Cuba’s Restrictions, Airlines’ Silence, Creates Chaos

Cuba’s Restrictions, Airlines’ Silence, Creates Chaos

HAVANA, Jan. 7th (HT) The sharp uptick in Covid-19 cases throughout Cuba in December led the government to backtrack on reopening.

After allowing the airports to receive flights from abroad Cuba suddenly told the airlines they must cancel the majority of their flights to and from the island. The new semi-emergency policy took effect on January 1st.

However, the information on which flights were cancelled and which are allowed was not readily available. This created a chaotic situation for many Cubans who came to visit relatives for the holidays. Most of their return flights are cancelled.

The rumour mill and trying to get a straight answer out of the airlines is their current situation. Some could lose their jobs if they do not return to their countries of residence in time.

The chaotic scene at the Havana airport on Tuesday saw hundreds seeking information from overwhelmed and poorly informed ticket agents.

Let me give one example with a friend’s situation; he was visiting family. His return flight from Havana to the US was on January 15th.  He was unable to make contact with the airline in Havana and was seeing rumours fly left and right on social media.

I offered to help by calling them from outside the country. According to my friend, he heard that American Airlines had to reduce its flights from 42 to 7 a week.

If that is correct, you can imagine trying to get ticked passengers from 42 flights on 7 per week. I have looked at the airline’s news page on their website and there is no information available. Calling them and waiting for up to an hour to be attended is not a viable option from Cuba.

Anyway, I was able to get through and they said the first available flight for my friend is on January 28th which I immediately booked. However, if the restrictions on flights continue that could also be cancelled as it approaches.

A decision popular with some, not with others

The decision to backtrack on foreign entries is supported by a sizeable part of the population, concerned about the pandemic’s spread. Others want to see family and receive money and needed products from abroad.

Likewise, people who travel to buy products unavailable on the Island for resale now find themselves partially paralyzed. Some stuck in countries like Panama, Guyana, Mexico and the US and others grounded in Cuba.

The government’s decision and the airline’s response are both too secretive. Neither lays out clearly what flights are cancelled, and which are flying. For people with upcoming trips to Cuba, I advise you constantly check with the airlines. Additionally, plan for a possible extended stay if your flight home is cancelled.