U.S. Carriers Gearing up for Cuba Operations

The United States Department of Transport (DoT) has named eight U.S. carriers which they intend to allocate traffic rights to for flights from mainland USA to Cuba’s capital city airport, Havana international.
More than a dozen airlines in total applied for operating rights for passenger and cargo operations, all of them being passenger carriers operating with different types of medium sized equipment, but also with ample belly space for possible cargo carriage due to the many short sectors involved. The fate of some of the remaining applicants is still pending, although some have been refused by the DoT.

AF-1 with U.S. President Obama on board was the first U.S. aircraft landing on Cuban soil after decades of hostile relations. Many more are expected to follow.
AF-1 with U.S. President Obama on board was the first U.S. aircraft landing on Cuban soil after decades of hostile relations. Many more are expected to follow.

Carriers chosen stretch from Alaska to Miami
In early February of this year a so called MoU was signed between Cuba and the USA stating that both countries can operate up to twenty daily return flights between the U.S. and Havana, along with a further ten daily round trips between the U.S. and Cuba’s other nine international airports. The latter however should not exceed a total of ninety daily round trip flights.
In total, there could be then up to 110 daily return flights between the USA and Cuba.
So far, there is no mention of any plans by the Cuban national carrier, Cubana, as to whether they are considering offering flights.
Hardly likely at the moment considering the travel sanctions still in effect for Cuban nationals.

A lot of capacity over Cuba’s airspace if all options are taken up.
The airlines named so far are, Alaska Airlines, American, Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, jetBlue Airways, Southwest, Spirit Airlines and United Airlines.
Interestingly, because of the concentration of Cuban Americans in the region, of the 20 flights to Havana, 13 of them originate from Florida cities, MIA/FLL/ORL/TPA and the remaining from LAX, NYC CLT, ATL and IAH.
The Florida to Havana sectors are short hops and therefore maybe allow ample belly space for the carriage of cargo such as medicines, consumer goods and so on.
The question still remains as to whether the Cuban customs authorities will allow the carriage of general cargo or whether they’ll bide their time in relaxing customs rules for goods from the continental USA.
Miami, with its five daily frequencies could be interesting for cargo originating in Europe and transiting Florida’s main gateway.

No all freighter operations on the list so far
Some say that it is only matter of time before cargo operators get into Havana.
There is no real need at the moment as negotiations between both countries are in their early stages as far as future investment and restructuring of the country’s infrastructure is concerned.
Cargo traffic will remain one-sided for the foreseeable future as exports from Cuba are still very low and so far don’t warrant carriage by air.
But, this will gradually change as is the case with Iran, once the country opens up and infrastructure investment, mainly from the USA, gains speed.

John Mc Donagh

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