US approves American Airlines to resume service from some Cuban airports


American Airlines planes are seen at Tampa International Airport as airports across the country wait for Verizon and AT&T to roll out their 5G technology, in Tampa, Florida, U.S., January 19, 2022. REUTERS/Octavio Jones

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WASHINGTON, July 13 (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) on Wednesday approved a request by American Airlines (AAL.O) to resume service to some smaller Cuban airports after President Joe Biden reversed the policy of his predecessor.

American sought approval for flights from Miami to Santa Clara, Holguin, Matanzas/Varadero and Santiago de Cuba after then-President Donald Trump’s administration banned passenger flights between smaller Cuban airports.

The airline said in a filing that the flights “will improve service and access between the United States and these points outside of Havana, after more than two years in which this service was suspended.”

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American added that it “will serve the public interest by providing and maintaining the best connectivity to Cuba through its Miami hub and providing substantial competition to other US carriers serving Cuba.”

Last month, the USDOT revoked a series of restrictions on flights to Cuba, including ending a ban on US airline flights to Cuban airports other than Havana. The Trump administration had issued a series of aviation restrictions in 2019 and 2020 in an effort to increase US economic pressure on the Cuban government.

The USDOT order in June was issued at the request of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said the action was “in support of the Cuban people and in the interest of United States foreign policy “.

In May, the White House signaled the planned move as part of a broader policy review toward Cuba.

Under President Donald Trump, the USDOT imposed a cap on charter flights to Cuba at 3,600 per year and then suspended private charter flights to the country. The department also banned charter flights to all Cuban airports except Havana.

Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Cuba “uses tourism and travel funds to fund its abuse and interference in Venezuela. Dictators cannot be allowed to benefit from US travel. United”.

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Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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