Mexico City correspondent Megan Janetsky, teaming up with freelancer Edgar Clemente, followed a local press account about 27 flights from Haiti landing in Managua, Nicaragua — not a normal route — in just two days. She began looking at flight data and discovered that air charter companies and shady third parties had established a new route for desperate Haitians trying to reach the United States.
Paying $3,000 to $5,000 a ticket, impoverished Haitians dramatically shortened a migration that in previous years had taken them through Brazil, Chile and eventually the treacherous Darien Gap separating Colombia and Panama. Janetsky found an expert who determined charter flights had flown as many as 31,000 people out of Haiti, nearly 60% of the Haitians arriving to the U.S. border at that time, and reached one of the most prolific air carriers.
Clemente interviewed several Haitian migrants near the border with Guatemala, all of whom had taken one of the charter flights. They confirmed the air bridge, the cost of tickets and the sacrifice they had made to afford it. One week later, the Haitian government announced it was suspending the charter flights to Nicaragua.