FedEx locked in bureaucratic battle to operate daily flights to Havana

FedEx locked in bureaucratic battle to operate daily flights to HavanaHAVANA, Sept. 28th FedEx is defending its application to operate daily cargo flights between Miami (MIA) and Cuba’s Jose Marti Airport (HAV).

The Tennessee-based integrator filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) on Tuesday, Sept. 26, countering arguments by carriers like JetBlue, which claimed that “FedEx has not adequately demonstrated how its service proposal would generate superior public benefits as compared to JetBlue’s (or any other carrier involved in this proceeding).”

While FedEx chose not to comment a spokesperson pointed to the carrier’s filing, which noted that there were no other carrier applicants detailing cargo service offerings, or proposing cargo services for the benefit of the shipping public.

FedEx accuses carriers like Delta and Southwest of conflating bellyhold capacity with the publicly available shipping services that the integrators offer.

FedEx maintains that all-cargo carriers – of which it is currently the only one in the running – are a necessary part of the equation.

With rights to operate a limited number of flights to Cuba, the Tennessee-based integrator is adamant that, as the only all-cargo operator in the running, its daily cargo operations would provide wide benefits to U.S. consumers.

“The optics of a FedEx aircraft represents meaningful connectivity,” John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council agreed that FedEx has a role to play. “Air cargo represents an immediacy that ocean doesn’t… it indicates a more dynamic economy,” he said. “Someone needs someone to wave the commercial flag.”

The passenger carriers argue that granting FedEx access to a finite (20) number of daily flights would be a waste of public utility. In its filing with the USDOT, JetBlue argued that: “FedEx plans to operate its smallest aircraft to Havana and has a questionable history attempting to launch operations to the island nation.

Nothing in the record indicates FedEx has, or will be able to, overcome the logistical obstacles it has been battling for the last year. Given the lack of public benefits that would flow from FedEx’s service proposal and the uncertainty of its ability to operate in Cuba, JetBlue believes that the five frequencies requested by FedEx would be better used by another applicant.”

FedEx defended its use of Cessna 208 aircraft, noting that many other carriers have down-gauged on Cuba routes, in response to “the evolving nature of the Cuba market.”

Under the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the United States and Cuba on February 16, 2016, U.S. carriers gained the right to operate up to twenty daily combination or all-cargo flights.

Most of the carriers bid for more routes than they actually expect to operate, in a Darwinian strategy to grab as much as possible of what could become a lucrative route, if relations between the two countries normalize. That competition lead to a flurry of filings and counter filings with the USDOT, which will ultimately decide who gets what.