September 18, 2019
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Bucking US sanctions, American Airlines expands flights to Cuba

Havana, May 22 (efe-epa).- American Airlines, the leading international carrier serving Cuba, said Wednesday that it intends to offer additional flights to the island despite moves by the United States to tighten its economic embargo against Havana and further restrict travel between the two countries.

Early this month, President Donald Trump's administration activated Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, a 1996 law that intensified the embargo the US imposed in 1962.

Title III, which allows US citizens and corporations to sue entities that have been "trafficking" in property that was seized by the Cuban government on or after the Jan. 1, 1959, revolution, had not gone into effect until May 2 due to rolling six-month waivers.

Properties nationalized by the revolutionary government included airports currently used by American and more than 40 other airlines.

"The level of the impact is being studied, but our focus at this moment is to wager on the Cuban market in the long term and to continue our operations, which continue growing," AA's operations director in Cuba, Ramon Jimenez, told EFE in Havana.

Jimenez represented Texas-based AA at Cuba Aviation Day, an event organized by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

AA began service this month between Miami and the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba and plans in June to add a second flight linking the Magic City to Santa Clara, the executive said.

In July, AA is scheduled to increase the number of daily flights between Miami and Havana from five to six, Jimenez said.

Besides opening the door to litigation under Helms-Burton, Trump has signaled he will seek to end travel to Cuba by US citizens who don't have family living on the island.

Asked about the coming restrictions, Jimenez said: "We don't have exact information about what the ramifications would be, it's under study."

IATA's regional vice president for the Americas, Peter Cerda, told EFE that his organization expects air travel to Cuba to "more than triple" over the next two decades.

"At the political level, we hope that those barriers that are being imposed can be solved," he said. "Because in the end, they damage not only Cuba, but also all the passengers who want to come, and it has an effect on the global airlines."

Forty-six airlines operate from 13 airports in Cuba, transporting 9.6 million passengers annually aboard 72,000 flights, with connections to 44 destinations in 26 countries, according to IATA figures.

IATA estimates that air transport accounts for 10.6 percent of Cuba's gross domestic product. EFE

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