Increasing Pressure: US Govt. Further Restricts Air Travel To Cuba

This shouldn’t be surprising but I’m obsessed with travel travel is something that I enjoy and attempt to explore whenever I have the opportunity. For example, I spend a considerable amount of my free time writing about travel (aka this blog), exploring maps, and debating my next destination.

Although it hasn’t necessarily been at the top of my list, I’ve always been intrigued by Cuba and really wanted to visit — particularly when I observed the warming of Cuba / United States relations in 2014. When the US, ultimately, eased restrictions on travel to Cuba in 2016, I should’ve jumped at the opportunity because the future appears bleak.

HISTORY

In June 2019, the administration banned cruise ships, along with private yachts, fishing boats and other similar vessels, from docking in Cuban ports.

Then, in October 2019, the US Department of Transportation issued a notice that banned US airlines from operating scheduled flights to any destination in Cuba other than Havana. The restriction would be effective 10 December 2019 and would remain in effect until further notice.

The US Department of State Secretary wrote a letter to the DOT making the following request:

To further the Administration’s policy of strengthening the economic consequences to the Cuban regime for its ongoing repression of the Cuban people and its support for Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, in the foreign policy interests of the United States, I respectfully request that the Department of Transportation suspend until further notice all scheduled US carrier flights between the United States and all airports in Cuba, except Jose Marti International Airport (HAV) in Havana.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

US airlines have only flown to five Cuban airports. American Airlines is by far the biggest US carrier to Cuba though JetBlue has some flights as well.

With that change, the following eight routes were canceled:

  • American Airlines flies from Miami to: Camagüey (CMW), Holguín (HOG), Santa Clara (SNU), Santiago (SCU), Varadero (VRA)
  • Jet Blue flies from Fort Lauderdale to: Camagüey (CMW), Holguín (HOG), Santa Clara (SNU)

Interestingly, albeit a bit more expensive alternative, charter flights open to the public began to expand as a way around those restrictions.

THE LATEST NEWS

About a week ago, the US administration further tightened those restrictions.

Last week, the Department of State asked the White House to prohibit charter flights from the United States to nine Cuban provincial airports starting 10 March 2020. Only flights to Havana would still be allowed. Additionally, the Department of Transportation would also put a limit on the total number of annual flights to the Cuban capital.

Here is the statement:

On the same day, the administration announced a ban on people-to-people exchanges. These cultural and educational tours were one of the categories Americans had been permitted to travel to Cuba on for decades, provided that they file for and receive permission ahead of time.

US operators now have less than 60 days to discontinue their flights and then the U.S. DOT will implement a cap on the number of flights permitted.

FINAL STAMP

Let me say first say this is not a political blog. This is simply an observation of the airline restrictions. Although, I’m not sure I fully understand the logic of targeting non-Havana flights, I do understand the political decision to send a message to Cuba.

However, my questions are more focused on the policy. For example, why not ban all flights to Cuba?

And for clarification, I’m not suggesting that is the right path either. In fact, I think this policy is cruel given that individuals are now restricted from seeing their families it ultimately limits American travel.

This just seems like an odd way to go about adding pressure to a country.

Worth Noting: There are eleven other categories of travel that are still permitted, including other cultural exchanges — like those taken by university groups — along with travel to see family members or to focus on humanitarian projects, religious activities, public performances, journalism or official U.S. government business…just in case you’re attempting to go before all of this hits the fan.

What do you make of this situation? Have you been to Cuba? What was your impression?

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