U.S. Policy Change On Travel Restrictions To Cuba


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U.S. Policy Change On Travel Restrictions To Cuba

By Daniel Baxter

March 10, 2011 ? The U.S. begins lifting flight restrictions to Cuba. Prior to the recent change in travel restriction to Cuba only three U.S. airports, Miami International (MIA), JFK International (JFK) and Los Angeles International (LAX), had been eligible to host charter flights to Cuba. 

Within the past week eight U.S. airports have been added to the list of airports allowed to accept flight to and from Cuba. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection has given the green light to the following airports;  

Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International (ATL), Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International (BWI), Chicago O'Hare International (ORD), New Orleans Louis Armstrong International (MSY), Pittsburgh International (PIT), San Juan, Puerto Rico International (SJU), Tampa International (TIA) and Dallas-Fort Worth International (DFW). 

Relations between the United States and Cuba deteriorated in February 1996 when Cuba shot down two American civilian planes. Cuba accused the planes of violating Cuban airspace. Clinton tightened sanctions against Cuba and suspended charter flights from the United States to Cuba, hoping this would cripple Cuba?s tourism industry. 

In their response to the incident, the U.S. Congress passed the Helms-Burton Act in March 1996. Some parts of the bill strengthened an embargo against imports of Cuban products. Title III, however, made the bill controversial because it allowed American citizens whose property was seized during and after the 1959 Cuban Revolution to sue in American courts foreign companies that later invested in those properties.  

Title III sparked an immediate uproar from countries such as Mexico, Canada, and members of the European Union because they believed that they would be penalized for doing business with Cuba. In response, Clinton repeatedly suspended Title III of the legislation (the act gave the president the right to exercise this option every six months). 

Clinton softened his Cuban policy in 1998 and 1999. In March 1998, at the urging of Pope John Paul II, Clinton lifted restrictions and allowed humanitarian charter flights to resume. He also took steps to increase educational, religious, and humanitarian contacts in Cuba. The U.S. government decided to allow Cuban citizens to receive more money from American friends and family members and to buy more American food and medicine. 


George W. Bush administration strongly enforced the embargo and strengthened travel restrictions. Americans with immediate family could visit once every three years for a maximum of two weeks, while the total amount of family remittances an authorized traveler could carry to Cuba was $300, reduced from $3,000 in 2004. The State of Florida, by U.S. Census statistics, has the largest Cuban-American population in the entire nation and the Tampa Bay service area is ranked second in the nation only to the Miami-Dade County service area. 

?I wish to thank the President and his administration for allowing more points of entry into Cuba. The flights of course will assist economic development for both sides. But more importantly, the new policies will better enable the tens of thousands of Cuban Americans in our City to reunite with their families whom they may not have seen for decades,? stated Steven Burton, Vice Chairman, Tampa International Airport. 

?The Cuba service reflects our vision of Tampa International Airport which is motivated by our commitment to the Tampa Bay community ? keeping the needs and desires of our customers at the forefront of our air service initiatives,? stated Joe Lopano, CEO, Tampa International Airport. 

The modified travel restrictions to Cuba state ?purposeful? travel. Passengers must have close relatives in Cuba or must be involved in medical and agriculture business sectors; or traveling for education and religious activities. The Airport expects to offer flights by summer or early fall.


"We are pleased to be approved as a gateway to Cuba for charter flights," said DFW Airport CEO Jeff Fegan. ?Given the Airport?s position as a major midcontinent hub with numerous domestic connections, DFW would be an optimum choice for charter service providers to operate flights to Cuba.? 

General U.S. travel restrictions remain in place for most Americans, prohibiting tourism as well as regularly scheduled airline service to Cuba.

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