The all-too-familiar problems of visa problems and logistical issues are forcing the airlines to delay their resumption of their Cuba services.
The U.S. Transportation Department (USDOT) on Tuesday said it would allow Delta Air Lines and United Airlines to temporarily delay resuming flights to Cuba as they work to address logistical issues.
United last month said it has been working for months to relaunch Havana service but faces hurdles, while Delta also said it was facing issues in reestablishing service.
USDOT said it would require United to resume service no later than Dec. 1 and Delta no later than March 26.
United previously flew seven flights weekly to Havana from its Houston and Newark hubs. It said in September it needs to “undertake significant work including re-negotiating multiple contracts with service providers that have lapsed, building out necessary infrastructure in Terminal 3 at Havana’s airport where United is being relocated.”
Delta has the right to fly 21 weekly flights between the U.S. and Cuba, made up of 14 for Miami and 7 Atlanta flights. Delta suspended the flights during the Covid-19 pandemic and initially plans to resume Miami flights.
Delta said it is working to relaunch flights but “needs additional time to ensure reintroduction of safe, efficient, and sustainable service to Havana.”
Delta expects it could take up to six months to re-establish necessary IT infrastructure to handle passenger needs in Havana and faces “ongoing challenges in securing visas for personnel to travel to Cuba” for both pre and post launch staffing.
Last month the Biden administration agreed to expand U.S. flights to Havana, adding 13 weekly American Airlines departures from Miami and a weekly JetBlue Airways departure from Fort Lauderdale, on top of the typical six daily American Airlines flights and three JetBlue flights weekdays to Havana from the Florida airports.
In June, USDOT lifted restrictions on flights to Cuba imposed under former President Donald Trump, including ending a prohibition on U.S. airline flights to smaller Cuban airports.
In July, American Airlines received permission to resume service to some smaller Cuban airports.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Mark Porter and Chris Reese)
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Photo credit: Delta said it needs additional time to ensure the reintroduction of a safe, efficient and sustainable service to Havana. Pedro Szekely / Flickr