U.S.-Cuba Mail Flights get Underway

There are still no regular or charter cargo flights between the USA and Cuba despite the agreement a few weeks ago that both country’s carriers can apply for traffic rights after more than half-a-century of a U.S.-led blockade of Cuba.

An IBC operated Saab 340F flies mail between Florida and Cuba  -  courtesy: IBC
An IBC operated Saab 340F flies mail between Florida and Cuba - courtesy: IBC

Mail flights have started
The Miami-based airline, IBC Airways, started an inaugural flight between Miami International Airport and Havana International Airport on March 16th carrying mail from the United States.
IBC now uses one of its eight Saab 340Fs on the route three times a week.
A small start for what may well prove to be a regular mail and eventual cargo operation from the USA to Cuba.
It is not clear whether the IBC aircraft also picks up mail or packages on the return leg from Havana.
Probably not as restrictions still apply within Cuba for exporting goods to the U.S. or for a normal mail exchange.
This will change step by step in the near future as both countries thaw their relationship even further.

The U.S. Postmaster General, and CEO of the US Postal Services (USPS), Megan Brennan was quoted as saying “the U.S. Postal Service is pleased to participate in the historic direct transportation of mail services with Cuba.”
Customers in the U.S. can send First Class Mail, Postcards, First Class Packages, Priority International Mail and so called Small Flat Rate Priced Boxes.

Gradually setting up new air links between both countries is seen as being one of the most important assets towards a new detente on both sides.

A small step towards entering the Cuban cargo market?
So far, a total of eleven U.S. carriers have made applications to Washington’s DoT, requesting slot allocations for scheduled passenger and cargo operations between the U.S. and Cuba.
Most, with the exception of FedEX Express are a mixture of scheduled and charter passenger carriers.

FedEx Express will probably concentrate on the small package business which is expected to boom within Cuba once local regulations are loosened even more on the Cuban side.
There is presently no real need for small, mid-size or large all-freighter operators to worry about missing the boat in the Cuban market.
However, as soon as things pick up then even European cargo operators might see themselves looking more closely at freighter services.

Atlas Air satisfies Rolling Stones
Meanwhile, U.S. charter carrier Atlas Air, a unit of Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, flew 97 tons of staging and musical equipment with one of their Boeing 747-400 freighters from Mexico City to Havana, this way helping the Rolling Stones to perform their historic concert in the Cuban capital.
“With our global reach and flexible scale, our customers depend on Atlas Air for reliable service anywhere in the world,” said Michael Steen, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, Atlas Air Worldwide. “As the first U.S. freighter operator chosen to operate into Cuba, we were delighted to support this one-of-a-kind event.”
The Rolling Stones performed a free concert in Havana on March 25 -- the first open-air performance in the country by a British rock band.
Including shipment by sea, the concert required 61 containers with an estimated 500 tons of equipment, including everything needed to produce the outdoor show.

John Mc Donagh

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