Haiti, Toussaint Louverture Airport in Port-au-Prince, International, Global

International Airport In Haiti Reopens Close To 3 Months After Gang Violence Forced Closure 

Thank goodness!

Three months after relentless gang violence forced authorities to stop all air traffic, Haiti’s main international airport reopened. 

The Toussaint-Louverture Airport reopened on May 20 in Port-au-Prince and is expected to assist in bringing in medications and other essential supplies, which the country is in critical need of. Before the reopening, the only operating airport was in Cap-Haïtien, north of the capital city.

The distance proved difficult for Haitians seeking to leave the country as roads between Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haïtien were controlled by gangs seen shooting at cars and buses that passed through. 

Due to the violence, the U.S. government and nonprofit groups evacuated hundreds of American citizens by helicopter. However, U.S. military planes have returned to the Port-au-Prince airport with medication, hydration fluids, and civilian contractors to assist the country in preparing for foreign forces to arrive.

The anticipation is for them to help mitigate some of the violence unleashed by the gangs who are controlling 80% of the capital.

Attacks started on Feb. 29 as gunmen took over police stations, opened fire in the Port-au-Prince airport, and stormed Haiti’s two biggest prisons — releasing over 4,000 prisoners. Since then, gangs have turned their siege on quiet communities, leaving thousands homeless. The United Nations reported between January and March, more than 2,500 people have been killed or injured, seeing a 50% increase compared to the same time in 2023 last year. 

While the airport is open to the public, only Sunrise Airways, a local carrier, is now flying in and out of Port-au-Prince. U.S.-based airlines aren’t expected to take off until late May or June. 

According to the Associated Press, the first commercial passenger flight to leave the airport since March headed to Miami and took off almost two hours behind schedule. Passengers were seen complaining of the intense heat due to the lack of air conditioning until takeoff. When the plane finally hurried down the runway, one passenger whispered, “Yes. Yes.”

Sunrise contracted with World Atlantic, a Florida-based charter airline, which distributed paper towels to passengers to cool off.

Airport workers like Klav-Dja Raphael are excited to return to work as the closure allowed the airport only to supply a month’s wages. She solely relied on friends and family for financial assistance, but there is still concern about the gangs coming back as she remembered bullets ricocheting through the airport the day of the attack. “We are scared because they can still attack us here,” Raphael said. 

“We must come in. It’s our job, but we’re afraid.” 

Following the airport attack, former Prime Minister Ariel Henry was locked out of the country while on an official trip to Kenya. He resigned while a transitional presidential council searched for a new prime minister. The commission is also responsible for bringing in a new Cabinet and organizing general elections. 

In March 2024, Kenya and Haiti signed agreements to create a plan to send 1,000 police officers to the troubled Caribbean nation to help stem the violence. Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary ​​Korir Sing’oei said on May 19 that the plans are in the final stages. Bahamas, Barbados, Benin, Chad, and Bangladesh are also expected to provide support, but the date has yet to be determined.