Resumption of Service to Port-au-Prince, Haiti (PAP) on May 30

APA Pilots,

I chose to fly the first flight (AA819) back to Port-au-Prince, Haiti (PAP) today after a long hiatus due to civil unrest. My objectives were to observe firsthand what our crews can expect to encounter, verify that the security protocols and precautions in place are sufficient, and gauge whether it is reasonably safe. I would never condone flying to a location unless I’m personally comfortable doing so.

PAP reopened to commercial air traffic on May 17, with Haitian national carrier Sunrise Airways operating since May 20 without incident. U.S. authorities have also operated more than 50 charter and cargo flights into and out of PAP during the past three weeks, also without incident. Still, I didn’t consider those facts alone to be adequate assurance that a U.S. flag-carrying airline can operate safely there.

American Airlines Corporate Security – in concert with the U.S. State Department and the U.S. military – has enacted a series of security measures in preparation for the resumption of service. Crews flying to Haiti will likely notice a heightened security presence at the airport, including new guard towers along the northern perimeter wall, the presence of the U.S. military on the eastern side of the field (which continues operating several C-17 flights daily in and out of PAP), and the destruction of many squatter houses along the northern perimeter where gangs had taken up residence. U.S. security forces are aiding the Haitian National Police to secure the perimeter and ensure the roads between Port-au-Prince and the airport are safe.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince has a Regional Security Office located near the airport and has expedited the deployment of the United Nations-authorized Multinational Security Support mission, which is located on the east side of the airfield. Many of the personnel are former U.S. Special Operations Forces members. I personally worked with some of these same individuals when I served in the military and participated in counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean and consider them much more trustworthy than the Haitian National Police.

I have emphasized that we must collectively do everything in our power to avoid stranding crews in Haiti. American Airlines has established contingency plans addressing maintenance issues, OAL transport, rescue flights, and as a last resort, secure transportation in armored vehicles to secure lodging where the U.S. military and UN forces stay.

American Airlines Corporate Security has involved APA in the decision to resume PAP service and has taken what I consider to be responsible precautions to safeguard our crews. However, please remember that the situation in Haiti remains volatile and can change rapidly. I cannot overstate the need for constant vigilance. For those of you who will be operating MIA-PAP-MIA in the coming days and weeks – and I plan to return there soon – stay focused and alert. If it doesn’t appear safe, it probably isn’t! APA will continue to monitor the situation daily and inform you if conditions deteriorate. Your union always places your safety first.

As your APA National Officers and Board of Directors have demonstrated many times in the past, when we deem a destination to be unsuitable for safe and secure operations, we won’t hesitate to recommend halting operations. We have demonstrated this in locations such as China, Venezuela, and most recently Israel, when we directed our pilots to decline the assignment due to my concerns with regional security.

Please continue to fly safe and thank you for your continued professionalism and feedback.

In Unity,

CA Ed Sicher
Allied Pilots Association