US-Cuba Relations Improve with Flight Resumptions

Airline Flight to CubaThe U.S. ended a more than 50-year ban on airline flights to Cuba when eight American airlines decided to add the destination again to their travel itineraries in 2016.

It signified improving relations between Cuba and the U.S. as part of former President Barack Obama’s efforts to rebuild economic and diplomatic ties. Some took the news as a positive development since it eliminated the burden among professionals, including those in the fixed-based operation (FBO) sector, which has worried whether or not they are violating the previously imposed embargo in the country.

Taking Flight

The recently embattled United Airlines, along with American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, joined the list of eight carriers resuming flights to Cuba in 2016. The other five companies comprised Spirit Airlines, Silver Airways, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Alaska Airlines and Sun Country Airlines.

The resumption of flights occurred after the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control amended a U.S.-Cuba trade law, which allowed “persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction” to perform services related to safety for civil aeronautics and commercial aircraft. The amended law represents a step toward a positive direction, as Cuba may now have access to FBO tool kits and other resources to improve security in aviation.

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As for the U.S., aviation maintenance and safety efforts should also place focus on local operations that urgently need federal funds.

Federal Support

The Ford Airport in Kingsford, Michigan, has achieved significant strides in modernizing its facilities and services, including the installation of body scanners. However, Ford Airport Manager Tim Howen said that the airport’s runways require re-pavement work with the help of the federal government.

Re-pavement work usually serves its purpose for 20 years, which may seem like an infrequent type of maintenance. However, the last time the airport’s main runway was repaved took place in 1999. Howen said that procuring funds from the federal government has been difficult.

That could be even tougher when President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to the Essential Air Service funding, which covers all airports nationwide, becomes effective.

The improving relationship between the U.S. and Cuba is good news, but the American government should realize that airport maintenance funding and better diplomatic ties are equally important.