Ice­break­ers in the air

On Cuba - - CONTENTS - J.J. Mi­randa

DI­RECT FLIGHTS BE­TWEEN THE UNITED STATES AND CUBA ARE AL­READY A RE­AL­ITY. AN AIR­BUS A320 COM­ING FROM THE UNITED STATES BROKE MORE THAN HALF A CEN­TURY OF SI­LENCE IN THE SKY. IT DID IT ON THE FORT LAUDERDALESANTA CLARA COM­MER­CIAL ROUTE. SOME 150 PER­SONS CAME DOWN FROM THE AIR­CRAFT IN THE CEN­TER OF CUBA ON AU­GUST 31 OF THIS YEAR.

JetBlue, a con­sor­tium al­ready es­tab­lished in the his­tory of re­la­tions be­tween both coun­tries, was in charge of the first trip. Ever since the mem­o­rable 17D, the pro­hi­bi­tions have been grad­u­ally thaw­ing.

Re­gard­ing the event, Barack Obama rec­og­nized that im­por­tant steps had been taken with the reestab­lish­ment of diplo­matic re­la­tions and open­ing of em­bassies, fa­cil­i­tat­ing the in­crease of trips and com­merce, con­nect­ing more U.S. and Cuban peo­ple, as well as pro­mot­ing the free flow of in­for­ma­tion to, from and in­side Cuba.

He con­cluded by say­ing that ad­vances have been made re­gard­ing com­mon in­ter­ests and joint work in com­plex is­sues that for years de­fined and di­vided the two coun­tries.

A year later, the pres­i­dent added that the nor­mal­iza­tion would be a long trip, but that the last 12 months were an ex­am­ple of the progress that can be achieved when out­lin­ing the roadmap to­ward a bet­ter fu­ture. He said that on the fol­low­ing year they would con­tinue this road, em­pow­er­ing the Cuban and U.S. peo­ple to lead the course. While the principal ob­sta­cle for the nor­mal­iza­tion con­tin­ues ex­ist­ing, there are many facts that speak of a new re­la­tion­ship.

THE TAKE­OFF

U.S. Sec­re­tary of Trans­porta­tion Anthony Foxx and As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary of State for Eco­nomic and Busi­ness Af­fairs Charles H. Rivkin trav­eled to Havana last Fe­bru­ary to sign a bi­lat­eral agree­ment on air ser­vices be­tween the United States and Cuba.

The agree­ment al­lows for 110 daily reg­u­lar com­mer­cial f lights, in­clud­ing 20 to Havana and 10 to nine in­ter­na­tional air­ports in Cuba. The reg­u­la­tion does not limit the char­ter f lights op­er­at­ing since the 1970s.

Al­though the U.S. law still for­bids cit­i­zens from that coun­try to travel to Cuba for tourism, this agree­ment, in the con­text of the 12 au­tho­rized cat­e­gories, fa­cil­i­tates the “au­tho­rized trips” and opens the way for a f lood of of­fers.

In 2015 the Cuban au­thor­i­ties re­ported a to­tal of 161,233 U.S. vis­i­tors. In 2014 they were 91,254. Tak­ing into account the rea­son­able of­fers (from 74 to 99 dol­lars per ticket), how many more could there be in 2016?

Dur­ing the ap­proval process, the cam­paign of some Repub­li­can Party sec­tors, who ar­gued that the safety of Cuban air­ports did not meet in­ter­na­tional stan­dards or U.S. re­quire­ments, put a spoke in the wheel.

Re­gard­ing this is­sue, Cuban For­eign Min­is­ter Bruno Ro­dríguez pointed out dur­ing Foxx’s sec­ond visit to the is­land that “Cuban air­ports have been pre­par­ing sys­tem­at­i­cally since re­cent years to at­tend to the ar­rival of tourists to Cuba and these reg­u­lar f lights are part of the usual func­tion­ing of Cuban ter­mi­nals.”

WHICH AIR­LINES ARE FLY­ING AND WHERE TO?

Amer­i­can Air­lines, Fron­tier Air­lines, JetBlue Air­ways, Sil­ver Air­ways, South­west Air­lines and Sun Coun­try Air­lines were the six U.S. air­lines ap­proved to start di­rect and reg­u­lar com­mer­cial f lights be­tween the neigh­bor­ing coun­tries, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion (DOT).

Reg­u­lar flights will con­nect with the cap­i­tal and other Cuban ci­ties from the U.S. ci­ties of At­lanta, Char­lotte, Fort Laud­erdale, Hous­ton, Los An­ge­les, Mi­ami, Ne­wark, New York, Orlando and Tampa.

Barely one day af­ter JetBlue’s first flight, on Septem­ber 1 Sil­ver Air­ways made its de­but with a reg­u­lar line also to Santa Clara; Amer­i­can Air­lines op­er­ates two daily flights be­tween Mi­ami and Hol­guín, Santa Clara and Va­radero, and one a day con­nect­ing Mi­ami with Ca­m­agüey and with Cien­fue­gos, for a to­tal of 56 weekly flights, more than any other U.S. air­line fly­ing to Cuba. The ser­vice to Havana be­gins in Novem­ber, with 35 flights a week.

Other U.S. air­lines will con­tinue their in­cor­po­ra­tion in the next months, hav­ing as des­ti­na­tions dif­fer­ent Cuban ci­ties, in­clud­ing Havana.

Photo (Foto): Sergei Mon­talvo Aróstegui

JetBlue’s inau­gu­ral flight to Santa Clara, Au­gust 30, 2016 / Vuelo inau­gu­ral reg­u­lar de JetBlue a Santa Clara, 30 de agosto 2016

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