US airlines to start Cuba flights next week

OREANDA-NEWS. August 26, 2016. Scheduled commercial flights between the US and Cuba will restart on 31 August, more than 50 years after they were suspended as part of Washington's economic embargo on the island.

Cuba's Civilian Aeronautics Institute says it is expanding local airports to increase passenger capacity, implement modern technology and improve service quality.

The airports earmarked for upgrades are Havana, Camaguey, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo, Cienfuegos, Holguin, Manzanillo, Matanzas, Santa Clara, Santiago de Cuba and Varadero.

JetBlue Airways will launch service to Cuba on 31 August when it flies from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Santa Clara, capital of Villa Clara province in the center of the island, the airline said.

American Airlines will follow when it flies from Miami on 7 September to Holguin, Santa Clara, Camaguey and Cienfuegos, the carrier said.

None of six other US airlines approved to fly to Cuba have said when they will begin service.

The US and Cuba signed a landmark agreement in February 2016 that paved the way for the resumption of commercial air links. That agreement expanded a thaw in bilateral relations.

The agreement will eventually allow up to 110 daily commercial flights by US airlines to Havana and several other cities.

The volume of Cuba's air passenger traffic grew 18pc last year over 2014, and will grow by 25pc-30pc this year with the restart of commercial flights from the US, Lima-based Latin American Civil Aviation Commission president Carlos Fernando Velasquez said in Havana on 22 August.

The agreement between Cuba and the US does not yet allow state-run Cubana de Aviacion to fly to US cities.

Foreign carriers now serving Cuba include KLM, Air France, Iberia, Air Canada, Aeroflot, Swissair, Air Berlin, Air Europa, Aeromexico, Avianca and Air China.

The island will have adequate jet fuel supply to meet increased demand created by the US airlines, Cuba's state-run oil company Cupet told Argus. "All is in place to meet the additional demand," the official said, declining to confirm any fuel imports to supplement local production.

Cuba faces reduced availability of all types of fuel because of diminished supply from close ally Venezuela.

Cuba's refineries produced 293,000t (6,200 b/d) of aviation fuel in 2013, 3.3pc more than 2012, according to the latest available figures from the island's statistics office.