American Airlines will continue in Cuba, affirm the executives of the U.S. airline that this Wednesday inaugurated its commercial office in Havana, despite the question marks generated by the arrival of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency.
“We can’t speculate about what will be the next step [of the president], but I can assure you that we are marching full speed ahead,” Galo Beltrán, the company manager for the island, commented to the press.
The office, located in the Miramar Trade Center, was opened 12 days after Trump’s inauguration and four months since the start of its regular flight to Cuba. Jeffrey DeLaurentis, chargé d’affaires of the U.S. embassy, attended the ceremony.
American Airlines had started flying to different Cuban destinations in September 2016, and by the end of November it became the first U.S. airline to land a regular flight in Havana in more than half a century.
At the time, the White House saluted what happened on its Facebook profile as an event that opened “new horizons of opportunities for the U.S. people as well as for the Cuban people.”
On that occasion, Alfredo González, marketing director of American Airlines for the Americas, confirmed the company’s intentions of increasing its presence on the island despite Donald Trump’s campaign statements threatening to freeze relations between the two countries.
However, a while later a possible reduction of its flights to Cuba was announced starting February due to a less than expected demand. But the opening of its office in Havana, in which air tickets can be bought directly, confirms that, despite this, the company maintains its interest in growing on the island.
“Our goal is to start filling the flights; filling the planes…we want to carry out commerce to establish a market. Everything has been developing very well. We have been learning and getting to know the market’s potential, which is a lot,” affirmed Christine Valls, American Airlines regional sales director for the Caribbean and Latin America.
Meanwhile, Galo Beltrán highlighted that the airline is making three daily flights to six destinations in Cuba, from Miami and Charlotte, and he reaffirmed his company’s commitment to the Caribbean nation.
“American is celebrating 26 years of flying to Cuba uninterruptedly next April. We never stopped doing so, since we always flew with chartered planes. There were eight daily flights,” he explained.
American Airlines is one of the eight U.S. airline companies authorized by the Obama administration to make regular flights to the island. Although U.S. citizens cannot travel to the island as tourists due to the embargo restrictions, it is estimated that close to 285,000 of them visited Cuba in 2016.
That figure, which represents a 74 percent increase with respect to the previous year, could decrease in 2017 if President Trump changes the policy toward the island encouraged by his predecessor. This is why sources cited by The Hill digital portal, specializing in legislative issues, opine that the U.S. airlines will continue defending in their country’s Congress continuing the regular air service established by Obama.
John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Economic and Commercial Council, thinks that the airline companies won’t stop their promotion activities related to the island, but will change their strategy to search for more concessions to concentrate in preserving what they have already achieved.
Meanwhile, James Williams, president of the Engage Cuba organization, expects that the airline industry will continue pressuring legislators to eliminate the travel to Cuba restrictions, circumscribed until today to 12 specific categories approved by Obama. In his opinion, the regular flights between both countries have been of key importance to promote the normalization of bilateral relations.