Civil aviation accord with Cuba to be signed Tuesday, setting off
stampede for routes
For the first time in more than 50 years, regularly scheduled flights
will be reestablished
Up to 110 daily flights between U.S. cities and Cuba
Agreement covers travel to Havana and nine other Cuban cities
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
The United States and Cuba will sign a civil aviation agreement in
Havana on Tuesday, opening the door for U.S. airlines to begin offering
scheduled service between the two countries for the first time since the
Beginning Tuesday, commercial passenger and cargo airlines will have a
15-day window to submit applications to serve Havana and nine other
Cuban cities with international airports. Charter flights, which have
been the only way to fly to Cuba for decades, will continue.
Decisions on which airlines and which U.S. cities will have commercial
service to Cuba are expected to be made by this summer, and the first
scheduled flights could begin by next fall, Brandon Belford, deputy
assistant for aviation and international affairs at the Department of
Transportation, said Friday.
The agreement, which was reached in December, allows a maximum of 20
daily flights to Havana and 10 daily flights to each of the other nine
cities for a total of 110 daily flights.
Officials said it’s possible that more airlines might want to fly to
Havana than slots are available, while some of the other airports may be
under-subscribed. If non-Havana markets are not as hotly contested, “we
will likely be in a position to make those determinations and award
those frequencies to U.S. carriers in a shorter time line,” Belford said.
How many flights will ultimately serve Cuba “depends on market demand,”
said Thomas Engle, deputy assistant secretary of state for
transportation affairs. Cuba also has international airports in
Camagüey, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo, Cienfuegos, Holguín, Manzanillo,
Varadero, Santa Clara and Santiago de Cuba.
American travelers will still be prohibited from traveling to Cuba for
tourism, but travel in 12 authorized categories, such as educational
trips and people-to-people tours, is permitted.
American Airlines, which already leases more of its aircraft for Cuban
charters than any other U.S. airline, is eager to begin service to Cuba.
“We look forward to establishing scheduled service to Cuba in 2016 from
Miami and our other hubs,” said Martha Pantin, an American spokeswoman.
“With some 25 years of experience and operations already established in
Miami, that hub makes sense. We are exploring other options based on
demand in each market.”
Miami International Airport is already the main embarkation and arrival
point for Cuba charters. In 2015, 444,667 passengers departed from MIA
on 4,283 Cuba charters.
JetBlue, United Airlines, Southwest and Delta also have indicated they
want to offer service to Cuba.
Although the civil aviation agreement is a reciprocal one, meaning Cuba
could also provide scheduled service to the United States using its
planes, Engle said, “We do not anticipate Cuban-owned aircraft serving
the United States in the near future.”
One of the problems is that Cuban aircraft could be seized by U.S.
plaintiffs who have won civil judgments in U.S. courts against the Cuban
government that stem from claims that they or their family members have
suffered abuses at the hands of the Cuban government. Cuba chose not to
defend itself in the cases, and the plaintiffs won by default. But now
the judgments total billions of dollars.
Engle called that “one of the very important practical obstacles in the
way of Cuban-owned aircraft serving the U.S. anytime soon.” He said the
topic was discussed in negotiations last year that led to the agreement
and the U.S. government was “very clear” about the limitations of the
executive branch to mitigate Cuban-owned assets being seized to satisfy
The agreement, however, does allow Cuba’s state airline, Cubana de
Aviación, to enter into code-sharing arrangements with U.S. airlines as
well as aircraft leases with third-country airlines.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Assistant Secretary of
State for Economic and Business Affairs Charles H. Rivkin will lead the
U.S. delegation to the Tuesday signing ceremony in Cuba.
Source: Civil aviation accord with Cuba to be signed Tuesday, setting
off stampede for routes | Miami Herald –