On January 10, 2020, the US Department of Transportation (“DOT”) issued an order imposing new restrictions on public charter flights from the United States to Cuba. While certain US restrictions on Cuba, including for travel, were relaxed under President Obama, the Trump Administration has gradually rolled back some of these changes and further tightened US travel restrictions vis-à-vis Cuba.
Specifically, the January 10 DOT order:
- Suspends all public charter flights to all airports in Cuba, except José Martí International Airport (HAV) in Havana effective March 10, 2020; and
- Limits the number of authorized public charter flights between the United States and HAV to 3,600 public charter flight per year (approximately the same number of charter flights accepted in 2019). DOT intends to propose a regulatory framework for carriers to apply for public charter flights to HAV. In the interim, carriers and operators with existing authority can continue their services, but DOT will not accept new or amended applications exceeding the current flight levels.
DOT announced the changes at the request of the US Secretary of State. In a letter to the DOT, the US Secretary of State indicated that the additional restrictions would “strengthen the impact of the Administration’s policy of applying economic pressure on the Cuban regime to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms for all in Cuba and to cease its unconscionable support for the illegitimate and totalitarian regime of former President Maduro in Venezuela.” Please see here for the US State Department’s press release on the DOT order.
This latest action by the Administration comes a few months after the Administration banned all scheduled US carrier flights to all Cuban cities except Havana. See our blog post on the DOT’s previous order here.