U.S. to ban all routes to Cuba except Havana, reports say
The United States is banning commercial flights to all cities in Cuba except Havana.
The move, announced by the Trump administration on Friday, rolls back an easing of Cuba-U.S. flight restrictions that began under Trump’s predecessor Obama.
The change in policy comes from unnamed government sources who spoke to media outlets, including The Miami Herald and The Associated Press.
The AP cited “two people briefed on the matter” in reporting that the Trump administration is making the move to help prevent tourism dollars from going to Cuba, whose government has been increasingly at odds with the U.S. in recent months.
An unnamed official gave a similar reason to the Herald, which writes the official cited a desire by the administration to “punish (the Cuban government) for its support of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela."
“We have seen how the Cuban government has benefited from American travelers. We will not allow these funds to be siphoned to the government coffers,” the unnamed official said to the Herald.
Airlines will have 45 days to end their operations to Cuban cities beyond Havana, the official added to the Herald.
Charter flights have long operated between the U.S. and Cuba, and they'll not be affected by the latest change. However, regular commercial airline flights had been off limits until they were cleared to begin operating in 2016 for the first time in nearly five decades.
Even then, however, flights were restricted only to Havana and nine other cities. U.S. carriers rushed in to win rights from regulators to serve the routes. Nearly all sought the rights for Havana flights, though there was less demand for smaller cities.
While the new restrictions announced Friday will shut off options for the nine other cities, the impact on U.S. airlines will be limited.
Only two – American and JetBlue – currently offer regularly scheduled service to Cuban cities beyond Havana. Several other airlines – including Southwest – had flown to some of the other Cuban cities, but eventually axed those routes as demand didn’t live up to expectations.
Both American and JetBlue pledged to abide by the changes.
“We are reviewing today’s announcement regarding service to non-Havana airports in Cuba,” American said in a statement to TPG. “We will continue to comply with federal law, work with the administration, and update our policies and procedures regarding travel to Cuba as necessary.”
American currently flies to Havana and five other Cuban cities (Camagüey, Holguin, Santa Clara, Santiago de Cuba and Varadero).
JetBlue flies to three other Cuban cities in addition to Havana. They are Camagüey, Holguin and Santa Clara.
“We plan to operate in full compliance with the new policy concerning scheduled air service between the U.S. and Cuba,” JetBule said in a statement to TPG. “We are beginning to work with our various government and commercial partners to understand the full impact of this change on our customers and operations in Camagüey, Holguín and Santa Clara.”