Under the Obama administration the US relaxed rules on citizens traveling to and spending money in Cuba. They even reached an agreement to put air marshals on planes so air marshals could party in Havana and Americans were allowed to bring back unlimited Cuban cigars from their travels.
The new Trump administration though moved to crack down on the ability of Americans to travel there. These travel restrictions required Americans to go as part of organized tours and forbade spending money anywhere owned by the military.
According to National Security Advisor John Bolton the Treasury Department will issue new regulations restricting non-family travel to Cuba. Details aren’t yet available about how this will work in practice, and whether it will apply retroactively to travel already booked (the last round of restrictions largely carved out pre-existing bookings.)
This is likely to present challenges for already struggling air service between the US and Cuba. Four years ago I described Cuba flights as a new opportunity for airlines to lose money — even under more liberal rules during the Obama administration — suggesting:
- Pretty much all traffic for these flights will originate in the US. There’s almost no customer base to support these flights in Cuba.
- Planes will be filled predominantly with leisure travel. Cuba isn’t a strong business destination.
- Infrastructure in Cuba, from the airport to hotels, is wholly inadequate to match an aviation boom and influx of tourists.
- It’s an expensive airport to operate at, with costs that make Miami look like Branson, Missouri.
Fishing on the Malecón in Havana
While Trump administration restrictions don’t help matters, remember that American cut 23% of its Cuba schedule before Trump took office.
In Argentina there’s a saying, “Tengo una remera del Che y no sé por qué,” or “I have a Che T-shirt and I don’t know why.”
What’s sad is that the US government has sought to counter the Cuban revolution with its own restrictions on citizens. Somehow the lesson the US draws from Cuba is restricting the movement of its own citizens.