The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) issued the order at the request of Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who stated that the action was “in support of the Cuban people and in the interests of the foreign policy of the United States.”
Last month, the White House announced a planned move as part of a broader review of Cuba policy. Flight restrictions were lifted immediately.
The Trump administration imposed a series of aviation restrictions in 2019 and 2020 to increase US economic pressure on the Cuban government. read more
These included banning US carriers from flying to eight Cuban international airports outside of Havana, including Camaguey, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo, Cienfuegos, Manzanillo, Matanzas and Santiago de Cuba.
Under President Donald Trump, the US Department of Transportation placed a cap on charter flights to Cuba at 3,600 per year and then suspended private charter flights to Cuba. The department also banned charter flights to any Cuban airports other than Havana.
At the time, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Cuba was “using travel and tourism funds to fund its abuses and interference in Venezuelan affairs. Dictators should not be allowed to profit from US travel.”
Trump’s U.S. Department of Transportation allowed authorized public charters to and from Havana, as well as other authorized charter flights “for medical emergencies, search and rescue, and other travel deemed to be in the interests of the United States.”
With US airlines facing full flights and some facing understaffing, it’s unclear how many new flights to Cuba could be added.
As a result of the order, the USDA rejected as contentious pending applications for emergency exemptions and for the distribution of public charter flights to Havana.