President Obama has eased up on Cuba in the past year, ending the embargo and making appearances in the Caribbean island. However, many more will be able to see Cuba in the coming months, as new flights will allow tourists to visit soon.
American Airlines, the US airline with the largest Latin American presence, will begin flights from Charlotte to Havana on November 30. The nonstop flights will leave from Charlotte at 11:53am and arrive in the Cuban capital at 2:35pm. The return flight will depart at 3:35pm and arrive at 5:08pm in the Queen City.
American formally introduced scheduled commercial flights on September 6, with routes from Miami to Cienfuegos and Holguin entering operations. The US and Cuban governments allowed airlines to launch several flights to Cuban airports, but only 20 flights would be allowed from Havana. Charter flights were previously available, but scheduled commercial flights were not due to the sour relations between the US and Cuba.
Gaby Vasconcelos (’17), like many Cubans, is excited for the new flights. She hopes that they’re just the first step to a greater change. She voiced her displeasure at the Cuban government’s policy of not allowing Cuban-born flight crew to stay on the island overnight, calling it “idiotic.” However, she noted that opening up travel was “bound to happen” and will have a major impact.
Diana Muñoz (’19) agreed. Muñoz says it’s “both a good and bad thing,” and that Cuba has been “stuck in the past” in several ways, including their cars, technology, and government. Despite of her expectation that the increased tourism will bring more jobs to Cubans, she said that she doesn’t want Cuba to “look like the US” with McDonalds on every corner.
As to whether either of them would fly back to their home country? Muñoz said, “of course,” expressing excitement at the prospect of being able to see her own country and her own culture. Vasconcelos was more cautious, saying only “perhaps” after she was told that the flight was more than two hours nonstop.