January 10, 2020

U.S. Further Restricts Travel to Cuba

By Samuel Rubenfeld

The U.S. State Department ordered the suspension until further notice of all public charter flights between the U.S. and Cuban destinations other than the airport in the capital, Havana.

The decision affects nine Cuban airports, the State Department said. Public charter flight operators have a 60-day period to discontinue all affected flights. The U.S. will also cap the number of permitted charter flights to Jose Marti International Airport, in Havana, according to the State Department, signaling a future procedure for implementing the cap.

“In suspending public charter flights to these nine Cuban airports, the United States further impedes the Cuban regime from gaining access to hard currency from U.S. travelers,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The move follows a similar restriction announced in October 2019 that suspended air service as of Dec. 10, 2019, between U.S. and Cuba other than to the Jose Marti airport. A consultant for a company that coordinates charter flights to Cuba said to the Miami Herald on Friday that charter companies had been working overtime in the wake of the suspension of commercial flights. The ban on charter flights will affect Cuban-Americans seeking to visit their families, he said.

Since taking office, the Trump administration has hardened U.S. policy toward Cuba, including by restricting travel to the island and limiting remittances that U.S.-based family members of Cuban nationals can send home. Washington blames Havana for its support to Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela and has barred several top Cuban officials from receiving U.S. visas. The U.S. has also restricted transactions by Americans with entities owned by the Cuban military.