Charter companies fill gap after federal ban on flights to Cuba takes effect

Independent operators adding flights, stops to meet demand

MIAMI – Starting Tuesday, President Donald Trump’s ban on commercial flights to land in any other Cuban city besides Havana took effect.

In October, the Trump administration announced a ban on commercial airline flights that would prevent planes from landing throughout the country in retaliation for the Cuban government’s support for Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro.

The retaliatory move is expected to impact Cuba’s economy as commercial airlines stop service to nine cities other than Havana.

As the wheels went up on the final commercial flights Monday afternoon, private charter companies are already adding flights and stops to meet the growing demand.

“People are asking about our prices, schedules and (we are getting) many calls,” Gabriela Gómez of Cubazul Charter, a private operator based in Hialeah, said.

The private charter company already had 13 weekly flights to Cuba and added four and will two new destinations in Camagüey and Holguin by the end of the week.

Aerocuba, another charter plane operator based in Miami, operates 25 flights per week to five additional cities outside of Havana, the company owner said.

There is no timeline on the Trump-imposed ban and critics say this will only hurt Cuban people on both sides of the Florida Straits.

“What they really need is to go see their family,” Gómez said.

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