Cuba to Receive Regular Flights from US Airlines

The agreement will be signed on Tuesday Feb. 16 at the Hotel Nacional.
The agreement will be signed on Tuesday Feb. 16 at the Hotel Nacional.

HAVANA TIMES — Several US airlines will begin offering direct commercial flights between the US and Cuba starting this fall, after more than half a century without service, announced the Obama administration on Friday.

The agreement between the two countries, which will be formally signed on February 16 at the National Hotel in Havana, allows for up to 20 daily direct flights from the US to Havana and another ten to other Cuban international airports, said Thomas Engle, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Transport in a conference call.

For the time being, Cuban airlines will still not be able fly to the United States, as they must have both authorization from the Department of Transport and get the green light from the Office for Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), attached to the Department of Treasury and the Bureau of Industry and Security, Department of Commerce.

“I do not expect there to Cuban airlines offering services to the United States in the near future,” Engle said.

Starting next Tuesday, US airlines will have 15 days to submit their applications for licenses to fly to Cuba and indicate which cities want to fly to. The Department of Transport will then announce in the coming months which US airlines can fly to the island and with what frequency.

This will allow the airlines “sufficient time to handle all regulatory issues and start selling tickets later this year, in the fall,” added the Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs, Brandon Belford. They had previously announced the resumption of flights this year, but had not specified a date.

“Unleashing the Power of US travelers and their frequent flyer miles will take us one step closer to eliminating the archaic restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba,” said Republican Senator Jeff Flake. The senator introduced in January 2015, a bill to lift all restrictions on travel by Americans to Cuba, so that they can travel freely as tourists on the island.

For many years, and until the commercial flights resume, US citizens authorized to travel to Cuba have had to use charter services from a US carrier or go through third countries.

American AirlinesCurrently some airlines -American Airlines, Delta, Sky King and JetBlue- operate direct charter flights to Cuba, but they can only transport a limited number of persons authorized by Washington.

Charter flights between the US and Cuba will continue once the direct commercial services are resumed, although the added competition and frequency could bring down the exorbitant prices for the short flight.

At present there are ten charter flights daily to Cuba. The passengers are Cuban-Americans who have relatives in Cuba and those other US citizens who have authorization to travel to the island under one of the allowed categories.

Cuban-Americans can travel to Cuba to see their relatives without restrictions since 2009. In 2011 trips were extended to a limited number of other US citizens as family members, journalists, government officials, religious and humanitarian workers.

According to the information available at this time, the agreement to re-establish direct commercial flights does not change these categories, thus US citizens allowed by their government to travel to the island will remain limited.

Cuba and the United States officially resumed bilateral relations in July 2015.

7 thoughts on “Cuba to Receive Regular Flights from US Airlines

  • Mr. T.D. I know first hand that Cuba has been flying to Canada for years. Also know that there are maintenance issues with Cubana through my contact at ICAO & FAA who did an audit of Cubana not long ago. In the past Cubana flights have had navigational errors on flights to Mexico. Like being lost for a time. They have made improvements with their aquisition of AirBuses. But it may be a long time before Cubana is granted landing rights in the USA.

  • Ahhh! So all of those many flights to Cuba from Canada on Airbus A320’s with the Cubana Airlines logo on the tail section were just a figment of my imagination then. And the Cuban flight crews on board were actually impostors too. Thanks for the chuckle.

    I don’t care where Cubana Aviacion acquires their modern aircraft to service their Canadian routes… only that they do…with absolutely zero issues too. That’s a fact.

    Moses, as Bob pointed out, the quality and safety of Cubana Airlines aircraft potentially landing at American airports is not the issue. The assurance of quality and safety during their weekly flights to and from Canada over U.S. airspace is currently maintained by our Canadian aviation regulations. When Cubana eventually begins landing their aircraft at U.S. airports, the same will hold true of your U.S. aviation regulations, which by the way, mirror Canada’s. Tranquilo.

  • The problem with actual Cubana aircraft landing in the US is that they are property of the Cuban government and thus subject to seizure by any one of the thousands of US citizens holding internationally valid claims against the Cuban government for properties expropriated following the Triumph of the Revolution. Cuba’s refusal to defend itself in these many litigations for expropriated assets as a way of thumbing it’s nose to the US is proving to be a very serious mistake.

  • I stand corrected. I should have been more specific. Landing privileges is the more precise measure. Of course, many third-world airlines overfly US airspace every day. By the way, Cuba is as third world as third world could be. Once again, I am PRO-Cuba and anti-Castro.

  • I hate to break it to you but no Cubana Airlines planes fly to Canada. Cubana Airlines leases those planes from other airlines. They used to use COPA Airline, they used briefly one Canadian charter airline from Calgary and now I think they use some Ukrainian airline. None of these planes never had Cubana Airlines logo.

  • Moses, Cubana Airlines regularly fly their planes above US airspace every week and have been doing so for many years now. Are you daft? Or are you just trying to once again spew your toxic brand of anti-Cuban propaganda? Cubana Airlines currently operate a fleet of very modern Airbus A320-200’s, flying thousands upon thousands of Canadians above the American eastern, central, and southern states each year… with absolutely zero issues.

    By the way, Cuba is not defined as a third-world country…but then again, your continuing disinformation only serves to help promote your anti-Cuban propaganda campaign by suggesting otherwise. Your black heart and mind is your third-world…and I’m not referring to the color of your skin.

  • Like many airlines from third world countries, Cubana Airlines is probably struggling to meet the stringent US maintenance and record-keeping minimum standards in order to fly in US airspace. Given the horrible state of repair I have experienced on most of my Cubana Airlines flights, I can’t imagine their planes will be flying to the US anytime soon.

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