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U.S. cuts most Cuba air routes


In another move to roll back the Obama-era opening of Cuba to U.S. travelers and businesses, the U.S. Department of Transportation has ordered U.S. airlines to stop all flights to cities other than Havana within 45 days.

The change will affect flights to nine cities, including Santiago de Cuba, but will likely have little effect on actual business, since early optimism over booming business to Cuba fell flat, and was more recently crimped even further by restrictions banning all but specified group tours and Cuban relatives from going at all.

The largest number of U.S. travelers to Cuba chose traveling by cruise ship rather than by air because of real or perceived complexity in arranging lodging, meals and transportation in Cuba by individual travelers. That business is also now gone, with the tightened ban on U.S. travelers and an end to U.S. permission for ships to call in Cuba.

When airline rights to Cuba first opened up, many U.S. airlines applied for routes, but within months of being granted, airlines started dropping routes or opting for smaller planes; several dropped out of the market altogether. The two biggest carriers to Cuba are American Airlines and JetBlue; both will be dropping their routes to Santiago, Holguin, Santa Clara, Camaguey and Varadero, but will keep their Havana routes. American has six flights a day to the Cuban capital.

Photo: In happier times, when flights first opened.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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We last visited Cuba in April 2016, just a few weeks after Obama had been there. You could sense the general feeling of optimism amongst the people then. Most thought that their 'little misunderstanding with our neighbour' (a common euphemism for the political situation) had been settled. It's very sad that things have gone right back to the bad old days.

We were there just before that, in January 2016, and found a broad wave of (over)optimistic expectation that we were the leading edge of a wave, and that Obama was something akin to Mother Theresa and Gandhi wrapped in one. On our last visit, this past January, we had less contact with locals, but found a belief among some that Trump was a glitch and soon the Americans would come again...

It seems to me that there are a lot of misperceptions on all sides, including the idea that Cuba is what is set out to become in 1959; instead, it is still snared in the web of imperialism/capitalism and trying to get a piece of the action. The lack of political clarity can be seen in the recent-years installation of a garden dedicated to Princess Diana and of a statue of Fr. Junipero Serra. In short, I think that Cubans are mistaken about America, and most Americans, including 'lefties' are mistaken about Cuba. Too bad!

I'm also curious what will be the outcome of the large investments U.S. lodging and other companies made in Cuba between the Obama opening and the Trump shutdown...

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

Whilst it certainly is true that many Cubans and some airlines overestimated demand, there can be little doubt that without the actions of the Trump administration there would by now be significant tourism flows from the US into the island. In that sense you probably were the leading edge of a wave, albeit not the giant one which some people expected.

Last edited by Professorabe
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