New restrictions on travel to and trade with Cuba recently announced by the Trump administration have already affected business aviation operations to the island nation.
Policies created under the Obama administration allowed Americans to travel to Cuba for several specific reasons, including the “people-to-people” category of educational travel. The Trump administration rolled back the “people-to-people” category, but is still allowing certain humanitarian and business development trips providing the latter is not associated with Cuban government-owned businesses.
“Travel to Cuba is becoming much more restrictive,” said David Kang, account manager at Avplan Trip Support, an AvFuel company, “so we have seen Cuban travel requests decline recently.”
Kang cautions business aircraft operators considering trips to Cuba to expect payments to the country to be slow, as banks are wary of transferring money into Cuba, particularly in large sums. He also suggested that all parties – the operator, flight crew and passengers – retain records of all financial transactions, including restaurant expenses, and other day-to-day expenses, for a period of at least five years.
The U.S. Treasury Department recently published a list of hotels and other businesses that American travelers are prohibited from using, creating additional challenges for lodging in a country with already limited accommodations.
Also, traveling to Cuba still requires a visa issued by the Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C. In order to obtain a visa, travelers must have a sponsor in Cuba, and finding an appropriate sponsor without the “people-to-people” option can be difficult.
Kang said he expected additional restrictions regarding travel to and doing business with Cuba in the coming months.
“You must plan ahead to travel to Cuba,” said Kang. “You can’t wait until the last minute; traveling to Cuba is only going to get more difficult over the next few years.”
NBAA recommends that all business aircraft operators considering trips to Cuba be familiar with the current policies and regulations, and stay up-to-date with changing requirements.
“We expect more changes to policies and regulations regarding travel to Cuba, as well as conducting business in the country,” said Doug Carr, NBAA’s vice president of regulatory and international affairs. “Operators should work with their flight planning providers and their passengers to ensure any flights to Cuba are operated in accordance with policies current at the time of the flights.”