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Startup carrier Air Nicaragua plans to begin operations in July with three-times-a-week flights from Managua to Havana, Nicaraguan Tourism Minister Mario Salinas Pasos told Caribbean News Digital during the FITCuba tourism fair in Havana.

The Managua-Havana route could serve as a bridge between Nicaragua and Europe, helping Nicaraguans and citizens of other U.S. non-visa waiver countries avoid immigration and customs hassles during transit in the United States, an airline official said at a tourism fair in Moscow in March. Air Nicaragua is seeking agreements with several European airlines that fly to Havana, including Russia’s Aeroflot, Spain’s Air Europa, Italy’s Blue Panorama, Dutch carrier Martin Air, British Airways and Ireland’s Aer Lingus.

The flights could also help multi-destination programs for European tourists between the two countries.

“They are destinations that complement each other,” Salinas said.

International visits to Nicaragua have grown at an annual average of 8.6 percent since 2007, crossing the 1 million mark last year.

Air Nicaragua, owned by Nicaraguan and Mexican investors, is leasing two Boeing 737-300 aircraft. Havana aside, the airline plans to offer flights to Caracas and Mexico City.

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