Two Aspects of the Reintroduction of Flights to Cuba / Dimas Castellano
Dimas Castellanos, 5 October 2016 — With the landing in Santa Clara of
an Airbus A-320 from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood on August 31st, Jet Blue
restarted commercial flights between Cuba and the United States, which
were suspended in 1962.
To accompany the general travel permissions, the increase in the level
of remittances, better access to communications, the arrival of cruise
ships, and North American hotels, the US Department of Transport,
approved the launch of 110 flights to Cuba. Of those, apart from Jet
Blue, American Airlines will fly 56 times a week to
Cienfuegos, Camagüey, Holguín, Santa Clara and Varadero. And at the end
of the year, other companies, such as Frontier, Silver Airways,
Southwest Airlines and Sun Country Airlines will start up.
Nevertheless, not everything is positive. The reintroduction of flights
has twin aspects, both good and bad.
The good bits are that they are the result of the re-establishment of
diplomatic relations between the two countries — the most important
political event in Cuba since 1959 — the evidence of the failure of the
Castro regime and the embargo, and the continuing arrival of North
American cruise ships and hotels. An opening which will keep widening
out. We can also add that the price of one-way tickets with medical
insurance* included will not exceed $100.
In the face of the chronic inefficiency of the Cuban economy, clearly
shown in the disaster of the reforms, the decline in GDP, and massive
emigration, doing tourism business deals with with the greatest economic
power in the world, located just a few miles away from our coast, looks
to be an essential component in Cuban development.
The bad part is that, after a lost half a century, we are going back to
our starting point, in the worst conditions, for two reasons.
The first one is that the Cuba of the 1950’s was tied up in the
development of the hotel industry, international flights, and the
arrival of tourist car ferries. Havana had become an obligatory
destination for foreign tourists. The clearest evidence was the opening
of the Capri, Deauville, Riviera and Havana Hilton hotels between the
spring of 1957 and May 1958, with more than 1300 rooms. That plan,
interrupted by the 1959 revolution, is starting up again now after about
seven decades’ delay.
The second one is that Cuba is the only country in the region where its
people don’t enjoy the elementary right to participate as entrepreneurs
in their country’s economy and to contract directly with foreign
companies, in spite of having more than adequate professional training.
Because of those reasons, among others, getting out of the profound
crisis in which the country is immersed will be impossible without
removing the obstacles preventing Cubans from exercising their right to
participate in the opportunities now opening up.
The ball is in Cuba’s court. Flights starting up again should not only
serve to consolidate the normalisation of relations, but also to give
Cubans back their rights seized from them over fifty years ago. Without
that happening on the Cuban side, the moves taken by the White House and
the reintroduction of flights will not have a positive effect on Cuban
*Translator’s note: The Cuban government has made medical insurance is
mandatory for visitors to Cuba
Source: Two Aspects of the Reintroduction of Flights to Cuba / Dimas
Castellano – Translating Cuba –