As noted in our March 24, 2016 client alert discussing possible opportunities under Cuba’s 2030 renewable energy plan (and published by Windpower Engineering & Development’s website here), new rules by the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry & Security (BIS) and the U.S. Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) permit U.S. companies to travel to Cuba without a license to perform market research, conduct marketing efforts and perform preliminary contract negotiations.
Now, scheduled flights to Cuba resume after ore than 50 years, allowing interested U.S. businesses to begin networking and establishing relationships in Cuba while they wait for the licensing program and portfolio projects to take shape.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx was among the passengers aboard the historic flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Santa Clara, Cuba as JetBlue provided the first regularly scheduled commercial flight from the U.S. to Cuba in 55 years. Scheduled air service from the United States to Cuba is the most recent step in a string of important changes in the normalization of relations between the two nations. As a result of these changes, which have been previously reported on here, a U.S. embassy was opened, direct mail service has been restored, Carnival cruise line has begun trips to Cuba and various regulatory changes have been made to ease travel, trade and financial transactions with Cuba.
In June 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued an order authorizing six U.S. airlines to begin offering daily commercial flights from five U.S. cities to Cuba. The order authorizes American, Frontier, JetBlue, Silver Airways, Southwest, and Sun Country to begin offering flights to select Cuban cities, not including Havana. American Airlines will begin offering flights from Miami, Florida to Cienfuegos and Holguin on September 7, 2016 and has been providing non-scheduled charter service to Cuba from Florida for approximately 25 years.
On July 7, 2016 the DOT tentatively authorized eight airlines to commence daily flights to Havana from ten (10) cities in the U.S. In addition to the six airlines previously authorized to begin flights to cities other than Havana, Alaska Airlines and United Airlines were awarded daily flights to the Cuban capital city. Final authorization from the DOT is expected later this year. Many of these flights are still awaiting authorization from the Cuban Government.
Despite these historic developments, U.S. companies and citizens still face restrictions on their ability to travel and conduct business in Cuba. American citizens must travel under one of the twelve (12) general license categories approved by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control or under a specific license. Tourist travel to Cuba remains prohibited.