Upcoming Cuba Restrictions Raise Travel Concerns
Business aviation travel from the U.S. to Cuba has gone fairly smoothly since U.S. regulations were relaxed in recent years, but the newest round of upcoming regulatory changes might be dampening interest in flights there.
The White House in June announced plans to strengthen restrictions for U.S. travel to and business with Cuba, including some that have been eased in recent years. “The new policy channels economic activities away from the Cuban military monopoly, Grupo de Administración Empresarial (GAESA), including most travel-related transactions, while allowing American individuals and entities to develop economic ties to the private, small business sector in Cuba,” the White House said.
The policy further is designed to “enhance travel restrictions” to better enforce the ban on U.S. tourism travel to Cuba. One change is that travel for non-academic education purposes will be limited to group travel. “The self-directed, individual travel permitted by the Obama Administration will be prohibited,” the White House added.
Business and general aviation travel expert Cuba Handling released a fact sheet on the announced changes, noting, “The primary objective of the proposed new regulations is to limit or eliminate direct financial transactions between U.S. travelers to Cuba and entities owned or controlled by the Cuban military (which has many subsidiaries).”
Pre-existing agreements and travel plans remain intact, but with the elimination of the individual “people to people” licensed travel, individuals may no longer organize their own itineraries and contacts, Cuba Handling advised. They must use a sponsoring organization—such as a handling organization—and that organization must ensure the traveler’s activities in Cuba meet the regulations.
Commercial and private air travel requirements are essentially unchanged, but the itineraries and content requirements for the travelers will change.
The final regulations have yet to be released, and Keith Foreman, a master mission advisor for Universal Aviation and Weather, said it is too soon to tell whether this will have a notable effect on business and general aviation operations from the U.S. to Cuba.
But Foreman did say travel in recent months “has slowed significantly.” He cited a couple of reasons for this: “Travel to Cuba is more expensive than I think most realized. That, as well as the novelty of travel there wearing off…has contributed to a reduction of flights there in the last month or so.”
But he also said the June 16 statement is “probably a contributing factor” as well, and added, “We are still waiting for the release of the new regulations and will be better able to judge the impact it will have.”
The new regulations are anticipated in upcoming months.
But aside from the uncertainty surrounding the restrictions, Foreman said, general aviation operations have been conducted fairly flawlessly. And when the Obama Administration had eased the process for certain travel to Cuba, private flights from the U.S. spiked, notably in 2016.
Source: AIN Online