Icelandair, the Icelandic flag carrier, will soon fly between 3 U.S. cities and the Cuban capital of Havana (HAV).
As of February 1, 2022, the airline will operate charter flights from Houston (IAH), Miami (MIA), and Orlando (MCO) to Havana (HAV).
Let’s find out more about this intriguing and unique operation.
Icelandair’s Charter Flights to Havana
These new routes for the Icelandic airline will not be an extension of flights from Reykjavik (KEF).
The Icelandair 757 aircraft that will fly between the U.S. and Cuba will be based permanently in the U.S. for the duration of the new charter operation between February 1 and May 31, 2022.
You’ll neither be able to book these flights through search engines nor through Icelandair’s website. As charter flights, they will be operated on behalf of travel companies who provide bespoke packages for those permitted to travel from the U.S. to Cuba.
While American carriers such as American, JetBlue, Southwest, and United are indeed allowed to operate scheduled flights to Cuba, passengers are only permitted to travel for a list of very specific reasons.
Travel to Cuba for U.S. Citizens
During the Trump Administration, heavy restrictions were reimposed on U.S. citizens wishing to travel to Cuba, meaning that traveling to the Caribbean island nation for tourism from the U.S. is illegal.
The rule also applies to any non-U.S. citizen wishing to travel to Cuba from the U.S.
As it stands, you are only permitted to travel from the U.S. to the Caribbean island nation for the following 12 reasons:
- Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
- Athletic competitions by amateur or semi-professional athletes or athletic teams
- Certain authorized export transactions
- Educational activities
- Exploration, importation, or transmission of information or information materials
- Family visits
- Humanitarian projects
- Journalistic activity
- Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
- Professional research
- Religious activities
- Support for the Cuban people
Backlash From U.S. Airlines
As well as the scheduled airlines previously mentioned, American charter airlines such as Global Crossing Airlines, Swift Air, and World Atlantic Airlines also offer flights from the U.S. to Cuba.
Icelandair’s entrance into the market has caused a stir, sparking Mark Schneider, a Global Crossing Airlines attorney, to write to the DOT, saying, “Icelandair’s primary reason for seeking approval on an additional 170 flights over a 4-month period is to impose an economic hardship on the current U.S. air carriers.”
However, Icelandair defended itself by pointing out that U.S. airlines have far from filled their allowance of 3,600 annual charter flights to the island.
“With no other applications for allotment from the pool before the Department, Icelandair fails to understand how it is taking any market share to the detriment of U.S. carriers,” replied a spokesperson for Icelandair.
Looking at it another way, Icelandair has seen a gap in a market that it is able to cash in on until its aircraft are needed for its typical transatlantic routes when the demand returns significantly enough.
Icelandair will soon operate flights between the U.S. and Cuba.
Despite U.S.-based incumbent operators not being happy with the move, Icelandair’s flights from Houston (IAH), Miami (MIA), and Orlando (MCO) will depart to Havana (HAV) as soon as February 1, 2022.
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