from the international terminal along the main road. My seatmate gave me a lift, otherwise a taxi is recommended in the blazing heat. The domestic terminal has no facilities beyond a bathroom, not even a snack stand.

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Weighing missionaries for a charter flight

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He's got the fan and the outlet, airport gold

I flew north to Cap-Haïtien (CAP) on Tortug’ Air, the only domestic airline that seems to have regular operations. The 25-minute flight was pleasantly unremarkable. The state of the roads makes flying the preferred option. Landing it was a bit disconcerting to alight on a runway with no terminal in sight. A bus brought us some distance and the old terminal came into view as well as major work on the runway and adjacent buildings to open for international flights, key to northern Haiti’s trade and tourism prospects.

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Arrival in Cap-Haïtien

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Construction to accommodate international flights

Exciting to see this phoenix rise. Haiti is thrilling and inspiring, stay tuned for gems of Cap-Haïtien and Port-au-Prince. Haiti deserves to be back on the leisure travel map.

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