By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Transportation Department (USDOT) on Wednesday approved American Airlines’ request to resume service to some smaller Cuban airports after President Joe Biden reversed his predecessor’s policy.
American sought approval for flights from Miami to Santa Clara, Holguin, Matanzas/Varadero and Santiago de Cuba after the administration of then President Donald Trump barred passenger airline flights between smaller Cuban airports.
The airline said in a filing the flights “will enhance service and access between the U.S. and these non-Havana points, after more than two years during which such service was suspended.”
American added it will “fulfill the public interest by offering and maintaining the best connectivity to Cuba via its Miami hub and providing substantial competition to other U.S. carriers serving Cuba.”
Last month, USDOT revoked a series of restrictions on flights to Cuba, including ending a prohibition on U.S. airline flights to Cuban airports other than Havana. The Trump administration had issued a series of aviation restrictions in 2019 and 2020 in a bid to increase U.S. economic pressure on the Cuban government.
The USDOT order in June was issued at the request of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said the action was “in support of the Cuban people, and in the foreign policy interests of the United States.”
The White House in May had signaled the planned move as part of a broader revision of policy toward Cuba.
Under President Donald Trump, USDOT imposed a cap on charter flights to Cuba at 3,600 per year and later suspended private charter flights to the country. The department also barred charter flights to any Cuban airports except Havana.
Then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Cuba “uses tourism and travel funds to finance its abuses and interference in Venezuela. Dictators cannot be allowed to benefit from U.S. travel.”
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)