US bars flights to all Cuba airports except Havana beginning Dec 10

A taxi driver waits for tourists at a park in Havana, Cuba.
A taxi driver waits for tourists at a park in Havana, Cuba.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The US government said on Friday (Oct 25) it would bar US airlines from flying to all destinations in Cuba besides Havana starting on Dec 10 as the Trump administration boosts pressure on the Cuban government.

The US Transportation Department said in a notice it was taking the action at the request of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to "further the administration's policy of strengthening the economic consequences to the Cuban regime for its ongoing repression of the Cuban people and its support for Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela."

The move will bar US air carrier flights to any of the nine international airports in Cuba other than Havana and impact about eight flights a day.

The prohibition does not impact charter flights. There are no foreign air carriers providing direct scheduled flights between the United States and Cuba.

The Cuban Embassy in Washington did not immediately comment.

Further restrictions on Americans travelling to Cuba would be aimed at squeezing the island economically and expanding Trump's steady rollback of the historic opening to Cuba by Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama.

The reversal, along with his pressure on Venezuela, has gone over well among Cuban Americans in South Florida, a key voting bloc in Trump's 2020 re-election campaign.

Under Obama, the United States reintroduced US airline service to Cuba in 2016.

According to US officials, JetBlue Airways flies to three destinations in Cuba in addition to Havana from Fort Lauderdale - Camaguey, Holguin and Santa Clara - and American Airlines flies to five Cuban cities beyond Havana from Miami - Camaguey, Holguin, Santa Clara, Santiago de Cuba and Matanzas/Varadero.

American Airlines said it is "reviewing the announcement and "will continue to comply with federal law, work with the administration, and update our policies and procedures regarding travel to Cuba as necessary."

Jet Blue said it will "operate in full compliance with the new policy concerning scheduled air service between the United States and Cuba. We are beginning to work with our various government and commercial partners to understand the full impact of this change on our customers and operations."