One would normally not associate Cuba very much with air cargo.
Passenger charter flights from Europe and Canada have in the past years provided sufficient belly same to transport much needed medical supplies and goods need for the Cuban tourist hotel industry.
But, that was about it.
The U.S. American embargo on the country since Fidel Castro came to power ensured that there was no connection between both countries since the 1960’s.
U.S. DoT approves plan for Cuban air cargo services.
The status-quo chanced as of last week when America’s Department of Transport (DoT) approved a plan for the possible opening of air cargo services between the USA and Cu-ba.
Relations between both countries have thawed somewhat and the upcoming visit to Cu-ba by Mr Obama is meant to bring down the remaining barriers altogether.
The new U.S.-Cuba air services pact which was signed on February 17th is aimed at opening up a scheduled services market between both countries.
This will please U.S. carriers such as United and American who could benefit most from a regular air sanction with Havana.
U.S. Forwarders applaud the agreement
Brandon Fried who is executive Director of the U.S. Airforwarders Association (AfA) is very happy with the steps being made in setting up a regular air cargo flow between both countries.
Admittedly, the cargo traffic in the first years can be expected to be mostly one-way, U.S. to Cuba.
The tropical island is going through a massive change and the infrastructure which has been badly hit over the past half-century, needs a great deal of investment from overseas.
A lot of this will come from the U.S. side.
There are still thousands of past Cuban exiles living in the USA, many of them who have opened businesses of their own and who would like to, if posible, reinvest in their old country.
AfA’s Brandon Fried sees good air cargo opportunities coming down the line and in a recent interview with the U.S. magazine Logistics Management he said, “as the doors be-tween Cuba and the United States reopen, trade between our two nations will undoubt-edly go up, creating an increased demand for air cargo and freight forwarders.”
Carriers can now apply for rights
The new agreement now allows airlines to apply for rights from the U.S. to Cuba whereby the DoT will then select which carriers may operate scheduled services from various U.S. gateways.
The deal reached between Cuba and the USA will initially allow each country to operate up to 20 daily roundtrip flights between the U.S. and Havana as well as the possibility of 10 daily roundtrips between the U.S. and each of Cuba’s nine other international airports.
Will it just mainly be U.S. carriers who will profit from a hoped for air cargo influx into Cu-ba?
Cubana, the Cuban national carrier has no real air freight capacity to speak of. Maybe they will try to team up with other carriers to participate in the race.
European technology and resulting air freight demand in the coming years may well war-rant a demand for direct Europe to Cuba freight routes.
Still plenty of time ahead yet.
John Mc Donagh