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U.S. Bans Private Charter Flights to Cuba

Effective Oct. 13, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will suspend charter authority of all U.S. and foreign carriers between the U.S. and Cuba, except for authorized public charters to and from Havana, or authorized charter flights for emergency medical purposes, search and rescue and other travel deemed to be in the interest of the United States. 

U.S Secretary of State Michael Pompeo made the request of DOT Secretary Elaine Cho.  He noted that the Administration will continue to target and cut the revenue the Cuban government earns from landing fees, stays in regime-owned hotels, and other travel-related income.

The DOT will implement this prohibition by adding a condition to all existing and future exemption authority granted to U.S. and foreign air carriers, and to all existing and future exemption authorizations granted to foreign civil aircraft operators under 14 CFR 375.

The order also addresses enforcement action should an operator try to sidestep this prohibition.

“Although the order is specific to charter flights operating non-stop between the U.S. and Cuba, the DOT will be scrutinizing charter operators that try to circumvent this order by operating by and through other (third) countries. In the order, the DOT specifically reserves the right to pursue enforcement action for such violations,” said Elizabeth Vasseur-Browne, an attorney at Cooling & Herbers P.C.

The order is tentative, with a 21-day period for interested parties to submit objections using the Regulations.gov Docket System. The deadline to submit objections is Sept. 3. The DOT will respond to each objection within seven calendar days of receipt of the objection.