On Wednesday, President Joe Biden’s administration rolled back a slew of restrictions on flights to Cuba imposed by his predecessor, including ending a ban on U.S. airlines flying to Cuban airports other than Havana.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) issued the order at the request of Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who said the action was “in support of the Cuban people, and in the foreign policy interests of the United States.”
Last month, the White House said it planned to take action as part of a broader policy review of Cuba. Flight restrictions have been lifted immediately.
The Trump administration issued a series of aviation restrictions in 2019 and 2020 to increase U.S. economic pressure on the Cuban government. In particular, the administration banned U.S. airlines from flying to eight Cuban international airports outside of Havana, including Camaguey, Coco Island, Largo Island, Cienfuegos, Manzanillo, Matanzas and Santiago de Cuba.
Under President Donald Trump, USDOT limited charter flights to Cuba to 3,600 per year before suspending private charter flights to Cuba. 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 finance its abuses and interference in Venezuela. Dictators cannot be allowed to benefit from U.S. travel.”
The USDOT under Trump allows public charter flights to and from Havana and charter flights “for emergency medical purposes, search and rescue, and other travel deemed to be in the interest of the United States.”
With U.S. airlines facing full flights and some staffing shortages, it is unclear how many new flights to Cuba could be added. As a result of the order, USDOT rejected requests for emergency waivers and allocation of public charter flights to Havana.
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: SKIFT.COM